Resource Series 7: The LGBTQA+ Community

ntnl coming out day

We at the Towson University Study Abroad Office celebrate diversity and self-discovery. We are here to support you and make sure that you have the best experience abroad possible. The following are a few tips and resources to help with the journey:

  • The Pre-Departure Manual for Faculty-Led Programs says–in so many words–Be aware!
    • The culture and laws in other countries will be different from that of the United States. Please talk to your advisors for more details about attitudes abroad. Another great way to do research on your own is go to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), which gives information about the views of different countries on sexual orientation.
  • Reach out! 
    • Do not hesitate to get the help and support you need to make your program great! A good place to start is with your coordinator, but you should also consider checking out the Center for Student Diversity on campus. They have a wealth of resources for the LGBTQA+ community. There may even be people there who can speak from their own experience about being abroad, or at least give advice throughout the process.
    • Location: 313 University Union, Office 323
      Telephone: 410-704-2051
      E-mail: 
  • Get/Stay Connected!
    • Next to homesickness, feeling alone in an unfamiliar place is one of the most challenging things you will encounter. Sadly, sexual orientation is one of those things that has potential to isolate. Find community. Find a safe space. Don’t let yourself be alone.
      • 1. You can use apps like WhatsApp and WeChat to stay connected with friends and family back home, all you need is WiFi.
      • 2. Find communities and areas where you are going that are supportive.
      • 3. Start building relationships before you leave. Figure out–if possible–who else is going on the program and start making friends.
  • GoAbroad.com has a wonderful guide on meaningful travel tips and tales for LGBTQ+ travelers. Click here for the free download including a map of LGBTQ+ acceptance around the world.
  • One of our advisors went to a conference on sexual orientation and gender identity in international education. They were able to come back and share some great resources. Click on the following links for scholarships from CisAbroad, TEAN (The Education Abroad Network) and IES Abroad.

The Study Abroad Office is here to help you in any way possible. If you have questions, please feel comfortable asking.

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Resource Series 5: Resources for Students with Disabilities Abroad

Mobility International said it best: If you have a physical disability, “[y]ou can and should apply for the same international exchange experiences as everyone else. People with disabilities are an essential part of any program.”

We want every student that wants to study abroad to get there, so here are some resources for students with physical disabilities, at every step of the process.

Here is a personal account of a Deaf student, and his thoughts on disclosing your disability during the application process.

In general, Mobility International USA is an amazing resources for students with disabilities to learn about resources abroad. They give practical advice while also making sure students know they can go anywhere they want. Bonus: one of our providers, CIEE, actually has a partnership with them

If you want very logical information regarding where to go and what assistance the U.S. government can offer, check out the U.S. State Department’s advice.

The organization Abroad With Disabilities also has an extensive list of resources for students with disabilities that want to study abroad (and some even include country-specific information or links!).

These are just some resources we know of and hope you find helpful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call our office at (410) 704-2451 or email studyabroad@towson.edu. If you have any additional resources or personal advice to include, please let us know!

Resource Series 4: Tips for Financing Study Abroad

It’s the constant question among students and parents that are interested in learning about study abroad—“How will I pay for it?”

If money is tight, studying abroad may seem like the last possible option. Hopefully, the resources given here will show you that studying abroad can be an option for anyone, including students with financial concerns.

  • First off, check out all of the scholarships listed on our website! We have scholarships through our office, national scholarships we recommend to students, and tons of information about using financial aid and loans to study abroad!
  • When choosing a program, have an honest conversation with your family (or anyone who may help finance your education) about what is feasible for you in terms of cost.
  • NAFSA: Association of International Educators recently published this list of resources or students interested in working, volunteering, or interning abroad. 
  • Check out what specific options your program offers. Some programs and institutions even offer their own scholarships and aid!
  • There are countless articles and posts about how to fund your experience abroad, including this one from the organization Go Abroad.
  • Check the government’s website for financial aid and loans.

 

Aside from finding additional ways to cover the cost of your program, if you’re worried about money, choose a program that’s cost effective! Go Overseas posted a blog about which providers (or “non-TU programs” on our database) provide cheaper programs for students.

Look into whether or not your program has different payment options. The school I attended abroad had different options for paying for housing—you could pay it all up front, or set up a monthly or bi-monthly plan. Breaking the costs up may make it more manageable to pay for, so check if your program has different payment plans available.

Lastly, we have a previous blog post with personal tips to help students save money and budget in order to study abroad!

We never want students to feel like they can’t study abroad because they can’t afford it. If there is anything we can do for you, we will try to help! Give us a call at (410) 704-2451, or contact us via email at studyabroad@towson.edu.

Resource Series 3: Safety Abroad!

The next installment in our Resource Series is one that hopefully everyone will read and relate to: tips on safety! No matter where you are in the world, it is important to know what to do to stay safe, and what resources to access in the case of an emergency.

Keep your money and important belongings in a safe place

Don’t carry important items like your passport with you wherever you go, and try not to carry much cash. If you need to carry valuable items with you for some reason, buy a lock or small safe for your bag to keep them safely inside! Otherwise, leave valuables locked up in a safe space in your room.

Don’t look lost

Even though you might be aimlessly wandering a foreign city, try to look like you know where you’re going. If you are lost, find a public place, like a restaurant or shop, where you can ask for directions.

Don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself

Different cultures can be more quiet and subdued, so don’t be the loudest or craziest person around. Pay attention to what locals are doing, and act the same way. This way, you won’t receive any unwanted attention from potentially dangerous people or situations.

  • Similarly, follow the laws of your host country! Many countries have strict laws, so be sure to abide by them to stay out of trouble.

Check out the U.S. Department of State website!

They have a lot of information on what to do during any unsafe situation, ranging from small problems, like if your personal belongings are stolen, to major emergencies, like if you need to evacuate a city.

Know where the nearest U.S. embassy is

In case of an emergency, you should go to the U.S. embassy closest to you.

For additional information, check out our Pre-Departure Orientation Manuals for faculty-led programs and for all other programs.

If you have any questions on how to handle a specific situation, you can always ask our office by calling (410) 704-2451, or emailing studyabroad@towson.edu.

Resource Series 2: Resources for Students of Color Abroad

Whatever the specifics are for your case when preparing to study abroad, we want to be able to help you! The following list is by no means exhaustive, but we hope you find the resources useful.

  • Diversity Abroad has great resources for diverse students. Check out their tips for students of color abroad.
  • Transitions Abroad is a website that students submit their own stories and experiences to. The link will take you to an article specifically for African American students studying abroad, but the website may have helpful tips for other students of color, as well.
  • The PLATO Project says their list of resources is “useful in promoting study abroad participation among underrepresented students, addressing some of the issues and challenges ethnicity may play in their study abroad experience, and linking them to additional information, resources, and scholarships.”
    • They also work with this organization that supports all students that want to study abroad.
  • Diversity Issues in Study Abroad” by Brown University – This booklet is comprised of quotes from diverse students from Brown University after studying abroad. It may give students of all backgrounds some insight into what it is like being a diverse American student abroad.
  • Apply for the TU Institutional Diversity Study Abroad Scholarship.
  • This blog post written by one of our former Peer Advisors, Brianna James!

If you are a student that has studied abroad and has any advice for us to include, don’t hesitate to contact us at (410) 704-2451, or by email at studyabroad@towson.edu. We are always looking for guest bloggers to feature on our site.

Resource Series 1: Tips for Handling Mental Illness Abroad

Thoughts from Lyndsi Jones, Peer Advisor

Who out there struggles with some kind of mental health condition? Have you thought about studying abroad? Are you worried that studying abroad would be too stressful, or too hard to manage along with your illness?

What many students don’t realize is that over 20% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 are struggling with a mental illness of some kind, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. You are not alone, and there are resources out there for you, too—whether you’re in America, or your dream country.

Personally, I was very nervous about studying abroad for five months. I have a long history with depression and anxiety, and even though I spent most of my life learning how to deal with those things, it was daunting to think about being away from my comfort zone. I wouldn’t be able to call my mom in the middle of the night, schedule an appointment with my therapist, or drive home for the weekend if I was overwhelmed by work. Studying abroad meant depending on myself, and trusting that I knew enough about my own mental health and self-care.

There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself, in all stages of your study abroad experience.

  • Research which countries have the best mental health services. You may have to compromise on location if it means better resources for your specific concerns. A few places to start are below.
  • If you take medication, know how much you can bring with you before going, and plan for that. You don’t want to get abroad and realize you’re going to run out of your medication during your stay, with no plan to get a refill. Likewise, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to request your medication and realize you can’t take enough with you.
    • Side-note: Some medications that are legal here may be illegal in other countries. If that’s the case for you, talk to your doctor about what a suitable alternative may be.
  • Be honest with the Study Abroad Office on your medical self-evaluation. I know you may feel uncomfortable sharing the details of your mental illness, but it’s important for your study abroad advisor to know. The information you provide is kept confidential. Part of their job is to help prepare you to go abroad, but they can only help you with things they know about.
  • Don’t overload yourself at your school or program abroad. The amount of classes you can handle at Towson may not be the same amount you can handle abroad. While you’re abroad, you will be dealing with your mental health as well as experiencing culture shock, so leave room for yourself to adjust to that (you can always take on more classes/clubs/extracurriculars later, if you feel you can).
    • Side-note: If you’re abroad for a semester, you will need to maintain full-time status (12 U.S. credits).
  • Once at your school or program, explore the specific mental health resources they offer. Be aware of your options, in case you have an emergency. I can only speak from my experience here, but the school I attended had a text-line that was available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was like an on-campus job, in a way; students applied for the opportunity, trained, and had schedules to ensure that at least one person was available at every hour in case of a mental health emergency.
  • Confide in your friends! Chances are, someone in your circle at home knows your concerns about studying abroad with a mental illness. Plan a Skype date with them to talk about things if you need to. You may even make friends while you’re abroad that you feel you can confide in—I did, and one of them was feeling the same way I was.
    • Side-note: One of the main lessons I learned abroad is that there are people everywhere. I was so afraid of leaving my people. Breaking news: everywhere you go in the world, there will be people. They’re probably nice people. Will they be different than you? Maybe. But don’t close yourself off or miss out on an opportunity because you’re afraid you’ll be alone. You won’t be alone.
  • Leave some time for a little extra self-care when you come home. I know, I know—everyone warns you that coming home is the hardest part. What you might not be prepared for, though, is it being true. I hadn’t gone to therapy regularly in three years, but when I came home, I almost immediately needed to start going every week. Be mindful of the fact that you may need even more time to adjust back home than you did when you went abroad.

 

Studying abroad is such a valuable experience. No matter who you are, where you go, or how long you go for, you will come home a little different (hopefully, a little better). Don’t let fear of your mental illness keep you state-side.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact our office at (410) 704-2451, or email studyabroad@towson.edu and peeradvisor@towson.edu. We are located in PY 408, open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

You should also go to Towson’s Counseling Center with concerns about your mental health abroad. They can be reached at (410) 704-2512, or counseling@towson.edu. They are located on the second floor of the Health & Counseling Center at Ward and West.