Student Society Spotlight – The International Students’ Rights Campaign

In the first of our Student Society Spotlight series, Robert Liow, law student and President of the International Students’ Rights campaign group shares how he overcame initial feelings of isolation and loneliness to create a campaign group to promote the rights and welfare of international students.  In so doing, he established his own social support network and found his own way to well-being.

How I Started a Society And Beat International Student Loneliness

Sometime in early 2016, I decided to fight for international students.

At that point, I was feeling a sense of international student loneliness. It started in winter, when my student halls emptied out. Most of my friends returned to their hometowns or countries, and with the shortening days affecting my mood, I fell into a routine of sleeping at weird hours, waking up early and spending most of my time on social media or playing video games.

This wasn’t what I came here for. As an international student, I had come to London wanting to get involved in something bigger than myself. There had been poetry and the occasional rally, but I hadn’t found anything so far. International students already had to endure the horrible visa application process and increasing restrictions on post-graduation work in the UK, but the tipping point was when an allegation of widespread fraud in an English-language test resulted in the wrongful deportation of thousands of international students by the British government, including a fellow writer from Singapore. I went from shocked, to angry, and finally to deciding that I would no longer stand for this. Over the next few months, I gathered a team and began to build the International Students’ Rights Campaign, spurred on by Brexit and the rapid growth of xenophobia around me. I joined up with campus activists organising against borders, met key members of the Student Union and built a small network of friends and comrades driven by the same purpose that I was.

Through all this, I slowly began to realise something: I was no longer alone. Even when nobody else was around me, I had something concrete to occupy my time; I was constantly thinking and planning for the cause. By finding something to care about and engaging with student society, I had found my way out of international student loneliness.

As a campaign society, the International Students’ Rights Campaign is still growing. Our big initiative for 2016/17 was #Immigreatness, a photo exhibition that aims to remind everyone that just like them, migrants and international students are just trying to achieve their dreams of a better life. (The #Immigreatness exhibition is next to S0.12.)

davThe #Immigreatness exhibition next to room S0.12, Strand Campus 

In 2017/18, we hope to launch campaigns and collaborations with larger pro-immigrant organisations and encourage international students to engage with the lively student politics in King’s and beyond. By joining us, new members will get to meet other like-minded, purposeful students, work alongside them in defending international students’ rights, and have fun at social events like student mixers and performance nights! I believe that by bringing our members together as activists and giving them a chance to be part of something bigger, we can help overcome international student loneliness.

At the very least, I know it helped me.

To find out more about the International Students’ Rights Campaign, please click here

If you are an international student and are feeling lonely or isolated, please reach out for support.  You may also find some of these links useful:

Being In Your Mate’s Corner – Momin’s Perspective

As we launch our ‘In Your Corner’ mental health awareness campaign, current KCLSU President Momin Saqib shares his perspective on mental health, how the people around him help him to safeguard his wellbeing and how we can be there to support a friend in difficulty. 

Mental health issues, a phrase that might sound scary to some, unknown to others and neglected by some, but is a topic that remains in the dark for the masses. In many societies, even till date, this topic is considered a “taboo” topic, very, unfortunately. The significance of mental health in one’s well-being is a topic which is yet to receive due importance in today’s day and age.

Being involved with the KCLSU over the past two years has given me insight into this particular topic and on a deeper level has stirred my interest in being further involved to share this knowledge and help my peers learn about mental health so that we can help each other and those around us in need.

MominBW-01 small

From my three years at university, as a student and as a student officer I have learnt that mental well-being is a pre-requisite for succeeding at university, however, success is subjective. But how can one excel in academics or extra-curricular or even their daily chores if one isn’t feeling “mentally well”. We all have remedies for physical ailments- fever? Sore throat? Let’s just pop in a paracetamol and there isn’t anything wrong in doing so. Medicines are after all a source of recovery. But what about our mental well-being? We all have days when we do not feel like getting out of bed, attending lectures, doing our daily chores, meeting people or even eating and that’s completely fine to “not feel up-to the mark” on some days, but when those some days start becoming most days, is when we seem to be developing a “problem”, which in most instances goes unrecognised by majority of students. It isn’t  a question of mood anymore, but it becomes a condition, which worsens each day if it goes untreated just like any other medical condition and this is a fact which is not known to many students, as a result of which they do not seek out for help, thinking it would get better eventually. Many students suffering from such conditions live in the fear that if they talk about their mental state they will be laughed upon or they would be burdening others with their problems. However, they are not completely wrong in their thinking, as there is lack of awareness about the importance of mental health in our society. However, we can work together to change this.

University is a period when one is finally independent, away from family, home and old friends. This can be a challenging period. Speaking from my personal experience so far, university has been good.  But, there is no denying that there have been days that I have questioned myself and my existence. In simple words, university can be a mind-wrecking puzzle. Getting through university itself is a great achievement and it may sound strange coming from the KCLSU president. Those who have known me, whether through my social media or in person, will perceive me as an overly-energetic, passionate, happy individual who is extremely content with life, but I am like any other individual who worries a little too much and gets anxious about exams. But having said this, I would also say that I have always been an expressive person and have spoken about my fears and worries with those I am close to. I have been lucky enough to have understanding people around me who have guided me and supported me and have been there for me in times of despair.

As a part of KCLSU and King’s, we strive to build a community where students can easily address their mental-health issues and communicate with those around them for help. All students at King’s should adopt a proactive approach to recognising such mental-health issues and support each other in seeking help for the same. King’s “In Your Corner” campaign is specifically designed for this purpose and is aimed at improving the health and well-being of all students at King’s.

As the president of the union, I would just like to let all students know that I will go out of my way to ensure that every student has the best university experience at King’s. KCLSU along with King’s has are committed to the mental health of the entire student community. They will be providing support services for all students. Students are always going to be encouraged to talk about their mental health, like all other problems

All students should know that they are not on this journey alone and we are all in this together

If you’re experiencing difficulties with your mental health, don’t feel you have to keep it to yourself. Reach out to a trusted friend, family member or the University for support.  The links below outline some of the different peer-led initiatives and professional support services:

If you would like to learn some basic skills in supporting a mate experiencing mental health difficulties, sign up to one of a Student Minds ‘Look After Your Mate’ workshops on campus here.

Cooking 101 – How not to live off instant noodles

If you’re new to cooking and just finding your feet in the kitchen, you’re not alone!  Student Money Mentor Claire has been there too and is keen to dispense some words of wisdom gleaned through her own culinary trials, errors and triumphs. 

cooking

Cooking – you either love it or hate it. Some people can add a pinch of salt and a touch of spice to meals with their eyes closed. They can tell what a dish needs just by smelling it and their desserts are to die for.

I, sadly, am not one of those people.

I am the kind of person who burns toast and then smears it with a thick layer of butter and jam to disguise the charcoal aftertaste. I either cook so much rice it lasts for a week and a half, or so little I need to cook a second batch because I can’t get the proportions right.

I have eaten porridge for breakfast and for lunch (Tip: Don’t do that, it is incredibly depressing) and chewed my way though pasta which I convinced myself was ‘al dente’ rather than undercooked.

This article is for people like me who are not gifted in the kitchen, but want to try. Please learn from my mistakes. Only once have I given myself food poisoning, but that was one time too many and now I have pledged to get better.

1. Measure things out

If you have room for a little electronic scale in your kitchen, buy one. They are pretty cheap and will save you guessing what 50 grams of grains looks like (although that is a fun game. If you are bored and want to try it, be my guest. The problem afterwards is trying to get the stuff back into the packet without spilling it over the kitchen floor)

If you don’t want to buy a scale, use proportions. Measure things out in tea cups and get the ratio right. Most recipes will have weights and cups so pick the one with applies to you.

young man at home kitchen in cook apron desperate in cooking stress

2. Follow those recipes

If you are making something and it looks a bit dry, trust it. Once you start thinking you are better than Nigella Lawson and varying the ingredients, it will be a recipe for disaster – literally. These people have tried and tested what they have written, so have faith in the food gods and simply obey their instructions.

3. Never underestimate a microwave

It can reheat, defrost and cook a wealth of things. There are several websites and videos with microwave hacks (see links below).  Not only do you save time and money, but it is a very easy way to cook veg which can be part of your 5 a day.

Also, it means you can freeze leftovers for another day, decreasing food waste. Many things can be frozen, including bread, fresh berries for smoothies, curries and fresh meats. However, do not freeze veg with a high water content (e.g. lettuce) or creamy things like cheese and yoghurt (unless you have followed a recipe for making your own ice cream). The curds will separate and it will taste very crystal-y (yes, I have tried it).

Also, when defrosting things, use a low setting for a longer time, don’t be impatient like me and whack it on high thinking it will speed things up. The outside gets hot and the inside is frozen. It tastes really strange.

HEALTH WARNING: Defrost everything thoroughly. Please.

http://firstwefeast.com/eat/2013/12/microwave-hacks-tricks-recipes/

http://www.oola.com/cooking-tips/8873/17-crazy-fast-and-easy-microwave-snack-hacks-muglife/

4. Cook together

Group of friends cheerfully cooking

If you want to cook a nice meal, get together with your flatmates and prepare it. Not only is it more fun, but you are more likely to do things better when you know there are other people, as you really don’t want to poison your friends. Plus, you may learn a few tips from them.

 

 5. Start simple

noodles

It is not a sin to use bottled sauces, in fact, I would encourage it! It saves time and you don’t have to buy a hundred different spices. It is not cheating just because it is easy. Also, pick simple recipes at the start, or get advice from family who have been cooking for decades. Before you go to uni, watch them prepare a meal and help out, so you can see what needs to be done. No one is expecting Michelin star food quite yet, but you have to start somewhere.

So those are my tips for the kitchen..  Instant noodles are acceptable once in a while, but I know you can do better than that.

One ultimate conundrum though is this: no matter how hard you try, your food will never quite taste as good as your mum’s. That extra pinch of love is something which you can’t buy in the shops