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Listening to you | International Student Experiences 2020/21

By Newcastle University

The student experience this year has been very different for everyone and certainly not how we expected it to be. Students had to decide whether to travel to Newcastle or stay home and study remotely, with both scenarios having challenges associated with them.

In February we invited international students to attend ‘listening sessions’ to share their experiences of studying in the 2020/21 academic year so far with us, to find out about the support available and to meet colleagues from support teams. The students who attended the sessions were offered the opportunity to raise any issues, worries or concerns and put forward any ideas to help us provide better, more targeted support for international students.

We've identified the key issues and concerns raised in the listening sessions and have listed them below with the responses the students received at the sessions.

 

I am feeling very isolated. What help and support is available to me? I would like to meet other students, but I don't know how best to do it.

There's a suite of support available on the Wellbeing webpages, ranging from self-help information to more specific support.

In addition to this, Newcastle University Students Union (NUSU) has over 160 societies which are groups of students with similar interests; so you should hopefully be able to find one that you’re interested in. They also have an International Students Society so you can connect with other international students – this is a popular society which hosts lots of events, providing opportunities to connect with other students. We strongly recommend you get involved in a society as they provide fantastic opportunities to connect with like-minded students.

The Give it a Go Team at NUSU are holding lots of different online activities ranging from sports to arts and crafts and are a great way to meet other students online.

Once the current UK restrictions are lifted the Chaplaincy service will hold ‘walk and talk’ sessions following the rule of 6 regulations. These walks are not faith related and are purely for you to meet other students and talk while walking together around one of the city centre parks.

If you would like more communication with course mates you can also email your Personal Tutor to explain your isolation as they may have ways to assist you to connect with others.

We've also raised this issue at the Student Experience Sub-Committee. Faculties have been asked to take this into consideration and see if they can assist with connecting students on the same course either through group tasks or on a social level.

We plan to host initiatives to help reduce loneliness during the summer term. The schedule for this is currently being developed and it will be communicated via email and our blog site once finalised.

 

What support can the University provide regarding a rent rebate, or helping me be released from my private accommodation contract due to not having travelled to the UK this academic year?

We are actively working with private partners, the City, the HE sector and the Government to encourage a national approach for students who have entered into their own contracts with private accommodation providers.

There's a variety of support available from both the University and the Student Advice Centre at the Students’ Union. We also offer hardship funds. If you have financial concerns regarding paying your rent please apply for the financial assistance fund. If you have any questions regarding this you can email the Student Financial Support team on student.fin-supp@ncl.ac.uk.

The Student Advice Centre can look through your contract and ensure that you are being treated fairly. You can make an appointment with their Housing Officer who can look through your contract and see if there are any ‘breaks’ that you may be able to use.

 

How do I access Wellbeing services?

There is a suite of support available on the Wellbeing webpages, ranging from self-help information to more specific support. The support on offer includes:

  • Self-help tools – including online courses in Understanding Mental Health & Suicide Prevention and general information on ways to nurture your wellbeing
  • iNCLude App that can be downloaded to help support you improve and maintain your wellbeing.
  • Pastoral Service – you can call and talk with a member of the Faith & Spiritualty Team informally. You can also plan regular calls. Conversations do not have to be faith related
  • TalkCampus 24/7 support - a peer support app that is free to download, where you are able to talk to students around the world.
  • Therapy – specialist advisors are available to assess your situation and support you how best you need it.
  • Lots of referral pathways to NHS support.
  • Bessie the therapy dog (once restrictions allow).

 

How do I access Careers Service support?

The Careers Service are currently operating online and you can have a one to one meeting to help support you should you request it. Log into your MyCareer Portal to make an appointment.

The Careers Service are holding lots of virtual events and fairs, so it’s worth looking into these. 

NCL Spark is an initiative which connects you with a Newcastle University Alumni who can help and support you with your Career choices, or writing your CV.

 

What Financial Support is available to me if I'm struggling due to Covid-19?

The University offers a variety of support for students experiencing financial hardship. The range of support is available on the Student Financial Support Webpages. The Government has pledged additional hardship support for Universities to assist students further. More information will be emailed to students once finalised.

 

Communication is email heavy. Are there other ways we can receive information?

We are aware that communication is reliant on emails and that key information may be lost in the number of emails sent. We have recently established a team to look into this and as a result have started a student blog that can be used to access key information and keep up to date with new developments. The team are planning to employ student interns to expand this initiative further and investigate other ways to effectively communicate with students.

We also plan to hold additional listening sessions for students this academic year to give you more opportunities to find out about support available. More information on the dates and times will be released soon.

 

When will students be asked to return to campus, or can I complete my academic year remotely?

The government made an announcement on the 22nd February 2021 regarding the lifting of Covid related restrictions, including when students can return to campus for face to face teaching. Schools will be communicating with students to let them know their options and the plans for students returning to on campus teaching. Certain subjects will be asked to return before others, depending upon the course requirements and whether students need to do practical assessments or not.

If your course isn’t identified as one where you are required to return it is possible to complete the academic year remotely. Please email your Personal Tutor or School Office to discuss this with them if you would prefer to do this.

Although students in Newcastle are currently encouraged to study from their accommodation where possible (in accordance with the Government guidance) campus is open and there are study spaces available.

 

I am travelling to Newcastle soon. What practical information do I need and what support is offered to students?

We have created a step-by-step guide for students travelling to Newcastle during March and April 2021. This guide explains what you need to do before you travel and when you arrive in Newcastle and details how you can access support. 

 

What quarantine support is offered to students arriving in Newcastle?

The University provides support for students in quarantine. The support differs depending whether the student is staying in University or Private accommodation. Information on the support offered can be found on our Self-isolation on arrival / Quarantine webpages.

Please report that you are in quarantine by completing the self-isolation form when you arrive in Newcastle. The team can then arrange the support you need from the information you supply.

You can also email covidsupport@ncl.ac.uk or call the Covid Enquiry Line on +44 191 222 5101 (11am-2pm Monday-Friday) if you need support.

 

Can arrangements be made to make remote learning more time-zone friendly or can assistance be given to students studying remotely?

We understand that remote learning due to different time zones is difficult. The timetable was created with the intention of being able to deliver ‘present in person’ classes and has to be made in advance due to the complexities of it.

Students were contacted earlier in the academic year and were asked to complete a form stating whether they intended on studying remotely from their home country or whether they were travelling to Newcastle to study. Where possible timetable changes were made to accommodate for subjects where a lot of students identified they were staying in their home country to study remotely, although it is acknowledged that for the majority of students studying remotely, the timetables are hard to follow due to time zones.

All lectures are recorded so you can access them at a time that is convenient to yourself, but we know that this isn’t the same as accessing a live event.

We recommend that you contact your Personal Tutor and the Module Leader for any affected modules so that they are aware of your situation. You may also be able to apply for a Personal Extenuating Circumstances (PEC) for these modules.

 

We've raised this issue at the Student Experience Sub-Committee. Faculties have been asked to take different time zones into consideration when assigning tasks for their modules.

 

We would like to thank everyone who took part in the listening sessions - they have been really helpful in understanding the needs of students. We are going to host 3 more sessions this academic year, to give all students the opportunity to raise any issues, worries or concerns and to put forward any ideas to help us provide a better experience for you. Once the dates and times have been set for these we’ll let you know!

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