UoN Case Study: Our HealthyU Ambassadors
Focus Groups held in February 2020 identified that international students at the University of Nottingham have bespoke health and welfare needs.
International students studying in the UK experience a range of wellbeing issues. These include:
- Feeling homesick which is intensified by the physical distance between them and home
- Underestimating the impact of culture shock
- Cold weather and short hours of daylight in winter
- Different foods and eating patterns
- Understanding UK academic culture
- Being able to adequately express feelings and concerns in English and contribute effectively in seminars and tutorials
- Feeling very lonely
These experiences have been especially poignant for new international students during the Covid pandemic.
Prior to the Globally MindEd Project, volunteer student HealthyU Ambassadors had been recruited at the University of Nottingham to assist in HealthyU campaigns and events.
HealthyU aims to:
- Provide information on health and wellbeing that enables students to make informed choices that will lead to a healthier lifestyle at university and in the future
- Support and provide an environment that proactively encourages students to choose healthy options
- Reduce health inequalities and promote social inclusion
Our HealthyU Events and campaigns include:
- University Mental Health Day
- International Welcome Fair
- Hate Crime Awareness
- Culture shock and missing home
- Drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling
- Sexual Health Awareness Week
- Let’s be Clear on Consent (sexual consent)
- Managing UK academic culture
We believed that specific International Student HealthyU ambassadors were needed, as they would be able to promote and support the health and wellbeing of international students by:
- Assisting in the identification of the health and wellbeing needs of international students (e.g. via HealthyU events and developing relationships with relevant Student Societies)
- Co-producing bespoke information/events for international students to address specific international student health and wellbeing issues. Development of International Student HealthyU webpages
- Signposting international students to appropriate resources and services
- Being an active participant in promoting a healthy lifestyle fostering a culture of “wellness” on campus
What did we do?
We decided to recruit 6-10 international student HealthyU Ambassador volunteers via the SU International Student Network and Communications department at the University of Nottingham.
7 international students were recruited through this process in the first semester of 2020.
Induction and Training
A training programme was developed for the new HealthyU Ambassadors. The training was facilitated by the Senior Health Improvement Coordinator and The International Student Health Improvement Officer.
- Signposting to University and local services
- Mental Health Awareness (which included a focus on Looking after your friends).
The new Ambassadors were asked to select issues/areas they were most interested in being involved in. Signposting training was delivered in December 2020 and a “Christmas Social” was held and Ambassadors shared information about a meaningful object they had brought with them to the UK. Mental Health Awareness training was also delivered, in March 2021.
Administration of the International Student HealthyU Ambassador was provided through the University Welfare Service International Student Health Improvement team. Group support and development meetings were arranged on a regular basis. Due to Covid, these meetings were virtual.
All Ambassadors were made aware of and agreed to our University Code of Discipline.
Sadly, the Covid pandemic limited the real-world involvement of the HealthyU Ambassadors in events and campaigns. Some of the Ambassadors returned home to study virtually.
Even so, there were some good developments!
- University Mental Health Day 2021 – the Ambassadors suggested we hold a competition we later called, “Every Object tells a story”. International students were invited to email images and text related to a special object which they had brought to the UK which provided a source of comfort. The International Student HealthyU Ambassadors judged the competition entries and selected the winners. (See Poster)
- The Ambassadors were asked to read and comment on language/alternative language and the clarity of health improvement and policy documents on the HealthyU webpages. This was especially useful for information related to sexual health and relationships
- We were able to review the usefulness and language used in bespoke information on Health Services for international students which was developed for the HealthyU webpage
- Two Ambassadors joined the International Student Welcome Kit working group and advised and helped to create relevant content.
- Ambassadors reviewed the drafts of the International Student Welcome Kit – providing feedback and suggestions before the site was finalised.
- One Ambassador worked with the Digital Media and Customer Service teams to make a useful video for students about “Things I wish I had known before I moved to the UK”.This video is now available on the HealthyU webpages and on the Nottingham University media space for all prospective international students.
- All the Ambassadors contributed to structured conversations about their experiences as international students. This informed the development of staff training about the international student experience.
By the end of the Project, all the International Student HealthyU Ambassadors had completed their studies at the University of Nottingham but their work has allowed a greater understanding of the international student experience here at the University of Nottingham.
- Read Next
- UoN Case Study: Working with other Staff Groups UoN Case Study: Supporting the transition into university life UoN: Understanding the International Student Experience Leeds University Union UoN Case Study: Working with Student Services UoN Case Study: The International Student Welcome Kit UoN Case Study: Mental Health Awareness Training UoN Case Study: Wellbeing Map LUU: Advice for International Students Adapting to Remote Learning as an International Student
- Wellbeing Issue in Detail: Making Friends Signposting Pre-arrival Mental Wellbeing Support UoN Case Study: Wellbeing Map UoN: Familiarising Students with Health Services LUU: Advice for International Students UoN Case Study: Mental Health Awareness Training UoN Case Study: The International Student Welcome Kit About us UoN: Understanding the International Student Experience UoN Case Study: Working with Student Services