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.)
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:
- KCLSU activity groups and societies
- Be Active social sport programme
- The Chaplaincy offers pastoral support to students of all faiths and none and runs a weekly international lunch for home and international students
- Peer Supporters – confidential emotional support on campus from fellow students
- International Student Advice
- King’s Wellbeing one-to-one coaching – goal setting and action plans to make the most of your time at university
- Mental Health Advisors same-day appointments
- Counselling Service
- Nightline (020 7631 0101), an organisation run by student volunteers offering confidential telephone counselling between 6pm and 8am