LGBTQ students worry about legal and social issues when looking for where to study abroad

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Syracuse University’s study abroad program offers more than 60 countries to choose from for the fall and spring semesters. Many LGBTQ students at SU research these 60 choices while keeping in mind their specific academic preferences, safety concerns, and cultural considerations.

“When you’re gay, when you’re a person of color, you recognize that racism and homophobia, and just hatred of who you are, is everywhere,” League junior Russell Tom Sun said. “It doesn’t matter where you go, (hatred appears) in different forms.”

SU sophomore Tom Sun and Aree Clarke are currently navigating the study abroad search process. Tom Sun is studying in Madrid this spring and Clarke has yet to decide on his location for next year.

“Doing the research ahead of time is really important. I don’t think (the research process) should be a point of restriction for students on where they want to go, ”said Rick Cieri, Campus Outreach Manager at the SU’s Overseas Office.

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To help LGBTQ students with their research, the League’s overseas office and the university‘s LGBTQ resource center hold an annual information presentation. The presentation will take place in February, Cieri said. The League’s overseas website has a page dedicated to LGBTQ resources, including a map displaying the sexual orientation laws in each country, the issues LGBTQ students should consider when deciding which countries to take. hospitality and scholarships specifically for LGBTQ students.

“Sexuality is a very sensitive subject and varies considerably between cultures,” said Eduardo Machado, second year student of the League and secretary of Pride Union. “Having organizations and information gives the idea that if something happens to you because of your identity, there is something that is going to protect you.”

The League Abroad also has a group of Global Ambassadors of around 40 students who have previously studied abroad. The aim of the group is to share personal experiences and inform future students abroad, who can make an appointment in person or on Zoom. According to Cieri, there are several LGBTQ ambassadors who have visited various places and who can provide a perspective on culture and safety.

While SU Abroad offers these resources, Clarke and Tom Sun both said they would refer to other sources for information on possible locations before referring to SU resources. They both looked to their own friends in the LGBTQ community, Twitter, and TikTok for personal accounts from each country. Tom Sun also read newspaper articles to research the seriousness of violence against the LGBTQ community in various locations.

“I’m sure the program is great, but it’s institutionalized,” Clarke said. “I feel like honesty may not be the priority. They may not have answers to my questions.

Jaden Chen | Collaborating photographer Meghan Thompson | Design editor

Clarke wanted “personal” and “unfiltered” answers about the specific experiences of black LGBTQ students going abroad, she said. She said intersectionality plays a role when looking for locations abroad; it examines first how countries treat people of different races and second, how those countries treat LGBTQ people.

Diversity within the study abroad group is also a priority for Clarke and Tom Sun. Clarke, a black student, said traveling with an undiversified group could “skew” her experience and make it difficult to have fun. Tom Sun said traveling with other LGBTQ students and students of color would provide him with a “bond” that would make him feel more secure on his trip.

“There is always an increased awareness of having to be extremely careful and aware,” said Tom Sun. “A lot of people (non-LGBTQ and white) around me unfortunately don’t share the same mindset because they don’t have to.”

SU Abroad has an ongoing admissions policy and reviews applications as they are completed. According to Cieri, the abroad program attempts to diversify the study abroad community through outreach programs and information sessions such as the panel “The Black Experience Abroad”, which was held in November.

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Although Clarke and Tom Sun consider their safety while studying abroad important, they both said they keep an open mind to prioritize their academic and social experiences.

“I believe there are good and beautiful people everywhere,” said Tom Sun. “I would like to see the world, whatever the risk, whatever the safety factor. I would give every country an equal chance.