Impact spoke to Jasmine Chow, the Students’ Union (SU) International Students’ Officer, about what she has been doing since being in office. Jasmine told us about her attempts to integrate international students into the University and her plans to set up a language exchange.
Can you outline the role of an SU International Officer?
Basically my role is representing international students – so I have to see if those international students have any issues here. I also have to help them to fit into university life here. I also try to make their experience more enjoyable.
You said in your manifesto that you are aware of the issues that are important to international students. What are these issues?
When international students first arrive, they don’t usually know anyone. Asian students are also more shy in comparison to European students – and this is problematic as there aren’t many Asian students at the University. A major issue is therefore the differences in culture.
With over 140 different nationalities at the University, a popular view is that there is a severe under-representation of international students. Do you think that since you were elected, the problem of integration and representation has got better or worse?
“They told me that because they are just here for a year, they prefer to stick with people from the same background”
It really hasn’t changed much because some students are just here for a year, particularly if they are only doing a Masters degree. I’ve talked to them before about this – they told me that because they are just here for a year, they prefer to stick with people from the same background. So I think that’s the reason why they are not really integrated within the University.
Through your position as International Officer, how have you attempted to address some of the issues facing international students?
It’s quite hard to do because societies do not seem interested in doing [anything with international students]
I email the students regularly and when they need help, they email me. For example, there was a student who had a problem with their visa so I transferred them to the relevant authorities. I am also in the process of organising a new language exchange programme between all types of students.
I tried to contact different societies to see if they are interested in interacting more with international students, but it’s quite hard to do because societies do not seem interested in doing [anything with international students].
Would you say that one of the challenges that you have faced is bringing societies together in encouraging more integrative activities?
Yes – maybe societies don’t have the time and the resources. If they want to have more interaction with other students, they need more time to organise and more resources.
What’s your schedule like as an International Students’ Officer? What is your day-to-day routine?
I go to lectures from Monday to Friday.
How do you balance a degree and being a part-time officer?
You have to manage your time better. You don’t necessarily have to decrease your leisure time – but you just have to manage your time well.
How many hours a week do you spend, on average, on the job?
It really depends.
Would you say it’s a job that is demanding or not as demanding?
It depends on how much you want to achieve really.
Since being elected, what specifically have you done in your position?
At the beginning of the year, I welcomed the international students and before Christmas, there was a campaign undertaken against the UK government to change some laws affecting international students – as international students now expected to pay for the National Health Service.
So you raised awareness around the issue?
I raised awareness with other Officers so that students could sign the petition.
Do you think that it has made a difference?
I’m not sure actually.
What would be the highlight of your time as International Students’ Officer?
My highlight is that I really got to know more about what the SU does.
I read your manifesto and found that you planned to “celebrate cultural festivals of different ethnic groups on campus.” Is that something that you have implemented?
I tried to but it’s really hard because we have three campuses. At first I planned to have it at University Park campus – but later, I realised that the majority of international students are on the other campuses.
So you’re essentially saying that you’ve had a problem in bringing campuses together or bringing cultures together?
“[The SU Officers} said that unless what I am doing is what students want… then I should figure out what students want”
I have spoken to other officers in the SU. They said that they are not sure if that is what students want. So they said that unless what I am doing is what students want… then I should figure out what students want.
Lastly, you touched on the problem of food diversity and quality of food in halls? What steps and actions have you taken to remedy this problem?
I spoke to the other SU Officers and they said they would see if they can do anything with that. I’m not sure if that is what the SU can change or affect.
What have you learned from your experience as International Students’ Officer?
I found the problems that international students have are really diverse and even that they have problems that I never expected to see.
Obviously the SU Elections are coming up – do you have any advice or ‘words of wisdom’ for the next International Students’ Officer?
The next International Students’ Officer should try to cooperate with the other SU Officers more. And also they should try to listen more.
For the election, the candidates should try to communicate with the students. I think it’s better if they spend time with each group of international students rather than just simply sticking to their own nationality.
Image: University of Nottingham Students’ Union
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