LGBT Student Resources for Study Abroad
The Safe Zone Project
The Education Abroad Office at Murray State has joined The Safe Zone Project! The Project is designed to radically reduce prejudice and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression at Murray State University by creating a safe and affirming campus. By displaying The Safe Zone symbol, the Education Abroad Office is committing to being active and visible allies, being trusted to maintain confidentiality, and responding to all students interested in international education with understanding, support, and empathy.
LGBT Study Abroad Resources
Study Abroad is a rewarding experience for college students, encouraging both personal and academic growth. The process of selecting and applying to a program can be overwhelming at times, and we recognize that members of the LGBT community may have specific concerns as they embark on their journeys. We hope this list of resources will address some of these concerns. For more information, see one of the Education Abroad Advisors.
Before you go
While it is important for any student to research his or her host country before departing, for an LGBT student, it is essential. Cultures can vary greatly in terms of what is considered appropriate behavior and how sexual identities are defined and understood. You will find that attitudes and tolerance toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues vary from country to country, and even within the US. Some countries are more welcoming and legally protective than the US, while others may be less accepting and more restrictive. You need to be aware of the legal issues, receptivity, and social climate relating to sexuality in other countries.
If you know an LGBT student who has been to your host country, it is encouraged that you talk to them about their experiences. This is often a good insight into the challenges that an LGBT student will face. The Murray State Alliance and LGBT Programming are both resources on campus to find students who have been abroad. Before you leave, try to answer these questions:
- What kinds of LGBT resources are there in my host country?
- What are the laws regarding homosexuality in my host country?
- What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship?
- What is the LGBT population like in my host country? How visible and large is it?
- What is the general attitude toward LGBT people in my host country?
- Is it safe for me to be out in my host country?
Funding your study abroad
The office of Student Affairs is sponsoring an LGBT student study abroad scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year. See our scholarship page for more information on how to apply for this and many other scholarships.
Other LGBT-specific study abroad scholarships:
It is important that you are aware of and consider the implications of being identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered in the host-culture and how being "out" might impact interactions. You are going abroad to experience a different way of life, and with that comes the opportunity to explore your sexual orientation in a new context. Do you anticipate "coming out" during this experience abroad? Do you want to connect with local LGBT organizations or support services while abroad? You should think about how they will answer questions about their sexual orientation in the language of their host country. If your host country is open and accepting of the LGBT community, take cues from the LGBT individuals around you. Observe how they dress and behave in order to blend in, not just into the LGBT community, but into your host country as well.
Often programs place students in home-stay or housing situations so that they may be more immersed in the local host culture. It is important that all students are aware of and consider the implications of being identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in the host-culture and how coming out might affect the host-family relationship.
Many transformations in personal development and self- awareness can occur while studying abroad, prompted by the fact that the restrictions of the home culture have been removed. Returning home is therefore a transition that can be difficult at times. Consider the following:
- If you choose to come out while abroad, how will this affect your return to friends and family? Will you be able to re-integrate these relationships upon your return or will you need to find a different supportive community?
- Be aware before you come back home of the ways in which you may have changed both independent of and as a result of your coming out.
- Consider the implications of coming out when back home. Often family and friends may want to dismiss your sexual orientation as temporary due to the experience abroad, rather than acknowledge a lifelong identity.
For more information:
Compiled by the The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is a leading international organization dedicated to human rights advocacy on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
Information adapted from the following sources: