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Navigating Gender & Gender Identity Abroad

Studying abroad opens doors to opportunities for both personal and academic growth. It's important to recognize and honor diverse gender identities, including those within the LGBTQIA+ community. This guide aims to provide insights into the distinct factors and potential obstacles associated with gender and gender identity when studying abroad.   

As you prepare for studying abroad, we offer the resources below as a starting point.  We encourage you to talk with your Ed Abroad Program Manager to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. See also the Health and Safety section of our site.

Please reach out to your Ed Abroad Program Manager to update your name, gender or pronouns on your MyCUAbroad Portal!

Before embarking on your journey, you may consider researching your host country's cultural norms and attitudes toward gender and gender diversity. It's important to understand the legal rights and protections available for gender minorities in that country.

You should also ensure your passport is up-to-date, and if you need to update the name or gender listed in your passport, make sure you are working on that early (see Legal Considerations below for more details).

We encourage you to research your housing options that meet your needs and expectations. Consider if they are inclusive and respectful of your gender identity. Some exchange programs may not have housing pre-arranged and you may need to find your own housing; in these cases, Education Abroad and/or the host university will provide resources for finding independent housing arrangements.

Access to gender-affirming healthcare might vary from country to country. Carry necessary medications and prescriptions, and research local healthcare providers who are LGBTQIA+-friendly. Be prepared for potential language barriers when seeking medical assistance. 

  • If you experience difficulties, don’t be afraid to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. They are available 24/7 who provide emergency assistance to Americans. 
  • Be alert and try to avoid potentially unsafe environments  

Prepare to learn about the local customs and practices surrounding gender in your host country. This understanding can help empower you to navigate social interactions with respect and confidence. 

  • As you explore, actively seek out LGBTQIA+ support networks and local communities, to foster connections that will help enrich your experience.  
  • Keep an eye out for safe spaces and LGBTQIA+ friendly establishments that will provide you with a genuine sense of belonging in your new environment. 

Understand the legal landscape surrounding LGBTQIA+ rights in your host country. Learn about the process for updating identification documents to reflect your gender identity. Familiarize yourself with LGBTQIA+ organizations that advocate for your rights and offer support.

Some travelers have reported difficulties entering a country on a passport bearing a name and photo that no longer corresponds with their gender identity. See the State Department's information on changing your name or gender marker in your passport. Make sure you are working on this early, as some programs require that you have your updated passport several months before your program begins, in order to apply for any necessary visas (see our Passports & Visas page for more info about visas). 

In 2023, the U.S. Department of State began issuing passports with an "X" gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming travelers. These are valid, government-issued passports and should be accepted everywhere as any other U.S. passport. However, there have been some reports of travelers with X gender passports encountering occasional issues entering certain countries, applying for some visas, or experiencing increased scrutiny, so you should research your destination carefully so you have a better sense of what to expect. The U.S. Department of State posts country-specific LGBTQIA+ considerations on each of their country information pages, under "Local Laws and Special Circumstances" and you can always contact the U.S. embassy within that country to get more information. OSAC's Country Security Reports also include information about LGBTQIA+ considerations for each country and are working to incorporate any known issues with entering a given country on an X gender passport in these reports.

Prioritize your safety by creating a personal safety plan. Share your emergency contacts with trusted individuals and know how to reach local law enforcement or authorities if needed. 
  • If you experience difficulties, don’t be afraid to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. They are available 24/7 who provide emergency assistance to Americans.  
  • Be alert and try to avoid potentially unsafe environments.

Reflect on your experiences and personal growth while studying abroad. Share your journey with others to raise awareness and contribute to the knowledge base for future students exploring education abroad. 

  • We invited some of our well-travelled alumnae to share their experiences abroad as women. From calming their parents' fears, adjusting to their host country, and packing tips, our alumnae share all. -International Studies Abroad (ISA) 
  • No matter where you are in your personal journey, our alumni joined to share their experiences as LGBTQIA+ members abroad. Tune in to learn about how they chose their destination, the research they did before going abroad, and how they found community in their host country.
  • Written by a student studying abroad on an IES Abroad program in Spain, this discusses the ways that they navigated language, cultural differences and gender presentation in Salamanca. 
  • Written by a high school study abroad student in Japan, this article describes the challenges, coping strategies, and importance on finding your community in study abroad ventures. This piece also includes tips for integrating into the local culture and setting realistic expectations.  ?

Parent/Family Questions

Do your parents/ families have concerns about you studying abroad? Parents and families as welcome to contact our office to speak to a Program Manager! Program Managers can provide further information, discuss concerns, and help navigate the process with you.

Education Abroad is committed to serving a culturally diverse community of students and is dedicated to providing inclusive international experiences for students from all backgrounds. Please contact our Access and Inclusion Coordinator at with any questions or concerns. 
Last Updated November 2023
Photo Credit Brett Jordan, Unsplash