Make the first move: talking to locals

Universities often struggle with the lack of integration between international students and locals. Therefore, student unions, societies and members of community play an important role to assist students in this area.

Helen Francis, the president of Sheffield Hallam Union organises many activities  with her team for international students. The activities include day trips to Manchester and Liverpool and parties such as the Welcome Party, Disney Party and Cowboy Party.

The president of Sheffield Hallam Union, Helen Francis (left) really hopes to see the improvement of integration between the international with local students.

“Most international students are enthusiastic to participate in our events, and they also bring their unique cultures to the university which makes it livelier,” said Francis.

“We also try to integrate with the city by having events in city centre which brings people together such as sport and society,” she added.

Justina Tan, a Malaysian student,  got to know some local friends while studying in Sheffield Hallam University (SHU).

She said: “The activities organised by Hallam Union such as the day trips create a good opportunity to meet locals and start a conversation with them.”

“I’m talkative and always take initiative to talk to the locals.”

Justina Tan (fourth from left) from Malaysia who is outgoing get to know local students through the university’s activities.

Paul Towns, a local student pursuing an MA in Sport Journalism in SHU, likes to mingle with international students in his course such as students from India, Bulgaria, China and Vietnam.

He found that by planning simple activities with them can help to improve and enhance the relationship.

“Every month, all course members hang out, drink and watch football, and get to know each other better,” he said.

“Sometimes we also went out if we had just handed in some courseworks, or if it was someone’s birthday or we hadn’t been out together for awhile.”

Paul Towns (third from right, second row) from Sheffield, likes to watch football match with his fellow international course mates (Photo credit: Paul Towns).

However, there are some international and local students who are passive in the integration and choose to stay with familiar cultures.

For students who study abroad in summer programmes (from June to September), it is difficult for them to mingle with local students as most of the local students have left for holidays throughout the summer.

A Malaysian student, studying in SHU for the summer programme, Ivy Cheng said: “Juggling both assignments and activities at the same time is hard, and I can never reach a balance between both.”

“If the duration of the summer program studies were longer, I would have a better chance at knowing more locals here,” she added.

A Portugese student, Beatriz Baptista said: “During the summer, I got to meet many new people through the various activities organised by the city council and the student union.”

“If you really want to get to know the locals, you should take a conscious step to get involved. Don’t stay at home, because you will never meet new people this way,” she advised.

Here is a message from Francis to the international students as a president of Sheffield Hallam Union:

Francis also explains her roles in the future that they will provide better for international students:

– Story and Photo by Tiffany Lau

Click me to visit Sheffield Hallam Union official website.


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