Top 10 LGBTQ Friendly Places to Study Abroad

Top LGBT countries to study abroad


7 minute read
Updated on 16 Oct 2020

It looks like 2018 is shaping up to be the summer of love! Fortunately, numerous cities across the globe will be observing LGBTQ Pride month during June, with calendars packed full of events, ranging from draping street signs and entire buildings with rainbow flags to throwing unique parades and fantastic celebrations.

Even though there are still a few countries that view same-sex relationships as illegal, things are definitely moving in a better, more open direction. In fact, more and more countries begin to take part in the month-long celebration every year, including it as part of their summer tradition.

We’ve put together a list of the top gay-friendly places in the world to select for your international exchange. Don’t consider this list to be exhaustive, but it does feature the countries boasting the most progressive ideas, especially when it applies to LGBTQ laws and the general attitude of society in general. Whether you’re part of the LGBTQ community or simply appreciate the open-mindedness of these countries, we hope this list will be helpful when deciding where to study abroad, including selecting an LGBTQ-friendly college, finding housing and exploring your new temporary home.

1. Spain

Spain has always been known for its world-class university choices, its delicious food and its mild weather. However, Spain is also quickly becoming recognized as one of the most gay-friendly destinations for students as well. Additionally, it is also normally found at the number-one position on lists of the most welcoming LGBTQ countries throughout all of Europe.

In 2005, same-sex marriages actually became legal, beating numerous other countries in enacting this law. Madrid swiftly became one of the top gay cities in Europe and will host the largest 2018 Pride Festival in Spain in the city’s largest gay community, Chueca. Other LGBTQ-friendly areas of Madrid include Malasana, Conde Duque and La Latina.

After being home to the World Pride event in 2017, the largest LGBTQ celebration of its kind on the planet, Madrid is definitely used to being in the celebratory mood.

The event included large pop concerts that took place in five of the city’s most popular historical squares, such as Puerta Del Sol and Plaza De Espana. At the end of the extravaganza, festival-goers enjoyed the World Pride Parade, which completely overtook the Paseo del Prado, one of Madrid’s busiest thoroughfares.

And the parties don’t end in June. Numerous events take place throughout many of Spain’s larger cities, such as Barcelona and Valencia, which all have neighborhoods that are primarily built from the gay community.

The campaign group, Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales (FELGTB), has also received consultative status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

2. Netherlands

Known as one of the most tolerant and broad-minded countries in the world, the Netherlands is absolutely a pioneer when it comes to LGBTQ rights. In fact, in 2001, it was even the first country to make same-sex marriages legal, laying the groundwork for the many countries that followed its nonjudgmental stance.

Therefore, due to its history and its current viewpoints, it is an excellent option for LGBTQ students who will be studying abroad. If you are a young professional looking for work or an internship, the Netherlands is also a country that openly accepts the gay community in the workplace.

The capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, is the place to go when you’re looking for a wide variety of gay-friendly cafés, restaurants, nightclubs and hotels. There are several LGBTQ neighborhoods, including Amstel, Kerkstraat and Reguliersdwarsstraat. Plus, for an entire three weeks during June, the Amsterdam Gay Pride Festival literally takes over the city’s streets and canals, boasting parties, celebrations and all sorts of events.

In 1984, Amsterdam was also home to the first-ever International Gay Youth Congress and Festival. This event eventually led to the organization and inception of IGLYO (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth & Student Organization).

3. Canada

Canada has always been counted amongst the world’s most liberal and accepting nations. Dating as far back as the 18th century, it has been praised for its open-minded approach to society. In fact, it has already welcomed the LGBTQ community, while the United States was still fighting through legislation and red tape to become more legally accommodating.

Same-sex marriages were made legal in 2005, following a full series of major court decisions, starting in early 2003. Additionally, the rights and the interests of the gay community in Canada are also protected.

Canada has a number of gay-friendly cities for incoming students to explore, including the Gay Village in Toronto, Le Village Gai in Montreal and Davie Street in Vancouver.

All of this makes Canada an excellent option, as well as a safe place, for LGBTQ international students to choose from a large number of universities and accredited schools. The University of Western Ontario is one of the most popular choices, as that it houses Canada’s first university-based official resource center for gay people. The Pride Library was founded in 1997, but today it boasts over 6,000 items, which include posters, books, videos, DVDs, paintings, magazines and other periodicals. Additionally, several Canadian organizations offer scholarships solely for members of the LGBTQ community.

4. Iceland

Regular surveys of the top places on the planet in support of LGBTQ rights always include the small country of Iceland.

In Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, the city’s Hinsegin Dagar (Queer Day) celebration draws over 200,000 to take part in parties and parades. Some of the most influential members of the gay community also speak. During the 2016 event, the new president of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, even participated in the parade.

When considering housing, a good majority of the LGBTQ community reside in the City Center of Reykjavik. However, all areas of the country offer the same welcoming vibe.

5. Sweden

Similar to the general views of the Netherlands, all of Scandinavia is also known for being one of the most progressive, unbiased regions on the world. Sweden, in particular, openly supports the LGBTQ people.

It took a bit step in 1972, when it officially became the very first country in the world to gender change a legal procedure. Furthermore, in 1987, sexually oriented discrimination was banned throughout the country. Then, in 2003, it began legal for same-sex couples to adopt children. And, in 2009, the marriage law was passed.

Sweden offers a host of housing options, including Stockholm or nearby Uppsala, which is very popular with international students. LGBTQ students will find many cultural interests, including bookstores and gay bars. There are even student associations, such as RFSL Ungdom, as well as the Stockholm Pride Parade, which attracts over 400,000 visitors each year.

6. Germany

Germany may have the strongest roots to gay activism, dating back to the 1800s. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who was one of the first gay activists in all of history, delivered a speech in Germany in support of gay rights.

When it comes to legal matters, at the start of the 21st century, Germany passed a “Life Partnership Law,” allowing same-sex couples to register their partnerships, making them eligible for benefits like health insurance. In 2013, Germany was ranked as the number two country in the world for tolerance toward LGBTQ people.

Berlin is a popular draw for the LGBTQ community, full of the arts, gay nightlife and bookstores. It is also home to several welcoming student associations, which is why it is a favorite amongst gay international students. However, Germany also has several other gay-friendly cities, such as Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart.

7. Reunion

Reunion is yet another welcoming option for students in the gay community, in direct opposition to neighboring Mauritius and Seychelles, where same-sex relationships are still banned.

In 2007, the tourism department organized a charter consisting of tour operators, bar, restaurant and hotel owners, along with other businesses and professionals. They can all be easily recognized by the rainbow stickers in their windows.

Some of the most well-known gay neighborhoods on the island are St-Denis, St-Pierre and La Saline-les-Bains.

8. Republic of Ireland

Ireland is one of the more recent countries to have passed a same-sex marriage law, with country-wide celebrations and a nearly record-breaking number of marriages. As that Ireland is an English-speaking country, it is really popular with international LGBTQ students.

Some of the Irish cities with the most well-known gay communities include Dublin, Belfast and Limerick.

Dublin LGBTQ Pride is a weeklong celebration of the gay culture, and it includes parties, concerts, the performing arts and guest speakers, all culminating in a gigantic parade.

9. Denmark

Going back to 1948, Denmark has illustrated its welcoming attitude to the LGBTQ community by being the first country to organize the National Association for Gays and Lesbians. In 1989, Denmark allowed registered partnerships, along with same-sex marriage in 2012.

Due to the unprejudiced way of life experienced in Denmark, it’s no wonder that gay students find it a comfortable environment. Additionally, there are numerous LGBTQ student organizations, including BLUS in Copenhagen and ANSO in Copenhagen, as well as in Norway, Sweden, Lithuania, Finland, Poland, Iceland and Estonia.

Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, was actually rated by Lonely Planet to be “the most gay-friendly place on earth.” Besides gay nightlife and the overall acceptance of society, it also offers a very unbiased workplace. And if you’re looking for housing in Copenhagen, some of the best neighborhoods for the LGBTQ community are Frederiksberg, Vesterbro and the City Center.

10. Uruguay

Latin America includes several welcoming countries for international gay students, including both Brazil and Argentina, but Uruguay may just have one of the fastest growing gay communities in the region. It made homosexuality legal in 1934, and it was the second country in Latin America to declare same-sex marriages legal.

Students find Uruguay to be a socially accepting locale, with numerous cities and towns that offer lively LGBTQ scenes. Additionally, it is also an affordable option, making it great for students on a budget.

Montevideo is known as the most gay-friendly city in Uruguay. It offers many nightclubs, bars and events throughout the year that celebrates the gay culture and lifestyle.

So, when it comes time to select the location for your international studies, finding a country that both welcomes and supports the LGBTQ community may be at the top of your list, along with finding a student apartment or private room, the courses that will support your field of study and a locale where you will make wonderful memories. Enjoy your time abroad, and be sure to find a city where you can truly be yourself!

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