Happy LGBTQ Pride month!
The field of study abroad is one of diversity and inclusion, so it is no stranger to LGBTQ students, staff, faculty, and administrators. Education without borders means more than just learning across lines that separate geographic areas. The borders in our mind can be just as distancing, but overcoming our prejudices can cultivate an enriching education like no other. For LGBTQ Pride month, SAA has compiled here a guide on how to create and lead LGBTQ-friendly faculty-led programs. While this is by no means comprehensive, we hope this will foster open discussion for staff and faculty working with LGBTQ students looking to go abroad.
When creating a faculty-led study abroad program, there are some considerations you can take to ensure a positive experience for any of your LGBTQ students, such as:
- Destination: What laws are in place regarding LGBTQ people? Will this particular destination pose any threats to my students’ safety which they should be aware of before deciding to apply for my program? While there are still significant benefits to experiencing a culture with different values, your students may feel unsafe or uncomfortable traveling in specific countries. Check out this reference list of information on specific countries and LGBTQ travel tips.
- Housing: Will my students have flexibility when choosing who to live with? What are the options for transgender and nonbinary students? Will there be host families, and if so, how will they react to my LGBTQ student? If there is shared housing, such as in a hotel, do students have the option to choose the gender they prefer to live with? Work with your program provider to create a list of housing necessities, which could include all-gender roommate options, single rooms, and LGBTQ-supportive host families. Students need to feel safe in their home-away-from-home.
- Mental healthcare: What resources does my program provider or home institution offer? Is emergency support available 24/7? LGB adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition, and transgender individuals are nearly four times as likely. Study abroad can be stressful for anyone, but more so for those faced with discrimination.
- Documentation: How will preferred/chosen names affect international documentation? What if I have a nonbinary student who needs a passport? Recent changes at the Department of State allow for self-identification with a gender identity of X without medical certification, or a physician’s letter if the gender marker on your passport does not match your photo ID (note: at this time, the Department of State allows for the X gender marker only when applying for a routine passport book. Should a student need a passport while abroad and need an emergency passport issued to return home, they will need to select a binary gender marker). The U.S. has made these inclusive changes on a federal level, but that does not guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. For travel information regarding the safety and security of the country you wish to visit, review the Department of State’s page for LGBTQQI+ travelers.
- Language: Does my students want to be known by the name on their birth certificate? How can I prepare students to navigate the host country language in regards to LGBTQ topics? In languages other than English, gender can be difficult to navigate; adjectives, verbs, and more can change based on the gender of those involved. This makes it even more important to have an open dialogue with your students and faculty traveling abroad – by facilitating a space of inclusion and safety, students will feel more comfortable to share their preferences (e.g. referring to themselves in German with this genderless conjugation) or just ask how to translate an LGBTQ term.
- Cost: Will my students be able to afford this? What if my LGBTQ student wants an inclusive housing option that costs more? Marginalized people tend to have less familial wealth and spending money, and LGBTQ people are no exception. Scholarships are available for LGBTQ students studying abroad!
- Fun!: What activities in my program location include LGBTQ information? Where can I visit that promotes social justice in the community? What do my students want to learn? Lots of destinations have LGBTQ museums, neighborhoods, or historical sites. Inclusion can be exciting!
- Go all in!: Run a program that focuses fully on LGBTQ topics and is LGBTQ friendly. Check out some of our program samples, such as LGBTQ History & Music in England & France.
Remember: studying abroad is a choice to challenge yourself, but LGBTQ students have even more challenges on top of those. While “coming out” (telling others you are LGBTQ) can be difficult enough at home, these students may have to do it all over again in a completely foreign and possibly unsafe environment abroad. The biggest thing you can do as an ally is to let them know you are there to help if needed. Many institutions offer training programs and workshops on creating a safe space, but even without these, you can make students feel welcome by publicly offering support to LGBTQ students. Don’t wait until a student indicates their LGBTQ status to welcome them – by openly discussing resources, questions, and concerns, these students will feel safer and thus more likely to be their genuine selves. A student cannot fully interact and benefit from the educational study abroad experience when feeling unsafe or uncomfortable!
At SAA, we take pride (get it? 😊🏳️🌈) in our individual and professional on-the-ground experience. Our programs are 100% customizable and our staff are with you every step of the way. Our complete transparency through your study abroad experience gives you the peace of mind to focus on academics and teaching your students! If any concerns arise, for your LGBTQ students or otherwise, we will always work with you to find a solution. Check out our website to learn more about our programs, explore other global opportunities, ask questions, or request more information.
Find more resources on LGBTQ study abroad here:
- Rainbow SIG – the special interest group for LGBTQ NAFSA members. Find a ton of different resources for LGBT students and professionals in international education. Their newsletters date back to 1993!
- GoAbroad’s Travel Guide for LGBTQ Travelers – an in-depth dive of almost everything mentioned in this blog post. Has examples of LGBT-focused study abroad programs from different colleges and universities. Great resources for students!
- GoAbroad’s List of LGBT Student Scholarships
- Diversity Abroad – find information for all marginalized groups looking to study abroad. Internships, graduate school programs, travel guides, and more.
- IGLTA – the International Gay/Lesbian Travel Association. Supported by the U.S. Department of Consular Affairs, the IGLTA website has legal travel guides and relevant information by country.