In my Spring semester of 2018, I am very grateful to be studying abroad in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic in its The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), where I will be taking classes, immersing myself in the Dominican culture, and improving my Spanish speaking skills.
I’ve known I wanted to improve my Spanish and study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country for a long time. I remember first hearing about my host family. Excitement and nervousness took over my body simultaneously. Excitement because I couldn’t believe I was going to the Dominican Republic! I have been to México and Canada, but both are close to home. The added distance was the most shocking to me as I am moving further and further from home the more I travel. Nervousness, besides from being away from my family and friends, is the conservativeness. The letter I got from my host family talked about how they are religious and conservative, which is similar to all of the other host families in the program. I didn’t know how to feel because conservative does have different levels, right? It could be different in other countries? I had no idea!
I was scared to find out because I didn’t see being a queer exchange student in a religious and conservative host family mixing well. I was honestly terrified about that the most. I was scared about expressing my queerness when I traveled to other countries, too. I hear different stories about how queerness is not accepted in other countries and how it is looked down upon. I did not necessarily feel that way when I studied in México for a month, but I will not lie, it was always on my mind. Personally, it is scary to think that the United States might be the most progressive to LGBT rights (or at least that is what I learned in school), but the United States, in my opinion, is not the most inclusive to all queer folks.
At the time of writing this, I have been in the Dominican Republic for about a week now. I thought the biggest challenge would be to get a haircut (along with being accepted and not looked at like I was a monster, but haircuts are very important - muy importante). I always feared that getting a fade was “too manly” here. However, it was comforting to know that women get fades and linings as well. You have no idea how much this is a relief for me. I haven’t experienced any signs of homophobia, so I am very happy of that. I feel like that is one less thing to worry about, but I guess I’ll wait and see. Things can change, but it seems like the only thing that is making me stick out is that I am clearly a foreigner. Many people stare at me and others that are in the program with me. I must admit that sometimes it can feel uncomfortable, but I just think about how people have to do this every day and this is the time for me to be in their shoes. Therefore, I’m hoping that I will have an amazing time and can continue to learn. I cannot wait for many more days, weeks, and eventually months to better myself and improve myself for this new year.
I look forward to exploring and learning more here, continuing to love myself, and being unapologetically queer. I am also looking forward to hopefully making new friends, so I can hopefully make my own little family and community for the months that I am here. Wish me luck!
This post was written by Point Scholar Le’Priya White.
Le'Priya is studying Sociology at Oberlin College. At Oberlin, Le'Priya is dedicated to creating a sense of community for queer and trans people of color through activism and education. Read more about Le'Priya here.