In November, our international level 5 Physics student Thisanda Ayuka attended the UKCISA Fest 2023 in London.

UKCISA Fest is a platform for international students to meet and discuss their experiences of studying in the UK with their fellow students.

Find out more about Thisanda’s experience below:

Written by Thisanda Ayuka:

As part of my academic studies, I am very passionate about working with BAME students who are also international students and looking into issues we face and provide solutions and communicating these problems to members of staff. I also have great pride in being a student representative to many events that occur within as well as outside the University. One such event that I was lucky enough to take part was the UKCISA Fest 2023.

I was sponsored by the University of Chester in terms of travel costs and the event was held at the International Student House in London. UKCISA is an organisation that stands for the United Kingdom Council for International Student Affairs and it’s focused on improving international student experience in the UK.

Students much like me attended the event from different universities all around the UK. The event had multiple events planned out such as the introductory talk by Lord Karan Billmora, who is the director of UKCISA, multiple workshops and an annual reception.  The introductory talk was one of my favourites as Lord Karan Bilimoria explained how he found himself in the UK being an international student and the many beautiful things that he found in his experience. He also focused about his positions being the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham as well as a member of the House of Lords and explained how he used his position to support international student experience such as in the decision to reinstate the graduate visa route.

One of the more important sessions was also the Q&A session with the UKCISA international student ambassadors. We got the opportunity to ask them questions about their international student experience and listen to their stories of their experiences into moving into the UK from their home countries. It was such a relatable and open space where we spoke about our stories both funny, sad, and inspiring.

Afterwards, I attended a workshop called Policy 101, which dwelled on the creation for policy and the situations and ways to push for change. This event was one of the best workshops as I was able to gain so much knowledge about how policy works and discuss the steps that can be taken to push for policy change.

Afterwards I attended a session about communication with stakeholders which focused on building communications and responsible parties. This discussion was extremely interesting as I was able to gain a lot of knowledge on strategies of communicating with stakeholders and negotiating. The event came to an end with a closing plenary, where we discussed everything from study experience to work experience and careers. This was a very interactive session as we worked with groups to chat about current issues faced by international students and make posters that discussed the pros and cons.

All in all, the UKCISA Fest was such an incredible event that gave me the opportunity to learn all about policy and to network with other students from other universities with the same goal of improving international student experience. I also want to thank the University, specifically the International Centre, the Pro Vice-Chancellor Helen Galbraith, and my line manager, Kathryn Leighton for supporting me to take part in this amazing event.

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