Identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community while studying abroad can present unique challenges and opportunities in exploring a new culture. Our IES Abroad Correspondents share their experiences within the LGBTQ+ community around the world.
Queer in Amsterdam
“I’m not too sure what I expected LGBTQ life to be like in the first country that has legalized same sex marriage. Maybe that rainbow confetti would get thrown at me upon my first step into the Netherlands, or that a crowd of happy queers decked out in rainbow attire would be present everyway I looked... It didn’t turn out exactly like that. But my first day in Amsterdam, I walked by a crowd of people proudly wearing LGBTQ and trans flags, and immediately I felt it.”
“Coming from Chicago to Salamanca has presented some challenges with regards to my gender identity and presentation, but it’s also been an eye-opening experience, as it’s shown me just how dependent on social and linguistic context gender really is. Although I haven’t found a perfect answer to the question of how to exist as nonbinary in Spain—or in Spanish—I’ve discovered that the question isn’t as all-consuming as I feared it might be before I left.”
“I am just an individual still trying to figure out my place in the world and discover more truths about myself. We may all be very different individuals, disagreeing on many different points, but I feel that we can all relate to that sentiment of wanting acceptance and a place of belonging.”
“We wished each other a good day, and I thought about how there was more community, and possibilities for real social progression, around me than I’d realized. I would definitely seek more involvement if I returned to Dublin. But even if I don’t, talking to another trans person outside my home country chipped away some isolation and cynicism I hadn’t been very aware of.”
“Our next stop was the UK’s only gay and lesbian bookshop. Gay’s the Word (which is the best named place we visited) was founded in 1979, and has stood firm in the Bloomsbury neighborhood ever since. For fellow IES Abroad London students, this tiny gem is located only a few blocks from the Center.”
“People falling on all spectrums of investment to the community, of outspokenness, were at Tokyo Pride and American Pride alike. It is encouraging to see others where I once stood - as an onlooker. I just hope that people are able to go beyond just looking, in whatever capacity they’re able to.”
Karen van Es and David Main never could have predicted what the spring of 1969 would hold when they chose to study abroad on the IES Abroad Madrid program. Read on to discover how their time in Spain affected their lives, and how their paths crossed again many years later, eventually leading to their marriage.
While studying abroad in Granada, Spain, Grant Carney (IES Abroad Granada, Spring 2014 | Kenyon College) immersed himself in the Spanish language and gained confidence in his speaking abilities. Read on to learn how this William E. and Mary M. Dwyer Endowed Scholarship recipient’s study abroad experience helped prepare him for the professional world.