Duke Immerse believes that off-campus experiential learning, domestically and internationally, should be accessible to everyone. We are committed to nurturing a richly diverse student cohort and study away community where all members feel empowered, heard, respected, and supported.
How sexual and gender identities are defined and understood varies between cultures, within the United States and abroad. This includes different interpretations of what is considered appropriate behavior in relationships: acquaintances, friendships, platonic and intimate relationships. If you identify as LGBTQIA+, you likely understand that openly living your sexual orientation and/or gender identity abroad might be different from what you are accustomed to at home. Some locations and cultures are open to LGBTQIA+ individuals, while others are less accepting or even hostile. Attitudes toward sexual orientation can also vary significantly within regions of the same country, or according to different social contexts. It will help you to be aware of individual idiosyncrasies and beliefs in your host community. Your experience may also vary based on other aspects of your identity, and how they intersect with your sexuality and gender identity.
Know that you are not alone on the travel portion of your Immerse program. If you find yourself feeling isolated due to your sexuality or gender expression, know that you have the support of Duke Immerse, DukeReach, CAPS, and Blue Devils United.
For more information, review the resources listed below, and/or reach out to the Duke Immerse Director or your Immerse faculty with specific questions or concerns.
A new location may appear to provide a safe haven for exploring sexual and gender identities free from the judgments of friends and family. However, it’s important to note that support for LGBTQIA+ rights can vary widely based on your location. Some locations may be more supportive of LGBTQIA+ rights than your home community, while others stipulate punishments for same-sex sexual behavior and behaviors that transgress local gender norms. A new and potentially challenging environment does not necessarily mean you will have a negative experience abroad as long as you properly prepare yourself to navigate the local culture.
Before you leave, research the status of LGBTQIA+ rights in the location that will be hosting you, as well as others that you will be visiting. It is important to be aware of any applicable laws pertaining to the expression of sexual orientation/gender identity, as well as the general attitudes of the local population toward LGBTQIA+ individuals. Learn as much as possible about the culture-specific norms associated with friendships, dating, and gender. Be aware that behavioral signals that mean one thing in your home culture might mean something completely different in the host culture.
While studying on- and off-campus, you will most likely encounter different ideologies. At times, you may feel you need to adapt to different customs. This can be difficult. Some students have found it necessary to hide their sexual orientation and/or gender identity for safety reasons, while others find safe ways to express them openly. Becoming informed before you leave may support a safer and more rewarding experience on your program.
If you experience discrimination/bias while on a study away program, this is not something that you have to bear alone. Please consider the following action steps:
To prepare for your study away experience, it may be helpful to consider the following list of questions. If you need help finding answers to these questions, contact the Duke Immerse Director.
Below are some tips to keep in mind as you begin to prepare for your program. Don’t hesitate to contact Duke Immerse for more specifics regarding your program location.
Resources for Transgender Students