EUROPE

How I Handled Political Discrimination Abroad

Phelps - 4-1

The U.S. Embassy in London. Photo taken from Architect’s Journal.

With the recent 2014 elections, I’ve decided to write about something that affected me abroad and still affects me in my every day life: my political affiliation. Many conversations in particular about politics I had while studying abroad cut me down, but made me stronger as a person because I realized how to handle it. No one should be discriminated against period, so why do people discriminate against you because of your political affiliation? I’m here to tell you my experience and how I was able to grow from it.

I was sitting at a party with my host sister, casually talking with German guys, enjoying the nightlife of Munich, Germany. I enjoyed going out with Lisa because I had the privilege to meet such a variety of people. We always enjoyed ourselves and had fun, until one night when I had a conversational beat down of a lifetime. We were casually talking with some German guys, and I wasn’t really thinking about the conversation. At least, I wasn’t thinking about it until someone brought up the dreaded topic: politics. It was strange to me, because this guy was particularly interested in my opinion. Not his friend’s, not Lisa’s (who is also German), but mine, the vulnerable American. The first question took me by surprised and I answered it briefly, but then the questions kept coming like a machine gun. No matter how I answered each question, my opinion was never acceptable, let alone, respected. By the end of the conversation I was in tears. I don’t know why I even kept talking; maybe it was just to defend myself. Why was he so against my opinions and what I had to say, and more importantly, why did he keep asking for more? Lisa took me home that night, and I tried to sleep off the embarrassment.

The next morning Lisa made sure I was ok, because she could tell it really did hurt my feelings. I couldn’t understand why my opinion to him seemed irrelevant, when I was respecting his. In America, I wasn’t used to aggressive political conversations. People here know it’s a topic that ruffles feathers- enter at risk. It set a fire in me, because at the end of the day, no matter what I believe in politically, I’m still a person. I am a human being with feelings, ambitions and have the freedom to form opinions on my own. My advice for students abroad is, no matter what political affiliation you have, stand up for yourself. Whether you’re a conservative, liberal or moderate, be proud of it. People might try to challenge your opinions, make you feel inferior and above all, make you feel like crap. But be proud of your views. Be proud of them, because you are you.

Laura Jane Phelps is a sophomore at the University of Kentucky studying German.