I recently attended one of this years summer training event looking at the International Student experience. It was an interesting session and thanks again to the organisers.
We had a speaker from the ASK Student Services who provided a useful overview of some of the challenges facing international students especially in the first few weeks of arrival. One of the group exercises was to list the differences an international student will face coming to the UK, ie the diet, weather, expense, social etiquette, humour etc. There is more information on the culture shock of arriving in a new country available on the ASK webpages.
We also had the opportunity to hear from an international student about his first impressions of coming to the country. The pace of life took a while to adjust to alongside the balance between an academic and social life. Something I was interested in, but unforutnately owing to time didn’t get a chance to ask, what are the highlights to studying in the UK.
After the talks we had the opportunity to reflect on what we were doing well as a service and where improvements could be made. One of the areas mentioned was the recent successful bid for extra funds to purchase books on the british culture for 3 of the libraries.
A key fustration/challenge that was raised was the language barrier, which sometimes makes it difficult for staff to get a message across to students. While the students are required to meet a level of english, this may not always be possible especially during the early months of arriving to the UK where some of the services we provide could be of real value.
Some of the solutions suggested was to get a better understanding of the needs of international students to help inform our services. The library has recently held focus groups with international students aw well as using a social networking tool for students to raise issues and then prioritise them. This will be repeated with the new intake in Sept and then hopefully provide an interesting and useful body of evidence as well as recomendations.
Personally I think technology could also be useful, whether helping to create social networks, provision of online resource, translational tools, provision of online material in various languages and format etc