In response to the growing numbers of international students, Friends International have announced an ambitious set of plans to expand its network of local centres to provide friendship and support to thousands more international students living and studying in the UK and Ireland.
Despite the emergence of the Coronavirus and the reluctance of some foreign universities to accept Chinese students, the numbers of international students studying in the UK and Ireland, which currently stands at one million, is expected to grow.
Alan Tower, National Director of Friends International, said:
“Over the last 12 months, through our existing network of 40 local centres, Friends International was able to support over 11,000 international students but we are only scratching at the surface and the sheer number of international students demands an increased presence.”
To meet this demand Friends International is planning 12 new local centres in cities and towns including Liverpool, Dublin, Brighton, Reading and Swansea, places where the organisation do not have dedicated staff but where large populations of international students exist. To coordinate this growth, Friends International have taken on two new regional development directors and plan to recruit a further 20 new staff members to work both with Friends Internationals’ current teams in London, Sheffield, Cardiff, Aberdeen, Bath, St Andrews, Durham, and Exeter, and pioneering at the new centres.
Susanne Koch, Friends International’s recently appointed Regional Development Director for South East England, is German and after her own experience as an international student, recognises the challenges they face.
“We want to engage more students in London and help them overcome the typical challenges that come with living in a big city as a foreign student. Our aim is to crack the code and expand and strengthen our work supporting international students across south-east England”.
Alan Tower concluded:
“Increasingly we are seeing international students struggling to make the adjustment to UK culture, many experiencing mental health issues and fighting loneliness because they are separated from friends and family. Through our local centres, we hope to give international students the chance to flourish by experiencing British culture at its best, alongside the opportunity to hear about and examine the Christian faith for themselves.”