LGBTQ Abroad

Safe Zone logoThe Safe Zone Project

The Safe Zone 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. Everyone in the Education Abroad Office has committed 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. The Education Abroad Office offers a Safe Zone 3.0 training about LGBTQ+ Abroad each semester. For more information contact the Office of LGBT Programming.

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"Experiencing Barcelona was the most outrageously liberating lifetime goal blissfully achieved after becoming one with my sexuality."

DePaul Hendrix (he/him)2014, KIIS Barcelona Summer

LGBTQ+ Education Abroad Resources

Education 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 LGBTQ+ community may have specific concerns as they embark on their journeys. We hope this outline of resources will help our LGBTQ+ Racers feel safe and confident to study abroad. For more information, contact our Coordinator Rebecca Wylie.

Color-coded world map showing sexual orientation laws

While it is important for any student to research their host country before departing, for LGBTQ+ students, 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, as they do within the U.S. Some countries are more welcoming and legally protective than the U.S., while others may be less accepting and more restrictive. You need to be aware of the legal issues, receptivity, and social climate relating to gender identity in other countries. There are multiple resources such as Equaldex and ILGA to help you gain a better understanding of LGBT Laws around the world.  If you still can't choose where you'd like to study, check out this list of the 12 Best Countries for LGBTQ+ Study Abroad. If you know an LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+ student will face. The Murray State Alliance student club and the Office of LGBT Programming are both resources on campus to help you find students who have been abroad. Before you leave, try to answer these questions:

  • What kinds of LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+ population like in my host country? How visible and large is it?

  • What is the general attitude toward LGBTQ+ people in my host country?

  • Is it safe for me to be out in my host country?

Information provided with the help of our colleagues at Diversity Abroad. It is also extremely important for transgender students to know and understand their rights in regards to Airport security and travel. These procedures can be anxiety inducing, invasive, and triggering for some people. The National Center for Transgender Equality does a great job of answering questions like "What if my ID is different from my gender presentation?" "What can I do about discrimination at the airport?" "What should I expect from pat-downs?" 

We know that one of the biggest barriers for our LGBTQ+ students in regards to studying abroad is money. That's why in 2012, the Education Abroad Office created a scholarship specifically for our under-represented students  including LGBTQ+, POC, First-Gen, etc, to help make studying abroad a reality. To date, we've awarded over $300,000 to these under-represented students, because the world belongs to everyone!

See our scholarship page for more information, scholarship opportunities, and learn how to apply. 

More LGBTQ+-specific study abroad scholarships can be found through Go Abroad and QS Top Universities.

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 LGBTQ+ organizations or support services while abroad? You should think about how you will answer questions about your sexual orientation/identity in the language of your host country. If your host country is open and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, take cues from the LGBTQ+ individuals around you. Observe how they dress and behave in order to blend in, not just into the LGBTQ+ community, but in your host country as well.

Homestays/Housing

Some programs place students in homestays or housing situations that are more culturally immersive. 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. Research on your host country prior to travel is vital. Here are a few tips:

  1. Know that it's okay to stay inside the travel closet.

  2. Be honest with your program provider or university about your concerns.

  3. Ask if your host family will be LGBTQ+ friendly.

  4. Observe how your host family talks LGBTQ+ issues.

  5. Ask your host family to respect your privacy.

  6. Prepare for potentially awkward questions.

  7. Assume the best.

Read more about these tips from Go Abroad.

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 but are not out at home, how will this affect your return to friends and family? Will you be able to re-integrate into 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 independently due to the experience of being abroad 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.

On Campus Support

LGBT Programming

Abigail Cox
Coordinator

Psychological Center

Catie Bates
Administrative Assistant

Counseling Center

Angie Trzepacz
Director

Suite 104 Oakley Applied Science

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