My name is Cate, I’m an International student enrolled in the Masters programme called GEMMA – Women’s and Gender Studies at the Centre for Women Studies here in York. I came all the way from Florence, Italy, to pursue my studies. I’m part of the Feminist Society and I work as an International Student Ambassador. Wondering how life here as a foreign queer person can be? Keep on reading!
Living as an Italian abroad
Before coming to York, I was worried that my nationality would have represented a problem in my daily life. As an Italian, I’m aware that there can be stereotypes about my country across the world, and given that my accent is extremely recognisable, I was afraid it could cause problems. Luckily, this was not the case in York for several reasons. First of all, the city has a huge international community. Coming to York, you soon realise that there are support systems in place to help you meet people from your own country and other international students.
Welcoming events and YUSU clubs
When I first moved to the campus everything was so new to me to the point of being overwhelming. Thankfully, the University provides students with welcoming events specifically designed for International Students. During my first week here, I joined the PG International Welcoming Week where I was able to engage in campus tours, informative workshops and free Zumba classes! Thanks to them, some of the people I met during these occasions are now my best friends. Moreover, if you feel like hanging out with our compatriots, you can join a student society supported by YUSU. The Italian Society was really important during my first months here. Having the chance to speak my native language with my peers was something that relieved my initial stress.
I’m here, I’m queer!
As a queer Italian student, it was important to me to find a place where I could feel represented. The University has different societies you can join to do so, for example, I’ve been part of the Feminist Society. This is a safe space where people’s identities are respected and where you can talk about social issues. We also have a LGBTQ+ Society where queer students can also find support if they are in need. Check out their Insta for more details. But my favourites are the board game nights organised by the LGBTQ Social Society. Moreover, I’m very into drag queen shows. I was so enthusiastic when I found out that York has lots of events where queens perform, especially organised by the group called “The family shambles”. They also exhibit on campus sometimes!
If things go wrong
It’s normal to feel alone, no matter how integrated you become and which community you are able to build. Sometimes, sadly, we can still find people in our lives who don’t treat us how we deserve to. Episodes of racism are rare in my experience, but they can happen. That’s why the University has a support system for every time you feel you don’t belong here. If it’s just a matter of feeling a bit down, there is a psychological counselling called Open Door which allows you to get help for free, both in person and online. Also if you feel unsafe, I keep an app on my phone called SafeZone, where you can press just a button and the campus security will reach you whenever you are.
So is life easy in York if you’re part of a minority group as a queer international person? I think my life here as a queer Italian student has been amazing so far. I had the possibility to create a community and a safe space where I can be myself. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters: being able to express yourself freely.