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Interested in Study Abroad Opportunities while at Cal Poly?

The Pride Center recognizes that members of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies may be particularly interested in studying abroad and, at the same time, may have specific concerns regarding their identity as they begin to consider international travel. The information provided via the following links is designed to answer some basic questions and address introductory concerns about these issues. We are proud to partner with Cal Poly International Center to continue to develop relationships between the two areas to encourage our students to study abroad.

Note: Transgender students are valued members of the Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo community. While studying abroad at other campuses, the values and cultures regarding transgender students may not be the same as at Cal Poly. In order to provide support for the needs of incoming and current transgender students currently or planning to study abroad, we strongly encourage students to contact the Lead Coordinator for Campus LGBTQ+ Initiatives prior to any travel abroad.  

LGBTQ+ Students

It is important to be aware of the cultural, legal and social issues regarding sexual and gender identity abroad and how they could affect interactions with people in your host country.

In order to have a rewarding and safe experience, you will benefit from researching the LGBTQ climate of the country you will be visiting. Even if you do not plan to have a sexual relationship while away, educate yourself about specific laws pertaining to sexual behavior, orientation and/or gender expression. When doing your research, try to find out about:

  • The age of consent in the country and legality of same-sex sexual behavior
  • Restrictions on freedom of association or expression for LGBTQ people
  • Anti-discrimination and/or sodomy laws (national and/or local)

LGBTQ+ & Going Abroad

If you are an LGBTQ+ student, it is important to understand that being out while you are abroad can affect your experiences. Some countries and cultures are open and accepting of LGBTQ+ people, and same-sex marriage is even legal in some countries. However, you may encounter stares or even hostility in other places where homosexuality is against the law.

Depending on where you go, openly displaying affection for your same-sex partner may put your physical safety at risk. If you will be staying with a host family, discuss with your study abroad advisor or program director whether or not you should come out to your host family.

Before you go abroad, find out what kinds of legal rights LGBTQ+ persons have in your host country. For example, in some countries, homosexuality is illegal. You’ll also want to research what kinds of behavior are appropriate for friendship and dating. Two people of the same gender kissing or holding hands often have a different meaning abroad, so it's important to recognize that this does not necessarily reflect a romantic relationship.

No matter where you go, you will encounter different ideologies and will have to adapt to different customs while you are abroad. Some students find it is necessary to hide their sexual orientation for safety reasons, while others feel free to express their sexual identity openly. In addition, discussing sexuality is taboo in some cultures, while in others it is acceptable.

Be informed and be aware of the attitudes, customs, and laws of your host country. Confide in people who you can trust, and establish a healthy relationship with others who can support you, help you feel safe, and make sure you have a rewarding experience abroad.

Must Ask Questions for LGBTQ+ Students

  • What are the laws regarding homosexuality and gender identity in my host country? 
  • Is it safe for me to be out when I’m abroad? Should I come out to my host family? 
  • What are the cultural norms for dating and friendship? 
  • What kinds of LGBTQ+ resources are there in my host country? 
  • What is the LGBTQ+ population like in my host country? How visible and large is it? How do they dress, behave, etc.? 


Tips for LGBTQ+ Students:

  • Put your safety first. 
  • Before you leave, familiarize yourself with the customs and laws of your host country. 
  • Research whether or not talking about sex or sexuality is taboo. 
  • Research the terms and definitions used in your host country to talk about LGBTQ+ issues. 
  • Find a support network abroad
  • Use Diversity Abroad Destination Guides to learn more about your host country

Resources, Guides and Personal Stories

NAFSA’s Rainbow Special Interest Group – Information and resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender study abroad students run by a professional association for international educators.

Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me – Online resource containing stories written by students about LGBTQ+ study abroad.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender U.S. Peace Corps Alumni – Promoting Peace Corps and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world

Laws. TSA and U.S. State Department Information

State Department Resource

TSA Information for Transgender People

Transgender Law Center 

LGBTQ+ International Safety Tips: A Guide to Safe Travel

General International Organizations

ILGA – The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association has information on over 110 countries and offers a country-by-country survey of the legal position of GLBTQ individuals.

IGLHRC – The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is an NGO dedicated to human rights advocacy group.

Scholarships for LGBTQ+ Students

The Pride Foundation – A foundation that inspires a culture of generosity, connecting Northwest organizations, leaders, and students who are creating LGBTQ equality. They facilitate post-secondary educational scholarships.

Human Rights Campaign – The HRC advocates on behalf of LGBTQ Americans, mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educates the public about LGBTQ issues.  They also have student scholarships.

Rainbow SIG Scholarship- The Rainbow Scholarship awards deserving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) students who aim to participate in high-quality, rigorous education abroad programs. To be considered for the Rainbow Scholarship, applicants must self-identify on the Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) scholarship application.

Travel Businesses Directory

IGLTA – The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association provides references to find LGBTQ travel businesses.  – A worldwide gay business directory.

Have recommendations for new resources or updates to any of those listed above, let us know.   

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