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. Education Abroad Advisors have 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.

LGBTQ+ Study Abroad Resources

Study 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 list of resources will address some of these questions and concerns. For more information, see one of the Education Abroad Advisors.

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Before you go

While it is important for any student to research his or her host country before departing, for an LGBTQ+ student, 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.

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 

Funding your study abroad

See our scholarship page for more information on how to apply for scholarships. The funds from the Education Abroad Office give preference to under-represented students in study abroad, and LGBTQ+ students are in this category.
A nationally competitive award, the Gilman Scholarship Program , aims to support students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including but not limited to, students with high financial need, community college students, students in under-represented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities. Awards range from $3000-$5000 and you must be Pell grant eligible to apply.

Other LGBTQ-specific study abroad scholarships can be found at the Fund for Education Abroad

While abroad

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 they will answer questions about their sexual orientation in the language of their 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.


Often programs place students in homestay 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. 

Returning home

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 independent of 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.

For more information

On campus:

LGBTQ+ Programming

243 Blackburn

Dr. SG Carthell serves as the Executive Director of LGBTQ Programming, Multicultural Initiatives, Student Leadership, and Inclusive Excellence within the Division of Student Affairs. 

Other resources:

  • OutRight Action International Information by country Compiled by the the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), a leading international organization dedicated to human rights advocacy on behalf of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.