Queer students look back at studying abroad

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, student panelists shared the experiences they had while studying abroad as part of the annual International Education Week’s “Year Abroad, Queer Abroad” program. The discussion was co-sponsored by Triskelion; the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life; and the Office of Study Abroad.

Emma Lieberman, Lily Siegal, AB Troen and Robyn Lederer, all from the Class of 2014, were among the seniors who spoke to an audience of approximately 25 students and staff. Their destinations — to England, Israel, Kenya and Peru, respectively — were as different as the queer experiences they had there, which ranged from open hostility to almost-friendliness.

“My experience was not so intense,” said Lieberman. “What I found most interesting is, while I felt comfortable being out to people who knew me, I found smaller undercurrents of homophobia I wasn’t used to, having grown up in New York City and going to Brandeis. People would say that saying ‘That’s so gay!’ was just the culture of the UK and that it was OK there.”

While in Israel, Siegal was initially not out but slowly came out to some of her friends. “I never ended up coming out to my Israeli friends, which was somewhat of a conscious decision,” she admitted. However, if she were given the choice to go again, Siegal said she definitely would, because the program gave her a rare, authentic educational experience in Israel.

Troen felt his relationships with his friends in Kenya were excellent and influenced more by class issues than gender roles. “When I was there, I felt very much like a guy,” he said. “It was not only accepted but expected. That made me feel my gender in a different way.”

Said Lederer, who traveled to Peru, “I heard that a queer life was nonexistent there. I wasn’t out. I was usually called a guy, and using the bathroom was more difficult there. I didn’t want to embarrass someone for calling me out [on using the wrong bathroom], but I think it’s just more ingrained into their culture. I felt very privileged to be back here, where I can be open about who I am.”

Categories: International Affairs, Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage