Oxford LGBTQ+ Society International Students – Welcome!
People from all over the world gather in Oxford, carrying their place of origin with them. It’s in the sense of humour, the foods and smells we miss, familiar landmarks and conversational placeholders, body language and intimacy. It’s easy for us to feel out of place, even in communities we think we ought to feel welcome in, such as the LGBTQ+ one. This mismatch of expectations and reality may is often difficult and especially true for LGBTQ+ international students who may be handling the disruption of transitions across languages, cultures, sexual expression, gender identity and the like.
We want to reassure you that it is okay to feel lost, unsure, adrift and anxious for a social raft. Be brave – there is a place for you and friendships to be made. We understand that coming overseas for university is always overwhelming, no matter where you’re from; and it’s so important to us that you know you have a support network. We, your two friendly neighbourhood international reps, are happy to help. We want to help make your transition to Oxford as easy (and fun!) as possible.
Contact us personally or come find us at one of the many events we’ll be putting on regularly for students like you. Between us and the Welfare Reps, as well as your college support services and welfare teams, there is always someone to talk to.
Communities & Events – A Brief List •LGBTQ+ Society’s international reps will hold fortnightly teas where other members of the international LGBTQ+ community will join. Typical food fare include: various biscuits, chocolates, chips/crisps, hummus and bread; there’s always vegan and gluten-free options provided.
- Special events are occasionally held but they may be less regular – it depends on what your international rep decides. But these may include: cross-cultural cuisine events with the Racial & Ethnic Minority (RaEM) reps, or tie-ups with other societies like the International Society or various Country-specific Societies
- Note: The Facebook group is secret to the general public but the group’s members can see who you are. While I can assure you that it’s a safe space and that everyone understands the importance of not outing someone, if you’re still not comfortable with your Facebook profile being in a LGBTQ+ group – please just let one of the reps know!
- Similarly, while pictures are rarely taken, please do inform your reps if you don’t want your name or face to be at all associated with the group; we’ll understand!
- To be added, just Facebook message or email us J
- Country/cultural societies e.g. Afro-Caribbean Society, Japan Society, Hong Kong Society, Australian Society, Brazilian Society, American Society à you don’t have to actually be a citizen of that country to join any of these groups!
- Regional societies e.g. Asia-Pacific Society
- Your college may also have a JCR/MCR International rep who will put on events for international students at your college to meet and mingle
•Non-International Student specific groups for LGBTQ+ students:
- Check out all of LGBTQ+ Society’s other events – they’re a really good way to meet new friends (the trick is to go to the same events fairly regularly and perhaps arrange to go again with someone you’ve just befriended!). Some of
- LGBTQ+ Campaign is the cousin organisation of LGBTQ+ Society. They are more focused on… campaigning. In practice, this means advocacy –
- Your college’s JCR/MCR LGBTQ+ reps will put on events for LGBTQ+ students in your college too!
Other important organisationsThe university has a number of support systems specifically for international students. Here are the main ones:
- The Student Information and Advisory Service provides advice for issues regarding international students like immigration questions and extending visas.
- OUSU (the Oxford University Students Union) runs Student Advice, which runs drop in sessions at their Worcester Street buildings between 2-4pm every
- The University also offers a Counselling Service, which your college Welfare reps and nurse can give you more information about. Your college may also offer in-house counselling services, but this is not commonplace.
Oxford’s LGBTQ+ SceneFor international students who have never been exposed to an LGBTQ+ scene before, Oxford can be quite overwhelming. The LGBTQ+ scene here is vibrant and exciting; it can also be a little intimidating for newcomers. If you’re scared, please know that it’s not just you, so don’t be hard on yourself! These were our experiences:
o Kathy (international rep, 2018): Personally, I had never really been around other LGBTQ+ people before, and the Oxford scene intimidated me, meaning I didn’t really interact with LGBTQ+ people outside of my college until my second year. o Mick (international rep, 2018): I was very scared of going to LGBTQ+ events in the whole of my first-year too. Firstly, I was hugely closeted as I was scared of the ramifications of family and potential employers in my home country finding out that I was trans. Secondly, it’s scary to go to events alone, especially events which are most unfamiliar; for me, that was Tuesday drinks. But I kept putting myself out there and I’ve made some incredibly lovely friendships as of mid-second year!
è The most important thing to remember is that your LGBTQ+ Society Committee is committed to making everyone feel welcome and included. This is your community.
Although Tuesday night drinks are a great way of meeting people as it draws large crowds, there are plenty of other activities for those who don’t like environments that are crowded or that involve alcohol. These are how you find out about them:
•The Oxford LGBTQ+ Soc mailing list is a great way to keep track of all the events. You can sign up for this at the Freshers’ Fair, or through this link: http://www.oulgbtq.org/signup.html. This is a great way of keeping track of events privately.
•The public LGBTQ+ Soc Facebook page announces events on Facebook
Oxford Slang Oxford slang is confusing for everyone! Here’s a rundown of some key terms:
•Plush - Oxford’s LGBTQ+ club. Known for its cheap drinks, banging tunes, and dance pole.
•Tuesday Drinks - Every Tuesday night, LGBTQ Soc does a drinks event in a different college. These events are a great way to meet other LGBTQ+ people (though of course not the only way!). There is a bar with v v v cheap alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. After drinks, many people head to Plush - though this isn’t mandatory. LGBTQ+ drinks are a great way to get a feel for the community, especially if you are looking to meet lots of interesting people. Committee members are always at Tuesday drinks and can be found behind the bar, mingling, or handing out Plush wristbands. We all wear name tags, and if you’re nervous about talking to new people, committee members are always a great way to start - we love a chat.
•Skittles - The Plush student night. Wristbands are given out at every Tuesday drinks for discounted entry and a free drink. If you’re into clubbing, Tuesday is 100% the best night to go to Plush.
•Committee - The LGBTQ+ Soc Committee are your elected representatives. These include our Executive, Welfare Reps, Identity Reps and others. If you have any problems or suggestions, Committee are the best place to go. You can find all of the information about the Committee, as well as their roles and contact details, at http://www.oulgbtq.org/, as well as in our Freshers’ handbook.
•College Reps - Your college JCR team will have a variety of reps who will often be your first port of call for general, college related issues. These include an LGBTQ+ rep, who works in collaboration with LGBTQ+ soc, as well as an International Rep and Welfare Rep.
•Dean of Welfare - Every college has a Dean of Welfare, a member of staff whose job it is to look after student welfare. These can be a great port of call for any issues you might be having.
•Crewdates - Crewdates are a weird Oxford tradition where a group of people (usually as part of a society or sporting team) will pay 15 pounds a head to eat bad food and publically humiliate each other. Crewdates involve a number of games, as well as sconces, where someone will stand up and say “I sconce anyone who’s done …” - usually a very targeted attack on a friend. Crewdates involve a lot of drinking, and most people either love them or hate them. They can be fun, but also a little traumatic.
•Collections - Because it’s Oxford, at the start of most terms you will have a mock exam based on the previous terms work. These are usually the Friday and Saturday of 0th week. Don’t worry, they don’t count for anything.
Healthcare General•For many of us, the UK healthcare system might be the most bewildering thing. In brief, as an enrolled student you will be entitled to the NHS like any other British citizen. For those of us here on visas, generally-speaking, access to the NHS is tied to our visa status i.e. we paid a surcharge in our visa application, so we get the NHS; if our visa expires, we’ll lose access to it.
•When you first come to the UK to start University, you will be assigned by your college to a “surgery” (i.e. a clinic). The primary healthcare professional in your surgery is called a “General Practitioner” (GP); this person can diagnose common medical problems (e.g. flus) and do simple prescriptions, but is also your primary point of contact for referrals to more specialist services (e.g. physiotherapy, MRI scans, gender identity clinics).
•Please be prepared for many long waiting times and delays in your NHS experience. To book an appointment with your surgery, you might have to wait a few weeks. For more specialist referrals, you may have to wait 6-24 months for your first appointment.
•You may also realise that the healthcare system is more fragmented and less coordinated than you might expect; a GP’s referral to XYZ clinic may be lost and it will be your responsibility to continuously check in with both of them to ensure that your case is progressing. For those who aren’t used to this, please be aware that you might become the
•In addition to this network of NHS clinics and hospitals, there are private clinics. Like other British citizens, these are accessible to you if you can afford them. They do tend to be far pricier albeit much faster in terms of waiting times. You may or may not enjoy the benefit of subsidies/reimbursements by your insurance company; please check with your insurance provider what can be covered by them.
Transitioning•Transitioning (medically) in a new country can be really difficult – in addition to the hurdles faced as an international student, you’ll encounter other healthcare-related challenges.
•Even if it was already difficult in your home country, please be prepared for the possibility that it is not necessarily easier to do so in the UK. Curveballs include lost referrals, doubling of waiting times, price hikes. Rest assured, there’s a good number of us who are doing it and you can always reach out in the secret group “OTF”.
Message LGBTQ Society’s Trans Reps to be added to it.
- Note: As of 2017, in this international rep’s experience, you can’t register with your GP and start the referral process before physically arriving in Oxford. I tried to do this in order to skip the waiting time and ‘fast-forward’ the transitioning process, but was told that you can only register with your GP if you’re physically here, and only after that can you start the process of waiting for your NHS GIC referral. If this is what you want to do, then be prepared to act fast.
- You can shortcut the process by using private clinics while still being on the
•Student administration: for various reasons, you may need to change your name or gender, in addition to impressing on others the importance of confidentiality. Oxford is difficult because of its fragmented structure, which may mean that you need to contact multiple bodies (e.g. your college, department/faculty, OUSU) for one issue.
- If you want to change your name socially but not legally due to the latter’s additional complications, you can do so by asking college to change your email address (even if your legal name is the same); you can then use that email to contact your department/faculty about the name and pronouns you’d like to be referred to, and they should be accommodating independent of your legal name change. You can also ask college to inform your tutors
- While it may be scaring outing yourself, by and large this international rep’s experience has been pleasant. I have encountered plenty of people who want to help in whatever way they can, e.g., being put in touch with trans-friendly local contacts when I expressed concerns about doing ethnographic fieldwork in a workshop organized by the Social Sciences Division. o Reach out to the LGBTQ Society’s Trans Reps for more detailed advice as to how to change names on key legal documents like your passport and your visa. These documents are very important; if you want to do paid work in the UK over the vacation, for example, you may need a National Insurance number. For that, you’ll have to use the name and sex stated in your passport and visa.
- Remember, you also have your college’s LGBTQ+ Reps and general welfare personnel to turn to; some colleges also have a Gender Expression Fund which provides financial help to buy items that aid in gender expression e.g.
Sexual Health•Oxfordshire Sexual Health Service (OSHS) and the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) do STI testing.
- There are sexual health clinics at the Churchill Hospital in Headington, at the Rectory Centre in East Oxford and a clinic at Banbury. You can find more information about these services at https://www.sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk/visiting/.
- OUSU and OSHS run STI tests in college as well – these are on a college-bycollege basis, and if your college runs one your Welfare Reps should let everyone know.
Last updated March 2019.
Disclaimer: reliance on any of this information is solely at your discretion; please check with relevant professionals and authorities first. These opinions were made to the best knowledge of the authors who are themselves students and should not be held liable if any error was made in good faith.
Oxford terms may be short, but we're here all year round.
Some of the services listed here may be helpful to you. In particular, you may be interested in Nightline or in Seven Cups.
The emails of the committee are always open. You can contact one or both of the officers on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
There is also a LGBTQ+ international students facebook group. You can join by contacting the officers, either by emailing them, or friending them on facebook (Richard Wagner and Ben Chuah).