Caucasian | Male | Gay
Welcome back everyone! I hope you are having a lovely day! Today, you will get to meet Jared, a Sophomore studying Business Administration at the University of Florida. He has been exploring London, traveling, and interning at Streetfoodmarkets. Read along to learn about Jared’s adventure in London and about his internship. Enjoy!
How did your identity affect your decision to study abroad? Was it difficult?
“Not particularly, not for coming to London, no. If I were to study again, I would want to study in an African country or an Asian country. That would put me more out of my comfort zone, but that does make me more worrisome about my sexuality. It would have a little bit of impact [because] I’d second guess it but coming to London, no.”
What made you decide to study abroad in London?
“I knew I wanted to study abroad from the moment I went into university. Everyone talks about how they want to do it, but it never happens, or they wait too long. They get caught up and have to take certain courses; it gets stringent. I knew I wanted to do it early, so my freshmen year, I decided I was going to do it my Fall of sophomore year. I just decided I was going to do it.
“To figure out where I wanted to go, I wanted to do the internship that was provided by FIE. That was a real appeal especially being a sophomore (a freshman at the time). If I had the internship on my résumé now, getting internships going forward [would be] a lot easier. It was between London and Madrid, but in order to do an internship in Madrid, I had to be fluent in Spanish. I was only proficient, so London it was.”
How has identifying as gay shaped your study abroad experience? Did you experience any highs or lows?
“I don’t know if identifying as gay really changed it a whole lot. I’ve been lucky that the people I live with have all been fine. I’ve not had issues there. That was my biggest concern. I can deal with people having issues with me, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do that. Instead, it has made [study abroad] a lot lot better. Especially being with people that are very supportive and other people who identify similarly has had a positive experience there. I don’t think it’s had a strong impact”
Has FIE supported you before or during your time abroad? If yes, how? If no, how could they?
“I think they definitely have supported me. They’ve definitely shown interest, like [hosting] the FIGS mixer, where we met. It was a mixer where anyone who identified in many ways whether it be sexuality, race, and different genders could meet people from FIE [who we could go to for support]. Everyone there was obviously very much on our side. They understood problems that we might face, and it gave me some more familiar faces within the program. That was good to have moving forward.
“Things like that where it may not have a physical impact on me but knowing that they’re aware of diversity and how that can be problematic. Just knowing they’re aware of issues that could arise because of differences among people has really helped me be more confident in their ability to solve any problem that may arise. They haven’t [come up], thank God, but I know they can [support me if they do].
Tell me more about your internship.
“My internship is fantastic. It’s with a really small company called Streetfoodmarkets. Whoever has a space for a market will come to them. They have a lot of contacts to a bunch of vendors, so they reach out to the vendors. They basically organize the vendors and get them licensing and whatever else to help them.
“It’s literally three employees, [and] they rent out a little space out at the University of East London. We have this really small office, so it’s the three of them [along with] three interns including myself, but one left because she got a job. It’s really small. It’s really nice because I can interact with them one-on-one. I talk with the CEO every single day; the CEO of the company is my site supervisor.
“I really like them because they’re very much about my ideas since they’re so small. I think they’ve been around for three or four years. They’re relatively still new, so they’re very much looking for new ideas [and] new ways to improve.
“For example, they wanted to promote their social media, so they wanted to be more visible. They act as a third party, so they’re in the background. No one really knows about them, and they want to change that. They want people to know about them, so people can come to them. I said, ‘Well, why don’t you have a stronger presence at the markets?’ I designed these feather banners for them that are coming in this week. Going forward, they’re going to be putting them at the markets.
“They love the little solutions that I can come up with that are more modern. They really like those ideas, but they don’t think of them themselves. It’s really nice to see how I can have a direct impact on them, how a small company like that work and interact, and the problems that they have. That’s what is really fantastic! I’m sitting there learning so much because I see them working these problems out. I think that experience is invaluable.”
Would you recommend other students to study abroad?
“Oh my goodness, yes. The experience has been invaluable. I’ve learned more about myself, that’s a cheesy answer, but it’s true. [I’ve also learned that] you react in different environments. I’ve learned basic tasks, like [how] to book a hotel, how to book a train, how to not miss a train. Just traveling by yourself, you’re actively organizing things. Study abroad has been fantastic for me.”
Is there anything you wish you knew before coming abroad?
“I am very glad that I came into this with the mindset of ‘if everything goes right, life would be boring.’ I’m very glad I came into it with that mindset because things have gone wrong, but it’s a good story at the end of the day.”
What advice do you have for future students studying abroad?
“Do it and commit to it. Be confident in that. Do your research, look up where you’re going, [and] have some basic plans. Have some certain things you know you want to do but also be open to exploring new things. I had no idea what Harrod’s was before I came here. Walked around, I’m like, ‘What is this gorgeous building?,’ and I’ve been there four times because it’s beautiful. Have an idea of what you want to do but also be very open to the possibility of other things.”
What would you say to students who identify with the LGBTQ community who are afraid to study abroad?
“It all depends on where you go. Somewhere like London, I think it’s a fantastic experience. For me, it was a very good experience because it was the first time that I have been around totally new people and a totally new environment while still embracing my sexuality and still being open about it. Before, there’s always been something that hasn’t [been] okay. Here, it was totally new. I knew no one, totally new environment, and I have still been able to successfully be open about myself and express myself. It has been a very empowering experience.”
Is there anything else you want to say about study abroad that I haven’t asked?
“Everyone has a different experience. Everyone learns something new. It’s everything you’ve heard about and more than that”
I hope you had fun meeting Jared! The challenge for today’s blog is to take after him and embrace who you are. Be confident in being yourself. Loving yourself is one of the most empowering things you could do for yourself. As always, if you have any questions or want to share your story, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great rest of your day!