The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

International Students: Roy

Hello, I’m Roy Kiruri and I am the International Students’ Officer at Bristol SU. My role is about ensuring that international students are supported and integrated into the University and city community at large. I am Kenyan and the fact that I had a thoroughly enjoyable time as an international student has fuelled my passion to ensure that all international students thrive in Bristol, both academically and more widely!

Before starting this role, I studied a bachelors in law and held several committee roles in student societies, namely Careers Secretary in the Law Club, International Students Rep in the ACS and General Secretary of the East African Society. Staying active has always been important to me, so I really enjoyed being part of sports clubs like the Swimming and Waterpolo Society in my first-year and the Muay Thai Society in my second and third years. I started to work more closely with the SU in third year, as I was the Marketing Rep in the International Students’ Network. We organised trips to cultural heritage sites (like Cheddar Gorge) and hosted hugely successful karaoke nights at the Balloon Bar, that brought together people from several cultures and walks of life!

The international student experience is so unique in the fact that no single experience exists! We’ve all been educated in different countries, grown up with different cultures and have a multitude of people in our social circles. But even with our extensive diversity, I firmly believe the University should create a feeling of ‘home away from home’ for all. That is why I will be advocating for international students’ interests to both the University and the SU, so we can create an environment that helps you (as the students) make great friendships and learn from various cultures along the way!

What am I working on this year?

 

Ensure more part-time work opportunities for international students during their studies

Working to create a directory of employers in the city that are willing to employ international students who want to do part-time work during their studies
Consult with students to see what jobs they’re interested in during their studies 
Extend the remit of the Bristol SME Internships, to help international students get internships

Help international students secure graduate jobs after their studies

  • Lobby the University to adopt a specific policy which funds programmes for international students
  • Extend the remit of the Bristol Mentors programme, to also be available to international students
  • Promote the availability of the ‘graduate’ route visa to all international students

Mitigate the impact of high tuition fees

  •  Subsidise transport to and from airports 
  • Lobby the University to be a guarantor for students going into private accommodation 

Ensure Student Services are fit for use by international students

  • Ensuring Counselling staff have language skills, to better serve students. 
  • Advocating for better cultural competency in the Wellbeing Services & Counselling services. 
  • Establishment of an academic writing centre, to help international students manage stresses caused by lack of proficiency in academic or language skills. 

Create better cohesion between international students and home students

  • Run events that help international students better understand UK culture
  • Encourage ALL students to make use of the Global Lounge’s ‘Language Cafe’

What have I done so far?

 

March

  • David and I have launched Bristol SU's Fee Justice Now campaign - calling for tuition fee compensation for the 'class of covid'. 
  • I helped launch a beta version of an SU Job Shop, with a view to releasing a mainstream platform that will enable students to find part-time work to take part in during their studies.
  • I am actively pushing the University to make funding available for students to help students coming from one of the 33 ‘red-listed’ countries needing to pay for both a 10-day quarantine and two additional PCR tests during this quarantine. I have so far managed to enlarge the amount all students can claim back on PCR tests to £210 per student.
  • I’m working with staff in the Student Inclusion Team who will be running ‘Intercultural Awareness Training’ for students and staff; as I'm trying to ensure that Wellbeing and Counselling Services attend these sessions in particular, so they are better equipped to helped the international students that approach them.
  • Alongside International Students’ Officers (ISOs) from other Russell Group Universities, marketed a tuition fee compensation petition that got the 10,000 signatures necessary for a government response in 2 days.
  • I publicised the new International Student Assist Programme, designed to help international students permanently abroad, Study Abroad students and Year in Industry students gain access to counselling services.
  • I attended and helped to support the 'Standing Against Sinophobia’ event run by the BAME Network.
  • I am currently working to support EEA Migrant students who have been denied Student Finance and are experiencing financial distress which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • I publicised a UKCISA survey that aims to help international students best take advantage of the new 'Graduate Route Visa'.
  • I am helping students who've been struggling to use English in an academic environment by getting the International Students' Network and certain societies to create groups to allow these students to practice in a safe and welcoming environment.
  • I am continuing the Contract Cheating work with Leah and David, to make sure students aren't taken advantage of by predatory essay mills. 

February

  • In collaboration with International Student Officers from other Russell Group (RG) universities, I submitted a petition to the Parliament’s Petition Committee and sent an open letter to the CEO of the RG and Vice Chancellors of RG universities, calling for compensation for the experience of International students this year, for the reduction of international fees in years to come and for the government to provide a bailout to help the higher education to adequately support students through the pandemic.

January

  • I met with International Students’ Officers from across the UK to share strategies and develop plans for a national tuition fee reduction campaign.
  • I started work on extending the remit of the Bristol Mentors programme to also offer career-focused mentorship to international students.
  • I got the University to extend the funding for COVID tests to students coming back to the UK following the Christmas holidays.
  • Leah, David, and I managed to secure alternative exam start times for students who are currently in different time zones.
  • I helped secure funding for the COVID-19 SME Internship Scheme that is open to all students, including international students.

December

  • I am working with Leah and David to push the University to provide more online synchronous teaching so that students studying outside of the UK (due to Covid travel restrictions) can work at reasonable hours.
  • I am exploring a partnership with an external AI company to improve the current peer mentor system.
  • I am planning to run a student survey to assess instances of racism towards South-East Asian students – to ensure that the SU and University can adequately support these students. 
  • I have secured funding from the University to cover the cost of PCR tests up to £150 per test for international and study abroad students who require tests before travelling for the Holidays.
  • I have made ground on pushing the University to become a guarantor for students wanting to rent private accommodation.

November

  • I have re-started planning to open an SU job shop.
  • I am working with the Accommodation Office to explore plans for the University to act as a guarantor for students in private accommodation.
  • I am working with Leah to revive micro-communities to help students interact during the holidays.
  • I conducted a survey to gauge international student opinion on the list of academic mitigations which are currently available.
  • I was involved in a presentation with University stakeholders to introduce the Sanctuary Scholars to the University and City at large as well as letting them know about the Sanctuary Scholars Legal Fund.

October

  • Alongside Leah, I have been working with the Bristol Doctoral College and Bristol Voices to help create PGR and PGT alumni support schemes specifically for international students.
  • I met with the Robert Kerse (University COO) to push for tuition fee transparency in terms of costs breakdowns for the least and most expensive courses for international students.
  • I met with the Jason Smerdon (University Group Finance Director) to follow up on when the value for money statement will be published. I also asked him questions on department spend, again with a view to increasing transparency.
  • I took part in an online Q&A session with Thangam Debbonaire (MP for Bristol West), Alicia O’Grady (Director of External Relations at the University) and Christina Gray (Director of Public Health for Bristol City Council) - answering questions that students and members of the community had about the COVID crisis.
     

September

  • I lobbied the University to ensure free airport transfers due to Covid will continue in future years.
  • I worked with Student Health to increase accessibility of their services, by creating a glossary of medical terms for international students.
  • I worked with the Careers Service to explore ways we can fund more graduate opportunities for international students.
  • I assisted in running an advisory group, which aimed to discover what our international students plans are for the future after they graduate, as well as their knowledge of the graduate route visa.