Updated: Aug 10, 2018
Place yourself, for a moment, in the shoes of an international student. You are leaving your home and headed for China. You’re going to be there for the next 4 years studying at a Chinese University. You have a basic grasp of the language but you are still struggling with the various symbols and grammatical differences and constantly referring to a dictionary and google translate. Your lecturers assume all students have a solid grasp of Chinese and therefore you have to film or record each lecture and spend hours translating and deciphering what was said. Practicals are tough as they are fast paced and often there is little time for translation as you are expected to just get on with the task.
If you have time between lectures and studying to socialise, it isn’t as relaxing as you’d hoped. You struggle to find good places to go, you are overwhelmed by the sights, smells and simple things like going to a shop can suddenly become very stressful. You still have to think hard about language and translation everywhere you go.
Only a few students make an effort with you between lectures and you’ve attempted to join a club or two. Due to the amount of time it takes to get the work done, it is less stressful to just hang out with one or two other English speaking students and to cook at the house you live in. You can't call the house "home" because the word brings up a whole load of emotion - you miss your family and friends that you left at home. It is easy to become lost in a whirlwind of emotion and struggle so it’s easier to bed down, focus on study and try to ignore the sense of isolation.
Almost 6000 students here in Guildford arrive from over 120 different countries to study at the University of Surrey. They will go through some of or all of these emotions as they start their studies here.
On top of the emotions we can easily imagine, many come from less individualistic cultures. Though they may be missing family, some may be under pressure from parents, friends or their home community to do well and to benefit their community when they return. It may be that it wasn’t even their decision to do the qualification or even to go overseas.
What if we can give international students something more than the qualification while they are here? Well that is where my job comes in as a Staff Worker for Friends International. Friends International is a national Christian Charity that serves the international student community in universities across the UK. Our aim is to befriend and support international students of all faiths and none and to help them settle into UK life as smoothly as possible. We put on social events (see picture below) to introduce students to Guildford, the UK, other students and local volunteers. We host or advertise English (language practice) Clubs around Guildford and we also link interested students with volunteer families who host students for meals. We also have opportunities to explore life's big questions, the Christian faith and to connect with churches around the town depending all on what the students show interest in.
So my role is varied. I will be an events manager, graphic designer (for marketing events on social media and the website), befriend-er, seminar/church speaker, host, charity rep, counsellor, fundraiser, coordinator of volunteers and tour guide and more! I will heavily rely on volunteers for their expertise in many of these areas as well!
Friends International is a charity that relies on the donations of churches and supporters and some of my salary is funded by the support of friends and family. If you would like to support me and the work of Friends International, click the appropriate links below. If you pray, I would appreciate your prayer support and you can click the link to join my mailing list which I will be using to send out a termly newsletter - separate from this blog.
To find out more about Friends International (FI): click here
To find out more about Friends International Guildford (FIG): click here
To give once to me or FI: click here (instructions are on the linked page)
To give regularly to me or FI: click here
If you have never sponsored anyone like this but you are interested then a small amount regularly is more beneficial than a large amount once. Give whatever you are comfortable with, £5 to £20 is the range I'd recommend. There is no pressure if you need to cancel your giving in future. I'm grateful for the fact that you may be considering it at all! It all goes through Friends International as a charity and if you do allocate money to me, 12% will still be given to Friends International's charity aims.
To sign up to my news and blog updates: scroll down to the bottom of the page.
If you sign up, you will be able to unsubscribe with a link on every email and I will not share your information or spam your email. You will get updated when I write a blog post and once I figure out the system, when I send a termly newsletter.
If you've read this far, thanks for the love, prayers and support. For those of you that know me personally, you'll understand that this job requires me to do stuff that I love doing, so I am excited to see where it takes me.