6 Students Share Their LGBTQ+ Study Abroad Experience

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Identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community while studying abroad can present unique challenges and opportunities in exploring a new culture. Our IES Abroad Correspondents share their experiences within the LGBTQ+ community around the world.

ies abroad lgbtq+ community in Amsterdam
Queer in Amsterdam

“I’m not too sure what I expected LGBTQ life to be like in the first country that has legalized same sex marriage. Maybe that rainbow confetti would get thrown at me upon my first step into the Netherlands, or that a crowd of happy queers decked out in rainbow attire would be present everyway I looked... It didn’t turn out exactly like that. But my first day in Amsterdam, I walked by a crowd of people proudly wearing LGBTQ and trans flags, and immediately I felt it.”

– Emily Radford (IES Abroad Amsterdam, Spring 2018 | University of Rochester)

Nonbinary in Salamanca

“Coming from Chicago to Salamanca has presented some challenges with regards to my gender identity and presentation, but it’s also been an eye-opening experience, as it’s shown me just how dependent on social and linguistic context gender really is. Although I haven’t found a perfect answer to the question of how to exist as nonbinary in Spain—or in Spanish—I’ve discovered that the question isn’t as all-consuming as I feared it might be before I left.”

– Colvin (IES Abroad Salamanca, Spring 2018 | Loyola University Chicago)

London bridge over the river thames
Bisexual in London

“I am just an individual still trying to figure out my place in the world and discover more truths about myself. We may all be very different individuals, disagreeing on many different points, but I feel that we can all relate to that sentiment of wanting acceptance and a place of belonging.”

– Analise Ober (IES Abroad London, Summer 2016 | University of Puget Sound)

Colored houses along the river liffey in dublin, ireland
Transgender in Dublin

“We wished each other a good day, and I thought about how there was more community, and possibilities for real social progression, around me than I’d realized. I would definitely seek more involvement if I returned to Dublin. But even if I don’t, talking to another trans person outside my home country chipped away some isolation and cynicism I hadn’t been very aware of.”

– Miranda Stewart (IES Abroad Dublin, Fall 2017 | Sarah Lawrence College)

Laura Gerson in Gay's the Word bookshop in London, UK
LGBTQ+ in London

“Our next stop was the UK’s only gay and lesbian bookshop. Gay’s the Word (which is the best named place we visited) was founded in 1979, and has stood firm in the Bloomsbury neighborhood ever since. For fellow IES Abroad London students, this tiny gem is located only a few blocks from the Center.”

– Laura Gerson (IES Abroad London, Fall 2017 | American University)

LGBTQ+ flag with the word PEACE printed on it
Celebrating Pride in Tokyo

“People falling on all spectrums of investment to the community, of outspokenness, were at Tokyo Pride and American Pride alike. It is encouraging to see others where I once stood - as an onlooker. I just hope that people are able to go beyond just looking, in whatever capacity they’re able to.”

 – Mar Freeman (IES Abroad Tokyo, Spring 2018 | Tufts University)

Check out more blog posts from the LGBTQ+ community and browse our LGBTQ+ & Ally Resources.

Are you interested in speaking with a recent alumni about their experiences identifying as LGBTQ+ while studying abroad? Email [email protected] to be put in contact with an IES Abroad Ambassador.

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