The University of Iowa

Student Reflection on Sexual Orientation: Being yourself abroad

December 20th, 2011

Dear Prospective Student,

My name is Eddie Navarro, and I am in the Undergraduate Business program here at the University of Iowa, and I decided to go to London to study abroad. The London Winter Study Abroad program was a fantastic experience and it is a perfect path to start one's own international journey. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the trip because it was exciting and interesting, and there was always something to do. The fast pace of the program was also an enticing part of the experience. Because it is not a semester-long course, the material must be covered in a fast and efficient manner. I thought that this environment was a great way to become quickly exposed to another culture; however the short duration left me hungry for more experiences and adventures.

I think that this experience is a wonderful option for individuals not yet sure if they are ready to embark on a semester- or year-long trip abroad. I must admit that this location was not chosen because of the country's gay attitude, but because London is a financial powerhouse and the location fit with my program nicely. However, I was confident that this country would be friendly towards my gay self, and so I had no qualms about being gay and going to a foreign nation. In fact, I would thoroughly recommend this opportunity to anyone, not just a specific group of people. The chance to study abroad and see other people and other cultures should belong to everyone. 

The only distress that I received from this trip was the uncertainly of living with my other roommates. I was slightly nervous to be going on a study abroad trip and rooming with other guys because I was unsure of how the dynamics of our friendship would be influenced by my sexual orientation. I think that my own background had me bring in certain perspectives that were biased and I was completely wrong in my assumptions. I think that this trip offered an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about myself and the people around me. Not only did I learn about different cultures and international individuals, I learned a lot about interactions between one person and another, regardless of their background. I had drifted into a stagnant mindset that other people would think of me in a set way, and I was unsure of how to approach them. I let my own biases influence my character. I realized that individuals react and interact with other individuals. Sexual orientation, nationality, or gender don't play a role in that interaction. I was pleasantly surprised to find this out on an international study abroad program. I had realized this experience before when I came out but it was a reaffirmation that people, regardless of national boundaries, are just like me and shouldn't be influenced by stereotypes or prejudices.

My study abroad trip was an excellent chance to expand my academic knowledge and explore different cultures, but the best experience I received was learning more about myself and how to interact with others. I would just end with "be yourself." There's nothing better than a strong individual who knows who he or she is. Remember to be proud of your background and who you are. Abroad I made such amazing friends and had such a great time. My only regret is not doing this sooner. Take care and don't miss out on an awesome opportunity.

All my best,

Eddie Navarro