When preparing to study abroad, you will want to consider how your host country’s social norms and cultural mores may affect you. Aspects of your identity may be perceived and understood in very different ways to what you are accustomed. Spend some time reading and researching your host country in order to have a better sense of what you might expect.  Some students may find this side of study abroad very challenging, but also a rewarding learning experience.

Hamilton Study Abroad Student Videos

To ensure a successful experience abroad, let your program provider know if you have any disabilities that will affect your time abroad.  Your program provider can help you prepare for what to expect by providing you with country-specific information and can advocate for resources on your behalf.  It is important to note that other cultures have their own way of addressing disabilities and access so we recommend doing your research before you choose a program and also as you prepare to study abroad.

As the first person in your family to go to college, studying abroad may also be something very new.  The Global Learning Office has first-gen staff members who can walk you through the process of studying abroad and explain all the big and small details.  Take a look at some of these additional resources: 

Go Abroad Meaningful Travel Tips and Tales

IES First Generation Resources


Studying abroad offers the chance to explore another culture in depth, allowing you to further discover your own identity, too. While many aspects of this discovery can be positive, there can also be challenges. For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, it is critical to research and prepare for the cultural and local attitudes of your host country toward various sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions. Laws and attitudes in some countries may affect safety and ease of travel and legal protections vary from country to country. (U.S. Department of State) Your program provider and their on-site staff can be very helpful in understanding the local environment and resources, but you will also want to do your own research to decide what makes the most sense for you. 

Before You Go

LGBTQIA+ students should be aware that various cultural, religious, and political factors can impact their experience in their host country. To avoid situations of discomfort or danger abroad, it is highly recommended to research your host country's stance on these topics. 

Transgender students will likely have further considerations and planning regarding travel documents, airport security, medications, gender-affirming healthcare, and more. Working with your study abroad advisor, healthcare provider, program provider, and other members of your support network before you go abroad can be the best way to avoid difficult and uncomfortable situations and better ensure your safety and wellness.

Questions to Ask Yourself (questions from Notre Dame Education Abroad)

Consider the following questions, but also know that we encourage you to reach out to your study abroad advisor if you have location-specific questions, would like to talk to a study abroad returnee who identifies as LGBTQ+, or if you would like to discuss your personal questions or concerns. 

  • What are the laws regarding homosexuality and gender identity in my host country? If there are safety issues for the LGBTQ+ community, will I alter my behavior?
  • What is the social attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community in my host country? Are there any current news stories about LGBTQ+ events? Are there any LGBTQ+ publications, advocacy organizations, or LGBTQ+-friendly establishments in my area?
  • Are sexual orientation and gender identity openly discussed or more taboo in my host country?
  • How LGBTQ+-friendly are the host institutions? Will I be staying with a host family who may or may not be accepting if I come out?
  • What are the cultural norms for healthy relationships and friendship?
  • Will I be publicly “out” in my host country? To my program’s director? My classmates? People I meet in-country?
  • What does LGBTQ+ expression look like in my host country? How does it compare to LGBTQ+ expression on campus? In my hometown?
  • Is it important to me to participate in LGBTQ+ activities and events while abroad?
  • Are there resources for LGBTQ+ students in my host country or at my place of study?
  • Does the information on my legal documentation match my gender identity (e.g. my passport or housing placement while abroad)?
  • Is the language of my host culture gendered? If I identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, or non-binary, will it be difficult for me to adapt?

Student Stories 

There are many great websites, including those of some of our partnering study abroad providers, who have collected student stories and experiences you may want to check out:

LGBTQ+ Rights and Laws

Get Help / Report an Incident at Hamilton

As a Hamilton College student, both confidential support and reporting resources are available to you:

Sexual and Relationship Violence (Title IX)

Other support resources:


Students of color have a range of experiences abroad.  Research into your host countries history, culture, and politics may help you be better prepared for the context in which you will be living.  Speak with other students of color who have been abroad about their experiences.  Although your experience may be different from theirs, they can help you identify some possible support networks and coping strategies. In some locations, students of color might find themselves in the majority population or they may find that they are identified by their citizenship rather than their race or ethnicity.  

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