LGBTQ+ students consider safety when studying abroad

By Morgan Taylor, Crown Point HS

Opinion Writing

Studying abroad can be a nerve-racking experience for anyone, but for members of the LGBTQ+ community it’s much harder. Being gay in the United States is tough enough, but other cultures are far less progressive and accepting of the gay community. I really appreciate that Indiana University takes the nonconformists who want to study abroad into account to ensure that they have the most enjoyable experience possible.

Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has been an uphill battle for me my whole life. I have a hard enough time being myself in my home country, so thinking about studying abroad can be quite frightening. Starting from the beginning I always had a hard time coming to terms with who I was. Bisexuality can sometimes be construed as a myth. People who don’t understand sexualities other than their own find bisexuals to simply be greedy or confused about what gender they find themselves attracted to.

Although the United States has become a more progressive society, the LGBTQ+ community still faces lots of scrutiny from the homophobic, transphobic and ignorant people. After the inauguration of Donald Trump, many students at my school were both verbally and physically abusive towards me and my then girlfriend. Considering I live in one of the most liberal counties in Indiana, this shocked me.

The times have definitely changed since my parents were kids, but things are still not perfect. America has become more accepting to the idea of being in the LGBTQ+ community, but there is still a long way to go not only in America, but especially in other countries. Traveling has gotten much safer over the years, but mixing cultures is not always thought about. The United States is one of the more liberal, progressive countries on the planet so traveling and being a member of the LGBTQ+ community can be terrifying.

Studying abroad has always been a “life changing experience” for people who want to travel while they learn, according to Danielle Samek, Study Abroad Advisor. It is always something I have been very interested in, but with all of the political turmoil happening in the world today I have somewhat lost my travel bug for fear of being discriminated against for my sexuality while in a foreign country.

Indiana University, along with many other universities, offer various programs that allows students to have the chance to study abroad. Samek’s said that Indiana university thinks about all students when finding the perfect program for you, and not just the traditional student. After finding the perfect program for you, members of the LGBTQ+ community can make appointments with advisors to talk to about their concerns before their departure. These advisors talk about how much you should disclose while abroad, based on the culture you will be entering.

Learning this information has made me feel far less anxious about being a member of the LGBTQ+ community and trying to study abroad. I know that if I ever truly felt unsafe or unsure about being in a certain country, I could simply find another program that suits me better.

Having to worry about these issues is heartbreaking. No one should ever have to hide who they are because of the way other people think. Despite this, I no longer feel as though I need to fear for my safety because of my sexuality while studying abroad.