Claire Shaw is deputy editor of The Guardian Higher Education Network. In an article for The Guardian (September 11, 2013), she says that international students sometmes feel isolated from the university community and asks if universities can do more to make them feel more welcome.
Starting university can be a stressful time for many students - perhaps all students. They have to deal with new surroundings, new peers and a high level of academic expectation. This all makes even the most confident student a little anxious. But not surprisingly, this is much greater for international students. Their main concern is not only to find their way around campus, but for those for whom English is not the language they generally use, they also have to get used to a using English and they have to get acquainted with a new culture and set of customs.
So, is there more universities could be doing to make international students feel welcome and settled in?
Most UK universities are very active in international marketing and recruitment from around the world. But recruitment shouldnot be looked at as the end point. Once students are recruited and arrive in the UK, are universities doing their best to help internaitonal students integrate with other students?
"Student friendship groups are often defined by nationality," one blogger wrote for Guardian Students wrote. "It's not just Chinese students who don't mix – Brits also tend to stick together." Fadi Dakkak, international student officer of the University of Sheffield's Student Union says that it is down "cultural differences". But are practical arrangements such as housing students in separate accommodation, also a factor?
Xin Qu came from China to study an MSc in management at LSE. She says that her biggest challenge was getting used to the UK education system. She was not used to talking aloud about her opinions, using her initiative and attending social networking events.
According to Daniel Stevens, former international officer at the NUS, there's definitely been an improvement in the way universities approach and prioritise integrating international students. Nevertheless, he admits that there's still more work to be done. "There is troubling evidence that a large proportion of international students still feel isolated from the university community and feel they have difficulties making friends with domestic students," Stevens says.
[Photo: Hanquan Chen/Getty Images/iStock/The Guardian
Did your university make you feel welcomed when you arrived? If so, how? If not, what could it have done differently?