United States 2022/23 | School program
I'm currently an exchange student in Maryland, born in Germany.
I know for several years now that I'm queer, although I always thought I was bi whereas I know now that I am pan or don't label myself. I always got support for it, some people were disrespectful with it but I wasn't alone and was just building my community in my surrounding. Being queer wasn't a big deal for me for the exchange year but I definitely mentioned it in my application and host family letter so that I don't get placed in a non-supportive environment.
In fact, my organization did a really good job of placing me, now I'm in a host family with a trans host sister and extremely loving and accepting host parents. I couldn't feel safer and my school also has many openly queer people. I actually immediately joined the cliques that seemed LGBTQIA+ because then I could be sure to be accepted and loved in that aspect.
Now during my stay abroad being queer definitely is a topic for me because in our groups at school we often talk about it to remind ourselves that we are there for each other and to protect ourselves from hate from the outside. I have trans and lesbian/gay/pan friends and a non-binary partner. I am pan myself and it wasn't a big topic for me because when I was first getting to know my partner it was pretty clear from the beginning that we were both queer. So now that we are together, it doesn't matter to us and isn't a topic that is being discussed often. We are just simply a couple. And I couldn't be happier. So that would probably be my most exciting experience with queerness during my exchange so far! Being in love!
By now, one difference I have realized to before I left is definitely my happiness about finding myself in one category even better and being able to identify my sexuality better. It was already good before but now it's just wonderful. And I never knew that defining my own terms for my sexuality (not necessarily a label) is so relieving and freeing and definitely makes a huge difference to my happiness. I also got a lot of hope and am looking forward to finding more queer friend groups back in Germany because the exchange made me realize already that the community is growing and growing stronger everyday and we are getting more proud and happy. We are many and we are seen.
Before the exchange I had to deal with one discriminating friendship because of my queerness but that chapter was already closed when I left the country. There isn't anything that I wish I would've known before the exchange because I learned everything in my own pace and nothing caused much trouble but I can give an advice which would be: Be yourself. Be 👏🏽 your 👏🏽 own 👏🏽 unique 👏🏽 self. It's SO attractive and special.
And only by being yourself can you find your people that are similar to you where you can feel like yourself and feel open and happy and validated. If you try to be someone you are not, you will land in a friend group that loves you for someone you are not. And by being visible, you are also helping people to feel better about being queer by showing that it is normal and okay. Stay safe though. And always say you're queer in the host family letter! Helps a lot!