Global study is an excellent opportunity for all students at Gettysburg College, including those who are a part of the LGBTQA community. An exciting opportunity for many, global study often becomes an integral part of students' overall Gettysburg experience. We encourage students of all genders and sexual orientations to consider spending a semester or year abroad.
For students in the LGBTQA community, it is important to consider a few things before departure, as other cultures often have different attitudes towards sexual identity and orientation. Below you will find advice and suggestions for how to make the most of your global study experience as a member of the LGBTQA+ community.
The LGBTQA+ Guide to Global Study
Global study can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It is a chance to explore the world, learn about a new culture, push your own boundaries and grow as a person. There is no doubt that this type of experience will challenge you in many ways.
This handout is designed for students who identify as LGBTQA+ and wish to study abroad. What does being LGBTQA in your host country mean? What are the cultural norms of that society? Is this country right for me? Below are a few recommendations to help you make an informed decision and facilitate the transition to a new environment.
Before You Go…
Cultural Differences with respect to LGBTQA issues
Just as seen here in the United States, attitudes and understanding of LGBTQA individuals and issues vary region by region. Cultural sensitivity is important to keep in mind while living and traveling abroad. In some places you may need to express yourself differently than you do at home. You must be conscious of the social reality that exists in your region of interest while choosing your program. The best way to learn is by researching in advance. Look for blogs, newspaper articles, or books that talk about the LGBTQA attitudes abroad or see if anyone you know may be familiar with this topic. The more you know beforehand the smoother the transition will be upon arriving.
Legal Rights of LGBTQA individuals
Another important item to research is the legal environment surrounding LGBTQA issues. In some countries LGBTQA individuals are protected and have just as many rights as other members of society. Unfortunately there are other places where openly identifying as LGBTQA is punishable by law, or there may be no laws to protect an individual from hate crimes. Therefore it is extremely important to know the legal regulations and conditions of your host country so that you can try to avoid any dangerous or uncomfortable situations.
Resources that your specific program offers
With awareness across the world of LGBTQA issues on the rise, many study abroad programs have started to develop resources for LGBTQA individuals specific to their own region or program. Program headquarters will often have information and resources available on their websites for LGBTQA individuals, but if you would like to learn more specifically about a program, emailing your program contact may uncover more useful information. You may also wish to contact a previous student from the program to see if they can tell you anything about the country in terms of LGBTQA issues: Contact the Center for Global Education if you would like help identifying a student who has attended your program or a program in similar area.
Research the Area for other Resources
Not all programs will be as helpful or have the resources that you may want. A bit of searching on the internet however can often reveal many helpful organizations and NGOs that can provide a rich insight into the conditions abroad. Start with a basic search through blogs and social networking sites and go from there.
Gettysburg College Resources
Don't hesitate to talk to your CGE advisor or the Director of LGBTQA Advocacy & Education about what you might expect abroad and resources are available to you.
No matter what your housing arrangement is, you should feel safe and comfortable at all times. It is up to you to decide whether to openly express yourself, but be sure to consider all of the consequences that this action could have before acting. If staying with a homestay family, ask yourself if you feel the family would be accepting or what kind of change in the family dynamic would occur were you to choose to come out. It is important to be aware of the various cultural practices across the world: this may mean not being able to be as open about your sexuality as you are at home, or being able to be more open, depending on your host culture.
On most homestay placement forms, you will have the option to specify any special housing needs you may have, such as dietary restrictions, allergies, or disabilities. You have the option to specify in this section that you need an LGBTQA-friendly household if you are concerned about your housing placement. If any problems arise during your time with a family, speak up and don’t be afraid to ask for a change in living arrangements. You should feel at home wherever you stay while abroad, and the program should try to make you as comfortable as possible.
It is important to be conscious of the way you interact with people while abroad, whether it is with friends or people you may be interested in dating. Body language, verbal cues and the manner in which you compose yourself may be interpreted differently abroad than they are at home, so be aware of this and try to learn the particular customs of your region.
The way in which LGBTQA individuals interact may also be different, depending on the region. This can affect how open they can be. Take this into consideration if you meet someone and decide to pursue a relationship. Also be sure to always practice safe sex and be aware of any sexual health resources that may be available to you.
Support Networks and Safety
Having a support network while abroad is extremely helpful. Whether it is because you miss home, are experiencing culture shock, or are having issues being LGBTQA in your host culture, a support network will help you cope and can guide you in times of need. Try to make some friends that you can talk with on the program, or open up to a member of the program faculty. Meeting local people can also be helpful when you feel lost or confused, so try to get out and immerse yourself in the culture. Having support includes identifying safe places across the region. Whether it is police stations, the program headquarters, or an organizations office, know at all times where they are located; safety is extremely important and you should have a plan of action if the need were to arise.
For more information about global study as an LGBTQA student, please explore the following links and publications:
This is a sheet of suggestions made in collaboration between the Center for Global Education and the Center for LGBTQA+ Advocacy and Education.
U.S. Department of State’s LGBTQ Travel Information
LGBT Travel Information from the U.S. Department of State
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
This site provides a large collection of legislation affecting LGBT people around the world including marriage and sodomy laws, and other general LGBT concerns.
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
The International Lesbian and Gay Association is a world-wide network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBT people everywhere. Browse this site for a worldwide legal survey detailing cultural attitudes and laws towards sexual orientation.
National Center for Transgender Equality - Air Travel Tips for Transgender People
This resource may help make your air travel experience smoother.
LGBT Rights by Country or Territory
Information about current LGBT rights around the world
Gay.com’s Out and About
Access Out & About Travel Guides, tips, and articles on travel to areas throughout the world. Report cards on the “gay-friendliness” of destinations are also available.
Lonely Planet includes both general travel information and a special discussion section (Thorn Tree Forum) for Gay & Lesbian Travelers.