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Coming Out While Studying Abroad: Alum of the Month Steve Streich

We were happy to chat with Steve Streich (Vienna | Academic Year 1971-72), our June Alum of the Month! When Steve left his small hometown in Texas to study abroad in Vienna, the only thing he was sure of was that he was going to a very different place from where he grew up. During his year in Vienna, Steve met his late partner John van Kleeck, and they were together for 38 years!

Steve has remained an avid supporter of IES Abroad through scholarships and recurring gifts. Read on to learn about Steve’s adventures in Vienna, and what it was like for him to come out while studying abroad.

IES Abroad: Why did you choose to study abroad in Vienna?

Steve Streich: Classical music was always my first love, and I wanted to learn to speak German. Vienna was the obvious choice.

IES Abroad: Did you come out while studying abroad? If so, how did Austria and your study abroad experience influence that decision?

SS: Yes. In Vienna I began to really examine who I was attracted to. I was away from the suffocating social and moral strictures of my native small town Texas, but I in no way felt obliged to conform to the stuffy conservatism of 1970’s Vienna. This gave me great latitude to discover who I was.

IES Abroad: Was coming out while studying abroad easier or harder than you anticipated?

SS: Coming out was not difficult for me. Telling my Southern Baptist parents two years later was.

IES Abroad: Did you find queer friends while studying abroad?

SS: Yes. My partner of 38 years was another IES Abroad student that year in Vienna. There were other IES Abroad students who were already out or who came out during the year, and I met gays from Austria and all over the world.

IES Abroad: What were some of your most memorable study abroad experiences?

SS: Every day was an adventure, but the opportunity to travel left me with the most dramatic memories.

IES Abroad: What is the most valuable lesson you learned from study abroad?

SS: But for the obvious superficial differences, people are pretty much the same everywhere. If treated with dignity and respect, they almost always respond in kind, and getting to know them is endlessly fascinating.

IES Abroad: Have you been back to Vienna? How has the city changed?

SS: We returned to Vienna every few years and stayed in touch with friends there. Austria is much richer now (in the early 1970’s it was still catching up after World War II), and Vienna has a freshly scrubbed look that is pretty breathtaking. Otherwise, the Schnitzel and the beer taste the same.

IES Abroad: What advice would you give to queer students who are thinking of studying or interning abroad?

SS: Jump at the chance. You will have experiences that will inform the rest of your life. If you learn a new language, it will open up an entire new world. By all means do it if you can.

Thank you, Steve!

How will studying abroad redefine your world? We can’t wait to find out. Check out all of our Alum of the Month profiles to see real examples of how study abroad changed the lives of our former students.