Selecting your study abroad location and program can feel like a difficult and daunting task. When you start to explore your study abroad options there are many factors to consider such as location, course offerings, scholarship opportunities, and the overall financial impact of studying abroad. If you identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community there are some additional factors that are important for you to consider when selecting your study abroad program.
Being Out Abroad
For the past several years I have been asked this question by students thinking about and preparing to study abroad. This is a very difficult question to answer as the decision to be out both at home and abroad is a personal choice that only you can make.
It is important to understand the laws and attitudes in your host country that can impact your decision to be out or not when abroad. The attitude, acceptance and laws pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community vary by country. While some counties are very accepting of LGBTQ+ individuals, there are also counties with laws designed to discriminate against members of this community. When considering a program location, it is important that you conduct some research on the program location including the legal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. It is important to understand the implications of studying abroad in a location where homosexuality is illegal.
Some students choose to be out while studying abroad while others chose not to be, and whatever decision you make is the right decision for you. I recommend that you talk with family, friends, advisors, or other important people in your life about this decision as they can provide you with support and advice that can prove invaluable during this process.
As you begin your research you can contact the BCA Program Advisor to learn more about laws, attitudes and support networks at our program locations. You may also find the resources below helpful as you continue your research:
Living with a host family
It is perfectly natural and understandable for any student to be a bit anxious about living with a host family. As an LGBTQ+ student you may have some concerns about living with a host family and having to come out to them as well. It is important to discuss any of your concerns with your home school study abroad advisor and your BCA program advisor. If you are comfortable disclosing your sexual orientation or gender identity on your housing questionnaire we will work to place you with a host family that is accepting and possibly of the same orientation. The decision of whether or not to come out to your host family is your decision and we will work with you to ensure you are placed in a homestay where you feel comfortable.
While studying abroad, you can find vibrant and welcoming LGBTQ+ communities in many of our program sites around the world. For example, Spain hosts the largest Pride parade in Europe! Depending on your personal situation, studying abroad may be the first time you have access to a large and active LBTQ community. I highly encourage any LGBTQ+ student to get involved with their local LGBTQ+ community.
Joining a student club or local organization is a great way to connect to local students and feel even more connected to your host country. The Queer Support group at the University of Otago offers Queer St!tch and B!tch and QTea events and the Rainbow House in Brussels, Belgium hosts a variety of local organizations.
If you would like to get connected with LGBTQ communities in your program location, please do not hesitate to contact a BCA staff member in the central office or talk with your resident director onsite.
Making It Happen
BCA is committed to supporting students from diverse ethnic, faith, sexual and gender identity and socio-economic backgrounds, including first-generation college students. BCA Diversity Scholarships provide $1500 towards BCA semester programs and $1000 towards summer programs.
As an LGBTQ+ student please also consider applying for the Rainbow Scholarship through the Fund for Education Abroad. This scholarship awards thousands to dollars of scholarships to LGBTQ+ student who aim to participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program.
Seth has worked with students of all different backgrounds over the past 6 years as they navigate through the study abroad process. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community he is passionate about working with every student to ensure that they have a transformative experience abroad. Please feel free to reach out to Seth with any questions.