- This HEPI blog was kindly authored by Anna Zvagule, Senior Communications and Content Officer at London Higher, and a part of the #WeAreInternational campaign team. Anna holds an MA in International Security from the University of Warwick.
On the back of the HEPI, UUKi and Kaplan International Pathways report with updated figures on the economic benefit that international students bring to the UK, London Higher, along with Universities UK International, BUILA, UKCISA and British Council – Study UK, are relaunching the #WeAreInternational campaign. We are hoping that this campaign helps universities all around the UK celebrate the contributions beyond the economic, namely the cultural, social and civic ones, that international students make to the UK.
So, why is this important?
Today, I want to tell my story. The UK might be home to me now, but when I first arrived here, I came as an international student. Being half Latvian, half American, and having spent most of my life in the Czech Republic, I had only been to London a handful of times as a tourist. I had never previously visited the University of Warwick, where I would spend the next three years of my life. Admittedly, this was before the complexities of Brexit and luckily back then I could still pay home fees as an EU student, but the student experience for me was very much the same as that of any other international student. It was daunting to arrive in a new country on my own, with one suitcase, and begin a new life.
The University of Warwick is home to over 9,500 international students from 147 countries; this is almost one third of the entire student population. It’s not quite UCL with its 55% of international students, but having so many other international students around me made a real difference being able to connect with others in a similar situation: all new, in a country that we didn’t know. Although it was the international students that originally made me feel more at home, I also met so many wonderful home students throughout my studies who would become lifelong friends. Soon, I joined Warwick Volunteers, played a variety of sports, and joined the Politics society, connecting with students from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of interests.
In my last year of university, I took part in a university-led marketing internship which placed me in the Widening Participation team at Warwick, and this kickstarted my career in higher education. Seeing the many students who didn’t feel that a university like Warwick was for them and who didn’t have the confidence to apply resonated with me. These students and I had something in common: we weren’t sure if we’d fit in.
A couple years ago I returned to Warwick to complete my Master’s degree and to continue some of the research I started during my BA. It was brilliant being able to work closely with some of the best professors in the country again, and to meet another cohort of amazing students. Nowadays, I continue to work in the UK higher education sector and am committed to creating positive policy conditions for international students, including tackling some of the negative rhetoric around overseas students that has arisen recently. This year, I will have been in the UK eight years and I am grateful for the opportunities that my life in the UK has given me: for the welcoming people, the work opportunities and the community that exists in the town where I now live. This is why the #WeAreInternational campaign is so important. International students become a part of the local communities, they contribute to the wonderful diversity in the UK, and they can also show others considering studying here that the UK is a welcoming, safe and exciting place to study. They are more than just a number.
Join us by sharing the stories from your institution’s international students during graduation by using #WeAreInternational on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.