Tegan McCarthy, Discover English
Rainbow Connections

International students face many hardships during their time abroad and language and cultural barriers can be catalysts for mental health and welfare issues. While educational institutions have done much to support international students, little has been done to support those who are further marginalised. LGBTQ international students are one such community with specific challenges to overcome. Currently, however, there isn’t much support for this group at the classroom level, institutional level and beyond.

Rainbow Connections, a social welfare program catering specifically to LGBTQ international students, was created to provide this community with a safe and supportive environment in which to socialise as well as receive information about relevant events, programs and services. Rainbow Connections aims to not only support the students but also to empower them through invitations to join community programs as presented by guest speakers.

This presentation will outline how Rainbow Connections was established, how it evolved and what the future holds as well as how all staff within a language teaching organisation can better support the diverse needs of the LGBTQ international student body. Participants will also be given opportunities to discuss the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities within their own context as well as develop their own ideas for diversity support programs at their institutions – with plenty of tips for scoring that essential grant funding to make it all happen!

Tegan is the Academic Coordinator at Discover English in Melbourne. She has a keen interest in international student welfare, inclusive practice in education and the important intersection between language learning and identity. Tegan has presented at the NEAS management conference in Sydney and the Freire Institute conference in Cyprus.