Studying away is a great opportunity for personal growth, learning about different cultures, and experiencing life outside of Amherst. It is a transformative experience for many students and there is no substitute for the wealth of knowledge you can gain from that. However, the cultural attitude of the country you choose to study away in can impact your experience of your own sexuality. You may find different views and legal systems regarding sexuality than that which what you’re accustomed to. It is important to consider these potential challenges and learn about the cultural differences regarding sexuality in your host country beforehand to prepare for how this may affect your experience away. Some questions to think about are:
- What are the local laws and customs around sexuality in my host country?
- How can I find a LGBTQI+ community away?
- How will I get my medication while I'm away?
- How will I access safe-sex materials while I'm away?
- What should I do to get tested and treated for STDs in my host country?
- What are some Amherst resources I have at my disposal?
It is important to recognize these differences to minimize cultural misunderstanding, avoid harassment, and also help you adjust to the culture of your host country.
In going away, it is always important that upon arrival you evaluate the climate of your location in regards to your sexual or gender identity. Evaluation of the climate of both your city, state and/or province, as well as university should inform how you express yourself. Being knowledgable about the area in which you will be living and studying is imperative to ensuring your positive experience in your host country.
Being your true self
It is always important to bring your whole and true self to everything you do. This being said, in expressing your gender and/or sexual identity, you must consider both the climate and laws on the LGBTQI+ community where you are. Attitudes towards the community oftentimes vary even within the country itself, such as in the US, and as such it is important to take into account these elements before deciding to what degree you wish to fully express your identity. Your safety is a top priority, and making sure you are expressing yourself in the safest way possible can help you have a positive experience on your program.
No matter where you are in the world, it's important to find community! To get started, connecting with program staff is one of the most useful things you can do; they are typically well-connected and well-informed about your host city and can help you learn about various groups or organizations of interest to you. Networking with other students from your program can also help you build community before and while you're away. In addition, there are many online groups that allow you to network with people who either live in the city where you'll be studying or who have lived there. Talking to people who have been to the place where you'll be studying away is another way to find a community where you can be safe in being your true self. You can browse program evaluations from former study away students or ask your program to connect you with recent alumni. You might might even check the Amherst Alumni Directory to see if any Amherst alumni are living or working in your host city.
For Transgender Students
We have compiled some information about travelling for Transgender students. We recognize that this list is not exhaustive, but hope to point students in the right direction in answering some of their questions:
- National Center for Transgender Equality: Travel tips for transgender people
- U.S. Passports & International Travel: Gender Transition Applicants
- Matador Network: Guide to safety while and preparing for traveling away
- U.K. Passports & Advice for International Travel : Information for Transgender People
Getting medication away from Amherst can be a difficult process and certain medications may not be available in your host country. It is incredibly important that you verify the following before leaving the US:
1) Contact your program to learn about health insurance options available to program students. They should be able to tell you if your specific medications would be covered in your host country. For more information about health insurance, please refer to our Health, Wellness, and Safety page.
2) If your program does not offer its own insurance or their insurance does not cover your medications, contact your current insurance provider and ask if your medications will be covered while you're away. Please note that some medications are not available everywhere, and some over-the-counter medications in the US are presription-only outside of the country (e.g. sleep medication).
3) Learn what your copay will be by asking your insurance provider. Oftentimes, in foreign countries, the student must bear the full cost of the medication and will then complete submit a reimbursement form and receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement for these costs. If the cost is overwhelming, please check with the Amherst Financial Aid Office to learn about funds available to help you.
4) Students can also call AIG Travel Guard to learn more about medications abroad.
5) If you receive financial aid, please note that the cost of medication is not included in your aid package. We encourage you to work with health services and your insurance provider prior to your departure to determine what will be covered and what you will be expected to pay.
Using dating applications
Some students may choose to using dating apps, such as Tinder, Grindr, etc. while away. The decision to use (or not use) such apps is an individual choice and we encourage students who do so to practice personal safety tips. Some tips include the following:
Protect your identity.
Most people would not tell a complete stranger their full name, phone number, email address or other sensitive personal information (including bank account details), so be wary when posting this info on your profile. Being careful about revealing your identity is a smart move when chatting on Grindr or Tinder. If you decide to take chatting one step further and call or text someone on the phone, you might also want a use a service like Google Voice or Line2, both of which allow you to give people a second number and block them easily.
Don't believe everything you see.
A photo can't always be trusted; the person may have taken someone else's photo or found one somewhere. Also, keep in mind that the photo the person sent you may be outdated, edited, or retouched.
Don't rush into things.
Don’t be rushed, and don’t rush the other person. Share your location only when you feel comfortable, and don't feel pressured if the other person has already sent you their location. Remember, Grindr and Tinder update your location only when the app is on, and there is a setting that allows you to hide your distance from your profile.
Tell a friend.
Make sure a responsible person you trust knows who you’re meeting, where you’re going, and when you’re planning on coming back.
Meet in public.
Should you decide to meet in person, choose a public location for the initial meeting. Ideally, choose somewhere with plenty of other people around, such as a cafe rather than a quiet park or bike path.
Always go with your gut instinct.
Don’t ignore your instincts. Your first instinct is usually the best instinct. Don’t go against your feelings -- listen to them. If your gut tells you that something is wrong, cut it short and get out of there. Make sure that you have programmed any emergency numbers into your phone prior to the meeting. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Be aware that other users of Grindr and Tinder may be able to determine your location.
Grindr, Tinder, and many other dating apps use your mobile device’s location to calculate your distance from other users, to allow you to identify the relative distance to other users, and for other users to identify your relative distance from them. Any app that uses relative distance information has an inherent risk that your actual location may be determined. This means that other users may still be able to estimate your distance and, depending upon how many other users are in the area that do disclose their “distance from,” determine your location.
(Information taken and modified from the following site.)
Sexual harassment may include unwanted attention you may receive in a public or private place and, frankly put, a form of violence. It can include yelling, hissing, whistling, and following. It may also include touching you or themselves. Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment but women, trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people, people of color, and people with disabilities are targeted far more often. Sexual harassment, unfortunately, happens in many countries, including the US, but it is important to recognize the different ways in which a country defines and responds to it. For information on the College’s official definition of sexual harassment, please visit the Title IX website or the Student Code of Conduct.
Sexual Misconduct and Title IX
Amherst College’s policy on sexual misconduct applies to all students, even when you're away. If you experience sexual misconduct while you were away, note that the resources of the Amherst Title IX Office and Amherst Global Education Office are available to you while away from Amherst. Please contact your program, as well as either of these offices so we can work to support you in finding the local resources that you may need.
Please remember that what happened to you was not your fault.
Approaching your Program
If you are abroad on a US-based program, one valuable resource you should consider is your host program. They likely can support you through your process and assist you in accessing local resources (e.g. health, law enforcement, legal services). Please note, all programs are different and laws and resources vary from country to country. Note, also, that there is likely to be a time difference between Amherst and your host country. For this reason, we recommend reaching out to your program first.
When approaching police, be aware primarily of the legal standing of LGBTQI+ individuals in your country. Many countries will have legalized LGBTQI+ activity, but have no legal protections in regards to discrimination in the legal process, housing, workplace, etc. As always, use your program as a primary resource and, upon their guidance, approach the police as you best feel comforable.
- Global Education Office- Be sure to stop by and access student evaluations to read more on how specific identifiers influenced your peers’ experience in their chosen host country!
- Office and Diversity and Inclusion
- Center for International Student Engagement
We urge all people to be aware of your surroundings and safety while travelling. Your personal safety is the top priority at all times. However, before travelling, be sure to research the laws and regulations in regards to homosexuality, same-sex behavior, and same-sex marriage.
Local Laws and Regulations
Your study away program or host university can be helpful in providing city or town-specific safety knowledge. LGBTQI+ communities exist everywhere; however, the predominance and visibility of these communities vary by country, and the legality governing these communities vary both by country and by region of the country.
There are also international resources available to victims of crimes.
Some cultures around the world, including some in the U.S., associate style of clothing with specific social characteristics and behavioral norms. Style of clothing can have an impact on the way LGBTQI+ people are viewed, and therefore, treated outside of Amherst and abroad. Take some time to find out what dress and norms of modesty are acceptable in your host country. Some social gestures and behaviors that you are used to may be interpreted differently in other cultures. For example, some cultures view eye contact as an essential part of social interactions, but in others it is seen as signaling interest in romantic or sexual engagement, or even interpreted as impolite behavior. The local laws relating to the treatment of LGBTQI+ individuals may also vary. Research these differences beforehand and be aware of them during your time away. Find out what strategies local LGBTQI+ people use to stay safe or talk to students who have returned from studying away in your host environment.
When going away, remember that safe-sex practices and STI-prevention methods may vary, so that while you may not use some or all of these practices at home, using them away can make the difference between contracting an STI and remaining STI-free. Condoms, dental dams, and PrEP are available at the Keefe Health Center.
When engaging in sexual intercourse, it is important to use condoms since this is the only type of birth control that can also protect against STIs. Most countries sell condoms, although social stigma may affect their accessibility. Keep in mind that you may have trouble getting the exact type of condom that you prefer and quality may differ compared to what you’re used to. If these are concerns for you, consider packing condoms. Condoms need to stored properly to retain their effectiveness so keep them at room temperature throughout your transport and be mindful of not placing them near anything sharp in your suitcase.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body.
If you are on PrEP, note that the availability of this medication varies considerably by country and always requires an in-country prescription, so it is better to make sure that you have enough to last the full duration of your stay and some extra just in case. You may need a waiver form your insurance company to get an extended prescription for PrEP. Just like with any prescription medication, keep PrEP in its original container showing your name and the name of the medication. Bear in mind that the Amherst College insurance plan does cover PrEP.
Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. However, always use PrEP in combination with other STD-prevention methods to achieve maximum protection.
(Information taken from the following site.)
Dental Dams and Other Practices
Dental dams are latex or polyurethane sheets used between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex. Ready-to-use dental dams can be purchased online. Dental dams, along with condoms and PrEP are available at the Keefe Health Center. For more information on dental dams, please visit the CDC website.
Sexually Transmitted Disease and Infection (STD/STI) Testing and Treatment
It is advisable to always get tested for STDs/STIs before going away. However, if you think you may have contracted an STD/STI while away, we have the following suggestions. Bear in mind that STD testing looks radically different depending on country and region as different STDs/STIs are more prevalent in different parts of the world. Also note that in many countries, routine STD/STI testing is not the norm; rather, STD/STI tests are only done if you believe you may have come into contact with an STD/STI or are experiencing STD/STI-like symptoms.
- Contact your program. Certain insurances may cover getting tested if you believe you have come in contact with or may have contracted an STD/STI. AIG Travel Guard can also be a resource in helping students find the nearest clinics with English-spaking physicians. You don't have to disclose your testing to your program if you don't want to.
- Go to the school clinic. Many schools have clinics on campus where you can go to receive treatment for STDs and STIs. However, oftentimes this comes along with a non-refundable, reduced fee. Depending on the location, school clinics may be more welcoming to LGBTQI+ students than other clinics.
- Find a free clinic in the area you are in. There are many clinics that do free or subsidized STD/STI testing and treatment. However, in some countries these clinics will not treat you, or will give you hassle, if you indicate that you may have contracted an STD/STI due to same-sex intercourse. Always prioritize your safety, and disclose whatever information you feel keeps you safe but also allows you the best form of testing and treatment.