Student welfare case study:
the job of an International Student Support Officer
Name: Karen Hingston
Occupation: International Student Support Officer
College: Hartpury College, Gloucester
What kind of help is available for students?
At Hartpury College, all students are sent pre-arrival information and are able to contact the International Office, who will answer any enquiries they may have. After arrival, the support continues: we help students settle in and with issues such as opening bank accounts and obtaining National Insurance interviews for part-time work in the UK, to name a few.
What advice would you give to a student wanting to make friends?
One way to make friends is to take part in events organised by the college. At Hartpury, we organise a get-together in the residential blocks on campus to introduce new arrivals to existing students.
An International Reception is also held, as well as a barbecue, at the beginning of the term. The tutors will also organise a party to meet all the students on their course.
What advice would you give to a student who is homesick?
I would explain that the feeling is very normal and let them know that I am always available if they want to pop in and have a cry or just talk about it. If they are not coping at all, then I suggest they speak with a counsellor, situated on campus, who will talk things through with them.
I phone them and send text messages often to let them know they are not on their own. I suggest they e-mail home and keep in touch, and ask another student to keep an eye on them and alert me if they are not coming out of their room.
What advice would you give to someone who is finding it hard to adapt to UK culture and customs?
I would again explain that this feeling is completely normal and that they must focus on the reason why they came to the UK and that their stay is not forever. The best thing is to take the good things from here and discard the customs and parts of the culture they don’t like.
We have dedicated international accommodation blocks, with Internet access. Students find this really helps them not only keep in touch with friends and family back home, but also to accept new cultures. They are also able to talk to each other about all the new and strange things that they may find in the UK.