Going to university for any young person is a huge step, which although comes with excitement, for many it can also be accompanied by anxiety. International students face an additional level of apprehension; moving hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their homes and loved ones, often dealing with the struggles of a second language and differences in culture, not to mention the pressures of academic success.
With over 605,100 international students residing in student accommodation across the UK (and growing), according to research by the House of Commons, providing a sense of belonging to those recently arriving in the UK to study has become imperative.
According to Student Minds’ latest report, a staggering 81% of international students reported mental wellbeing as a top concern, with 68% stating that making friends was their biggest issue at university. Loneliness has been found to be one of the leading causes of students dropping out, however, PBSA operators have the opportunity to improve resident retention by putting measures in place to mitigate the pressures faced by the international student cohort.
Additionally, acculturative stress is also a challenge that many international students have to grapple with, on top of the regular pressures of university life, all whilst dealing with culture shock and language barriers.
So how can PBSA operators help mitigate these pressures to improve the university experience of international students?
1) Host events
PBSA operators can host events to help them settle in, from providing informative events specifically for international students to ice-breaker events in order for them to have a few familiar faces to kick off their university experience with.
By using Spike Living, operators can easily and efficiently promote their onsite events directly to their residents, even understanding in advance how many attendees to expect.
2) Create communities through clubs and forums
Allow students to find and engage with others who share similar interests within their building, such as creating a gaming, football or book club. By using our Spike Living portal, accommodation providers can ensure students are able to feel part of the community and make friends from the offset. Once students get to know each other online, they can then branch out and make plans to meet up in the real world. As Spike Living caters exclusively for building residents, it offers a safer alternative to groups on Facebook or other prominent social media, which are more easily infiltrated by spammers and strangers.
Additionally, through developing cultural societies, international students can develop a sense of a home-away-from-home, and the ability to feel close to their roots even in a different country. Celebrate cultural holidays such as Eid, Diwali, and Chinese New Year to ensure students still feel the same excitement for cultural holidays as they do back home.
3) Allow stress-free communication with the onsite team
Moving to a different country can be a daunting experience for those who particularly struggle with confidence when speaking a different language. Having the ability to message staff directly without needing to speak face-to-face can take away the stress that can sometimes come from trying to engage in conversation. Spike Living enables these students to confidently contact reception or log a maintenance request all via a smartphone app. This reduces the likelihood of maintenance issues escalating due to a miscommunication between students and staff.
4) Introduce students to the local area
Much like local students moving to a new city, international students have often reported feeling ‘lost’ in their first year due to not knowing their new area. To make the experience less stressful, and to help them settle into their new home quicker, the ‘Around Me’ feature in the Spike Living portal allows students to easily see how to get to their campuses, local GPs, university facilities, and other points of interest around them.
Operators can even team up with local businesses to offer special discounts to their residents on anything from hairdressers, and coffee shops, to local bars and restaurants, all of which can be promoted to residents and driven through the Spike Living portal. This can help international students feel special and part of a community.
With the number of international students expected to continue to grow over the coming years, PBSA operators must find new ways to engage and help them feel at home. Spike Living can help turn what can be a stressful experience, into an experience they can enjoy.