Going abroad can be one of the hardest decisions someone has to make while working on their undergraduate degree. In light of recent culture and racial problems across not only America, but also in other countries all over the world, it can be even harder to decide. Being scared is natural, and it is the part of us that keeps us grounded. Being aware of the social and
political issues around the world can help alleviate some of the fear you might have. In the past couple of months, there has been a movement in Germany called Pegida. This movement is an
anti-islamist movement. They are against the Islamization of Germany and want to create a clear line between what is German and what is not. This movement has an opposition known as
Nopegida. Recently there was a massive demonstration by the Pegida movement in Dresden where some 15,000 people openly protested against the muslim population. Dresden is in East Germany, once controlled by the Soviets, and all of East Germany is sometimes considered the most volatile area in Germany with some of the most prejudice. During this event, there was not a huge anti-Pegida presence, and that was attributed to is being East Germany. Only a few days later was there a huge anti-Pegida concert protest which dwarfed the dubbed “haters” movement.
If we move over to France, after the Charlie Hebdo attack, there was an immediate and massive movement to stand together and show no fear. This movement was also attended by members of the muslim community and was not specifically anti-islamist, rather it was anti-fear and anti-terror. France and Germany are giving a very important insight into how the events, like those in Paris or in Boston, should be handled. While France and Germany are handling the situations differently, there is a lot to be learned. The people that committed the crime are not representatives of a religion, or a culture. There are always going to be people that consider them so, but the bulk of France and Germany stand by their fellow man, and choose to stand above the adversity and create a place of greater peace and better equality.
I am writing this piece because, as a young gay male, I too had fear about where and how I traveled. We do not have to be afraid to study abroad. Whether you are Black, White, Asian,
Middle Eastern, Atheist, Catholic, Muslim, male, or female; you can study abroad. Through social and political awareness, especially in areas you are interested in studying in, you have the
power to keep yourself happy and healthy. The world is our oyster, and yes I know its a cliche to say, but while I believe being afraid or nervous to study abroad is natural and okay, it should not stop you from taking one of the most fulfilling steps in life. We are not defined by our skin, our religion, or our nature; rather we are defined by our actions. I hope that you take this and do not fear the unknown. When you study abroad you are not only learning, you are teaching the world about you, about tolerance, and about acceptance.
Written by: Kiel Henry
Kiel is a Peer Ambassador studying German, and he is a senior. He studied abroad through a UK Sponsored program in Munich studying Intermediate German, and through a UK Exchange- Heidelberg studying German language and Culture.
This post includes commentary from Michael Pleyer