New initiative to help foreign students

FOREIGN students at Essex University are to be given a taste of typical English life thanks to a new hospitality scheme.Through the initiative, visitors from as far away as China and the Middle East will be able to sample the distinctly British delights of a Sunday roast, a game of cricket or perhaps even a night at the bingo.

FOREIGN students at Essex University are to be given a taste of typical English life thanks to a new hospitality scheme.

Through the initiative, visitors from as far away as China and the Middle East will be able to sample the distinctly British delights of a Sunday roast, a game of cricket or perhaps even a night at the bingo.

And more importantly it will provide a level of cultural understanding which campus life cannot provide but which many of them seek.

Spearheaded by the Chancellor of the University, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the university hosting scheme will put overseas students in touch with volunteer residents of Essex and south Suffolk. Through visits and hospitality, the aim is provide thousands of overseas students each year with a unique window onto British life.


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He said: “It's a very simple idea and the oldest human transaction in the world.

“The impact of half a day in someone's home makes a tremendous impression and can transform their view of the English.

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“And the enjoyment is two-way. It's fascinating to have a couple of foreign students for lunch or supper. Each gets huge amounts out of it.

“It's fallacious that we are stand-offish and hard to penetrate.”

Only one other UK university has more foreign post-graduate students than the University of Essex, which takes in between 2,000 and 3,000 each year.

The visitors come from 120 countries right across the globe, including a particularly large number from China.

But the number of overseas visitors means that campus life bears little resemblance to what is typically English.

He said: “There's nothing sadder than to hear from a student that is spending two or three years the university without any local hospitality.

“The vast majority have no contacts here. Most are curious about normal English life but how do they engage with English families?

“Our ambition is for every foreign student who wants to see inside an English home to have some hospitality.

“It will add another dimension to their being here. Campus is a hot house and not typical of how people live their lives.”

According to Lord Phillips, a recent trial of 40 students visiting 20 households was a great success.

He now plans to build up a network of residents within reach of the Wivenhoe campus who might be curious about the students living in their midst.

All that is required is that they host one or two students a year and help to arrange their travel.

He added: “Perhaps they might take them home, show them the village and have lunch - sometimes bring others in to meet them. It's totally flexible to suit the hosts.

“It's win-win. Within five years, I hope every foreign student will have the same chance.”

For more information about the scheme, call 01206 872366 or email welfare@essex.ac.uk

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