The SRC, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, recently held an international students’ symposium to gauge feedback from international students at the University.
The event took place during the University’s second International Week of the academic year and was hosted by SRC President Ameer Ibrahim and International Students Officer Thanh Ha.
The symposium included two hour long focus groups interspersed with a variety of talks from students, staff and alumni.
The focus groups addressed a number of concerns for international students, including accommodation, integration and academic support.
SRC President Ameer Ibrahim commented: “We decided to hold the symposium to explore the current international student experience around a range of topics. We also wanted to intertwine it with a celebration event for international culture in our international community at the University.”
The day started with a talk from second year international student Moa Shafer. She discussed her reasons for coming to Glasgow, stating: “I had heard that Glasgow was a vibrant city. The joint degree system offered what I was looking for.”
In the focus groups, a common concern was the lack of communication and awareness of activities on campus. Students suggested collating and streamlining all of the club and society events into an easily accessible calendar, like the virtual calendar available to them for Freshers’ and Refreshers’ weeks.
Some suggested a guide on British and Scottish slang might also help them adjust to their surroundings easier.
Students also raised issues around language support and lecture recordings, as many could not immediately understand lecturers with heavy accents.
Regarding the topic of sport, attendees commented that they were interested in getting involved with activities but did not know how or whether the clubs would take on beginners. International students were often put off attending societies due to a potential language barrier and an unfamiliarity with the “pub culture” among university students in the UK.
Attendees were also asked about the study abroad opportunities available to them. Many said that while they enjoyed the University’s study abroad fair, they received too much information at once and the event was perceived as impersonal.
A common positive at the event was the enjoyment of Scottish cultural activities.
Ameer Ibrahim continued: “There were some central themes that seemed to be consistent across the different areas, things like communication – students not actually being aware of how to either access services, what services or activities are available. Now our objective is collating that informations together and putting together a short summary report. Hopefully there will be some change implemented if there is a particular area where there is substantial demand from our international community.
“Hearing the stories of how international students took their first steps into integration and how they got involved was very enlightening; but I think it also showed that there is a lot more that the University could do to really support and mitigate any challenges that are faced by any international students in integrating into university life.
“I think all students have a commonality in relation to the fact that too much information is sent out – I don’t think there’s any doubts about that. I think that having streamlined information is certainly something that international students would welcome in the future, along with our wider student body as well.”