On the 29th of September, we held our International Students Discussion Group which went really well! We were able to talk to a lot of International students about things that is and isn’t working at Sussex, and we covered quite a few topics in depth which are outlined below in this article:
Overall, students were happy that the SU and Frida (SU President) were acknowledging and addressing bus issues especially with Frida promoting student lobbying bus companies to reduce prices and increase the frequency of buses in the morning. Obviously, something that came up was the fact that the cost of transport is really high, especially for yearly tickets which for some isn’t worth it seeing as buses don’t go all across campus ie. Northfield.
Students were happy about the variety of food available on campus such as the markets, as well as the quality of food offered. However, a reoccuring comment touched on the prices of food available. Students would have like to have seen cheaper food options (around £3-4) at every outlet everyday that still meant you could have a filling meal and choose the sizes of your portion. Something students would have liked to have known more about was the ‘Munch’ money cards that can be used at university outlets- a card topped up and used which saves money in the long run.
Positive comments students had to say about class and lectures was that staff always have time for questions and are supportive. Classes themselves also had a good student to lecturer ratio. Student mentors were also helpful though students expressed that these mentors were not always publicised enough to students. A negative aspect of courses that was mentioned was the lack of clarity on module choices. For some, it is not clear in the course information which courses are open to international students or not, and finding courses is extremely difficult. It was suggested that there should be a centralised hub of all Spring Term options, and the the university should give out more information ahead of time about selecting modules, what modules will be available, and more info about adding and dropping modules in terms of who/where to go to for course/module changes.
Social spaces in halls are really appreciated by the students we spoke to. However, housing did present the biggest concern for international students. Many students spoke about being unprepared to find housing on campus, as they were not aware of the many hidden costs, or that they would not be able to get on-campus housing after their first year. They also spoke of the university housing department being unsympathetic to students’ issues. A suggestion was made that international UG first year students should be prioritised in being allocated on-campus housing over home students due to the unique difficulties that international students may experience such as finding a guarantor. Whilst students acknowledged the existence of companies such as Helping Hands, these also cost large sums of money to use.
Study spaces and campus facilities
Students talked about the lack of information around the locations of different social spaces on campus. For those who had study spaces they went to often, they talked about what they would like to see in a study space such as free tea, sofas, and a warm and comfortable environment. Students spoke of how the library could be improved by having more tables as it does get quite crowded as well as having more textbooks for core modules for their course. For less academic spaces, students discussed the lack of music spaces on campus. The USSU Music Practice Room has a waiting list, but people on the list haven’t heard anything back at all.
Settling in/ making friends
Students talked about language cafe being a really good way to make friends in an informal, relaxed environment. Drop in sessions for societies and extra curricular activities that go beyond academic societies are also a really good way to give something a go. A problem with societies was that many felt that they were geared much more towards postgrads and can be a bit daunting for international students. It’d be great to see if societies could each have an International Secretary and a PG Secretary like some larger ones already do.
Chinese students said that they have WeChats for all students attending lectures, and lists are given out before arrival. Facebook is banned in China which makes it hard for Chinese students to find course friends (or housemates etc.) before they arrive which can be daunting. In regards to ‘home’ and international students, many felt like there was a link missing between the two and even the local community and felt like the SU and university should work to create a link by having events not exclusive to international students, emphasising the opportunity of uni being a place where everyone can gain from meeting and interacting with one another and having course icebreakers at the start of term.
What would students like to see the SU/university doing to support international students/ to make their time at university better?
Students would like to have better support for arrivals, particularly for those who do not/ cannot arrive during Welcome Weekend. For Chinese students or those without Facebook, there’s no ‘instant messenger’ or somewhere you can get answers quickly. An app or somewhere you could get quick responses would be really helpful. Having an information ‘I wish I’d known’ page from International Students who are already at Sussex would also be useful as well as a physical cheat guide for things like where you can find microwaves/hot water/ cheap food etc on campus and information about Free Periods and the free shop
We really value the discussions that we had at the Discussion group and have acknowledged and passed on all the feedback to the relevent departments with the hopes that it will bring about some change!
Got a comment/criticism about anything discussed in this article? Let us know on our social media channels!
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