Queer and first-year at UniMelb | Pride in Action Network

What is being a first-year like at UniMelb? It can be a daunting and exciting time, opening up your world to new experiences and opportunities! Past and present members of the University of Melbourne Pride in Action Network Committee share how they found it.

Oscar (he/him) | Bachelor of Arts

Sum up first year at UniMelb in one sentence: 
Fast-paced, exciting, and challenging (in the best way possible).

Was university the first place you found a group of queer friends or came across queer communities and support groups?
Yes definitely, it felt daunting and challenging but also full of opportunity. It might lead you to explore your identity in ways that you never thought were possible.

How are you maintaining connection with friends and community online?
It's all about finding times and spaces to make those connections. It can be difficult with everything happening around you, but it is also about meeting each other halfway.

What exciting opportunities has being queer at UniMelb provided you?
There are tons of opportunities to expand your social circles, skills, networks, and horizons.

Ciara (she/they) | Bachelor of Arts (History and Politics)

Sum up first year at UniMelb in one sentence:
The first year at unimelb is when I started to become myself and accept that I was queer, and that there was a community for me.

Was university the first place you found a group of queer friends or came across queer communities and support groups?
Yes it was. At first I felt that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t ‘queer enough’ to be in those communities, but as I got to know people I realised that basically everyone else felt that way. It was weird but very comforting to know that we all had the same anxieties.

How are you maintaining connection with friends and community online?
Queer department events! I’m making an effort to run our collectives consistently, and we’ve started doing trivia nights every fortnight. I’m also forcing myself to call my friends personally, which is really hard for me as an anxious person, but everyone is having similar anxieties and so I’ve been making a point to reach out to people first.

What exciting opportunities has being queer at UniMelb provided you?
I became Queer Officer at UMSU! This role allows me to represent the interests of queer students to the university as well as facilitate and support the queer student community. It also means I get to meet and work with a lot of amazing queer elders from whom I’ve learnt so much.

Raph (he/him) | Bachelor of Science (Computing and Software Systems)

Sum up first year at UniMelb in one sentence:
A fresh start to be myself, make lots of new friends and learn more independently.

Was university the first place you found a group of queer friends or came across queer communities and support groups?
UniMelb was a big catalyst in me being more open and confident with my sexuality. I started first year by going to the Queer & Questioning Support Group and met my first queer friends there. I also found that the student community is full of people who are proud to be LGBTQIA+. It felt liberating, like I had found my place where I knew I belonged.

How are you maintaining connection with friends and community online?
Mainly via message or with FaceTime when I’m more organised. A group of friends has started a weekly trivia night online which is a wonderful way to stay connected while we’re unable to have weekly gatherings in person.

What exciting opportunities has being queer at UniMelb provided you?
Being queer at UniMelb has encouraged me to be myself because the environment here encourages everyone to celebrate who they are. Seeing the Pride in Action committee grow and paint the campus rainbow has been fantastic. I hope anyone coming to UniMelb who is queer or questioning their gender identity or sexuality jumps into the range of events and community groups here – embrace yourself!

Jack Ganbaatar (he/him) | Masters of Public Health

Sum up the first year at UniMelb in one sentence:
As a queer international student, the first year was amazing and pretty overwhelming at the same time. Queer visibility at the campus and inclusivity in a school policy was beyond words comparing to where I am from, and it made me feel safer than ever to be who I am and allowed me to have a voice as a proud queer person.

Was university the first place you found a group of queer friends or came across queer communities and support groups?
It was not my first place to find my queer family but it was the first place in Australia since I moved here last year. Coming to a new country and starting life is always complicated even if it is a temporary one. However, finding your community is what makes your life ten times more beautiful. I found my amazing queer friends who helped me expand my horizons on many issues and allowed me to grow. Importantly, they made me feel loved and part of a family in this state of isolation during this pandemic.

How are you maintaining a connection with friends and community online?
Since this pandemic is lasting longer than we expected, it is getting harder. We use WhatsApp group to talk to each other these days. Furthermore, since we are living in an advanced technological era, there are plenty of ways for me to keep in touch with my friends. Instagram and Facebook is also the most significant solution for us to share our lives and enjoy each others company.

What exciting opportunities have being queer at UniMelb provided you?
Being queer at the Unimelb provided me opportunities of being part of several queer networks which I made amazing friends through. I have become a committee member at the UniMelb Pride & Action Network and Australian Awards Queer Network. These opportunies are not only helping me to make friends and being part of a community but also enabled me to learn from others and grow as a young person.

Caitlyn Pryse (she/her) | Masters of Education (Equity, Diversity and Social Change)

Sum up first year at UniMelb in one sentence:
Overwhelming and exciting, I learnt so much in my first semester and met so many people.

Was university the first place you found a group of queer friends or came across queer communities and support groups? 
I was not out to myself yet when I did my undergraduate degree, so for my graduate degree I was determined to make sure I got involved with the queer community. It has been really liberating to be part of a bigger queer support group, and I was really proud to get to be part of the Melbourne Pride March for the first time.

How are you maintaining connection with friends and community online?
It's tough maintaining connections online, but being part of committees that have regular Zoom meetings has helped. Taking on leadership opportunities is a great way to meet people at university.

What exciting opportunities has being queer at UniMelb provided you?
I met some people from GSA and one of them let me know about the position on the Pride in Action Network committee. I put down my name for consideration and was asked to join the committee. It's been a great opportunity to meet other queer people and also to learn some leadership skills. I've learnt a lot about what it means to be part of a committee and how we can support change at the university.