Leeds University's international students have had a challenging time - YEP opinion

In this week's Voices of the Future column, Jian Feng discusses how the pandemic has been challenging for the city’s international students.

By Jeng Fian
Friday, 13th August 2021, 10:45 am
Updated Friday, 13th August 2021, 11:13 am
Leeds is home to a large number of overseas students. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Leeds is home to a large number of overseas students. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

When the pandemic hit back in early March, challenges have arisen for plenty of the population; with many international students having faced racial abuse and discrimination.

This continued to increase throughout the academic year which brought extra stress for international students who not only faced the risk of getting the virus, but also abused from people left right and centre - both on and offline.

While public awareness and support of anti-racism is rising, people should also realise international sudents deserve as much respect as anyone else.

It doesn’t stop there. We’re struggling (have struggled) in many other aspects too.

Commercialisation of higher education has been highlighted numerous times.

International students pay over two times the amount in tuition fees - and still pay the same amount to universities and housing companies, even though most couldn’t travel to the UK.

Jobs were lost, which led to the harsh decision of dropping out from universities if they cannot afford tuition fees.

Although the government has provided funding for universities, there is still a long way to go to improve the accessibility for international students - who usually cannot meet the requirement.

How about considering providing more financial support - such as scholarship opportunities - for our international students; accommodation should also come out of a more flexible contract.

We shouldn’t make the financial commitment with the uncertainty of how things will turn out.

I’ve just finished my placement year as the first-ever international officer at Leeds University Union. I was lucky to start my study abroad journey before the pandemic.

I’ve been able to meet with people from different backgrounds, joining conferences that will change my understanding of the world. Going to various face to face events, getting lost in the buildings we haven’t been in before, and feeling nervous when we went to networking events.

None of it happened this year; well, hardly.

It’s harder to focus on online lectures, due to the time difference and unstable network.

Lots of international students feel lonely being isolated in a room, without enough chance to make friends from different backgrounds and travel to other cities to know more about this country.

I hope that we can raise public awareness of the challenges faced by internationalstudents, since improving diversity within the city has been at the forefront of conversations - it needs to be prioritised.

I appreciate the journey studying in UK. I believe the pandemic is a valuable opportunity for our society to rethink how to improve our life, and international students’ experiences should not be ignored.