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Growing up, I constantly dreamt of one day travelling across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. I had always had an infatuation with this place – its famous history, its beautiful landscapes, its bustling cities. I had experienced so much of the U.K. through media, but I knew that I could never fully understand and appreciate its culture until I stepped upon its shores.
Being a straight, white male, I cannot say that I possess any identities that would potentially make me a target for discrimination or incidents of bias while in the United Kingdom (or in many other places, for that matter). However, during my time abroad, I have become acutely aware of how certain identities may find it more or less difficult to feel as welcome in the U.K. than one would in the U.S.. I feel it is essential that individuals who possess these identities be made aware of these potential differences before deciding whether or not to participate in a similar program.
Thankfully, it did not seem as though individuals of a racial minority faced any more hardships in the U.K. than would be present in the U.S.. Of course, there are always areas for improvement, but many cities we traveled to often suggested that the U.K. had a much less prevalent segregation of race by city neighborhood, as one often encounters in many U.S. cities. However, while I do not speak with total certainty, I felt as though the culture in the U.K. was less welcoming toward individuals of a sexual minority. Given that we were studying healthcare in the U.K., we often discussed public health issues. However, U.K. texts and professionals often did very little to identify issues that may be unique to groups of different sexual orientations.