By Teddy Coward, Co-Editor-in-Chief
The International Students Officer is responsible for ensuring that international students are supported and integrated into the university and city community at large.
With voting now open in the Bristol SU elections, students have the chance to elect their new full-time officers, including their International Students Officer. Three candidates are in the race to take over from Roy Kiruri, who has held the post for the last year.
Voting takes places using a ranked-choice system, meaning students can rank all the candidates in order. Voting will be open between 9am Tuesday 9 March and 9pm on Thursday 11 March. Results will be announced by Bristol SU via Instagram Live at 6pm on Friday 12 March. For more information on voting visit this link.
Here are the candidates running to be your next International Students Officer:
Muazam Ali Tahir (Muraz)
Muazam Ali Tahir (Muraz) is a first-year Economics and Politics student from Pakistan. Muaz says that whilst ‘it might sound scary for a first-year student to be running for this position, it is the first-year that frames our university experience’.
He also says that being away from home throughout the pandemic has allowed him ‘to delve deeper into the difficulties experienced by people like me, from different cultures, to integrate into a completely new environment.
Muaz’ policies take a ‘five-pronged approach’, aimed at creating ‘a more accepting, representative, healthier environment that feels like a Home away from Home.’ This includes:
- Creating a Council of Ambassadors with elected country ambassadors to promote global citizenship.
- Providing workshops aimed at preparing incoming students for their university experience.
- Allocating wellbeing resources for international students to mitigate against cultural shock and restructuring wellbeing to offer a separate, 24/7 wellbeing provision.
- Organising monthly cultural fairs to promote different aspects of culture and allocating two days a week to celebrate a different country’s culture.
- Having personalised financial and job-seeking support for international students and increasing academic or extracurricular scholarships for international students, which could include incentives such as return tickets to a home country.
Aatmikaa Pal says there are ‘various aspects’ of the International Students’ Officer role ‘which need to be addressed’ and that she would like to resolve in her following manifesto commitments. These include:
- The annual fees for international students, which is ‘one of the major concerns’. Aatmikaa outlines that international fees are around twice the amount for Home student fees and that not everyone is able to get a scholarship. ‘For a university that boasts about its diversity,’ Aatmikaa says, ‘treating international students as mere cash cows is quite unethical.’
- Aatmikaa is also standing to gain a rebate for international students who were promised ‘blended learning’ from Bristol University, though who, owing to national lockdowns and the pandemic, ‘did not get the chance to have face-to-face teaching’ and who are ‘already paying such excessive fees for studying in a world-ranking University’.
- Further, Aatmika pledges to work closely with the accommodation office and other relevant bodies to tackle the ‘acute problems’ international students face while looking for accommodation, many of whom have to pay six month’s rent in advance to ‘dubious landlords’, in the absence of a local guarantor.
- Finally, she is committing to working ‘for the upkeep of the mental health of the students who are far away from their home.’
Nikki Vora is currently a volunteer at the Global Lounge where she teaches English. Nikki says: ‘Vote for me and chat with me. You lot wouldn’t regret it.’
For Nikki, the role would see her ‘champion the inclusion of international members and campaign against discrimination and barriers within both the University and the Students’ Union that impact international students.’
Nikki says she will hear the views of international students and ‘mediate and negotiate’ in order to communicate them to the university and carry out initiatives. She says she views the role as being ‘responsible for representation in all aspects of the international student experience’.
Featured Image: Epigram / Siavash Minoukadeh / Patrick Sullivan
Will you be voting in the Bristol SU elections? Click here for more information on how to do so.