2SLGBTQ+ Students


Colorful umbrellas in Italian alley
Photo: Adem Glenski, Italy

Advisors as Your Resource

Beyond academics, it’s essential to consider your identity when researching study abroad locations. Discuss any questions you may have about considerations as a 2SLGBTQ+ (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) student with your advisor.

Discuss your concerns

Prefer to discuss your concerns about studying abroad with someone other than your assigned college advisor? UMD Sexuality & Gender Initiatives is a great resource right on campus. Their staff would be happy to talk with you about your decision to study abroad and assist in providing valuable resources.

Additionally, the Multicultural Study Abroad Group (MSAG) can help you locate advisors who frequently work with underrepresented students. These advisors know how to help you start planning to fit study abroad into your degree. They also have experience working with students who face similar challenges that you may face when you consider study abroad.

Things to consider when choosing a location

  • What are the local and cultural attitudes toward Americans, tourists, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the host country?
  • How important is it to me to find other sexual minority students and friends while abroad?
  • What resources are available in my host country for sexual minority people?
  • Are there any 2SLGBTQIA+ friendly establishments?
  • What are my safety needs and perceptions and how can they be best met? Is the program able to make special accommodations for students who request single rooms, private baths, certain roommates, or gender-inclusive housing?
  • What are police attitudes towards local residents, tourists, and 2SLGBTQ+ visitors?
  • What is considered “typical” male and female social behavior in the host country?
  • What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer people in the host country? How are 2SLGBTQIA+ people socially defined? How are transgender people viewed or considered?
  • What role do transgender people play in the host culture? And what are the social perceptions of transgender people?

Get to know your destination

Explore 2SLGBTQ+ travel guides and internet resources. Talk with other 2SLGBTQ+ and allied people about their experiences in certain countries or regions. Gather as much information to make your choices and decisions on a location. Once in your host country, find out what other resources are available. 

Understand the context, customs & attitudes of your host country

Similar behaviors and expressions may have vastly different meanings in other cultures. In some countries, open expressions of your sexual orientation may be frowned upon when you’re outside of distinct “gay” neighborhoods or certain resort facilities.

In other countries, expressions of friendship (such as eye contact, a smile, touching and physical proximity) may mean something very different than those expressed among your American peers. For example, in many Middle Eastern countries, hand-holding among males is a custom of special friendship and respect and does not necessarily imply homosexuality. In Southeast Asia, your head is considered sacred, and you aren’t to touch somebody on the head.

Learn the laws of your host country

You are required to follow the laws of your host country. Once you leave, you’re no longer protected by U.S. laws. If you’re caught engaging in same-sex acts in a host country in which they are illegal—you could be raped, arrested, or even imprisoned. Penalties are very severe and can even include deportation, corporal punishments, and execution in some locations. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs so you can make informed and safe choices about programs that will best fit your needs.

Questions to consider:

  • Are there public decency or indecency laws in relation to sexual orientation?
  • Does the law require having “proper documentation” at all times? If so, how does it need to be documented? (documentation of gender reassignment etc.)
  • What is the age of consent? Does it differ for heterosexual versus same-sex couples?
  • Will laws and attitudes be the same for different social classes or geographic areas?

Other Resources:

University of Minnesota Global Programs & Strategy Alliance
The University of Minnesota Global Programs and Strategy Alliance has developed an orientation video for GLBT Students Studying Abroad.

UMD Sexuality & Gender Equity Initiatives
Check with UMD Sexuality & Gender Equity Initiatives when considering studying abroad. They have resources, programs, scholarships, services to support academic success and social development while encouraging an environment that promotes and appreciates multiculturalism.

NAFSA’s Rainbow Special Interest Group
This comprehensive website is run by a special interest group of the national professional association for international education, NAFSA. Find resources about things to consider, special scholarships, and firsthand accounts from 2SLGBTQ+ individuals who have studied abroad.

GoAbroad.com resource book for LGBTQ+ travelers.

Links for news and laws around the world:


  • The Damron Men’s Travel Guide: 2013 Edition by Gina M. Gatta (Mar 15, 2013)
  • Over 13,000 listings of gay-friendly establishments in the US, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, South America, and most European capitals.
  • Damron Women’s Traveller: 2013 Edition by Gina M. Gatta (Mar 15, 2013)
  • Over 10,000 listings of lesbian-friendly establishments covering North America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and major capitals of Europe.
  • Gay Travel A to Z: The World of Gay and Lesbian Travel Options at your Fingertips 2001 by Ferrari International (2001)
  • The most complete
  • Gay and lesbian travel options available anywhere are detailed in this comprehensive guide produced by a gay publisher who has exclusively specialized in gay and lesbian travel since 1980.
  • Frommer’s Gay and Lesbian Europe (2003)
  • This guide offers inside tips on the gay and lesbian scene in many locales, plus practical information on hotels, dining, and attractions—a must for the 74 percent of U.S. gays and lesbians who took an international trip in 2001.


Michigan State University International Studies and Programs Office of Study Abroad. (n.d.). Study Abroad for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT) Students.