Having lived and studied in the UK for around 5 years, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in London. The opportunity to study abroad, embrace new cultures and meet people from around the world was truly a unique experience and one of the highlights of my life.
Nonetheless, being away from home and studying in a different country as a foreigner could be overwhelming. Prior to coming to the UK, I have lived in Hong Kong all of my life. When I first started university, I experienced difficulties where I felt like I did not fit in and found it hard to meet new people. I vividly remember feeling anxious during freshers’ receptions since I barely knew anyone and felt like the odd one out. To overcome my struggles, I began expanding my social circle and establishing more connections. I actively participated in various societies and activities including drama performances, cheerleading and fundraising activities, which allowed me to meet a lot of new friends and establish long-lasting relationships. During my time at university, my friends have been an important source of motivation and encouragement. They have helped me overcome my struggles as a foreign student by helping me fit in and introducing me to their cultures. I am really thankful to have met such supportive friends and these friendships have formed an important part of my university experience. It has also taught me the importance of expanding my connections and establishing healthy relationships at university.
As the pandemic hit, things have changed drastically. The pandemic has caused major disruptions to students’ university experience and relationship building. As I am in my final year, I was determined to come back to the UK. I arrived in the UK in September, feeling hopeful and excited for the new academic year. However, as the pandemic dragged on, most fresher’s events and on-campus activities were cancelled. Most students stayed in their home countries and socialising became almost impossible – except virtually.
Moreover, because of the complete travel ban from the UK to Hong Kong imposed by the Hong Kong authorities in December, I was unable to return home. The travel ban was a huge shock since there were no prior announcements and the ban took effect immediately. During lockdown, I felt isolated and disconnected from my friends and family. Due to the ongoing restrictions and remote learning, it was really tough to meet new people and get support from others. The massive disruption to the student experience and lack of social interactions has also created immense stress and mental health deterioration.
During lockdown, I began reflecting upon my past experiences at university. Having experienced the struggles of starting university as an international student, I know what it feels like to be isolated and helpless. I am really thankful to have met students from different backgrounds during my first year, who have been extremely supportive and have become a significant part of my undergraduate journey. Acknowledging the disruption to the student experience and how difficult it is to establish connections this year, I really wish I could do something in return and help incoming students as I believe all students deserve to have a memorable university experience.
Towards the end of the academic year, I came across i2i, a social community and ed-tech platform that allows students to connect with one another and build meaningful relationships. i2i’s emphasis on empowering students through fostering connection and collaboration really appealed to me and aligns with my values of promoting the well-being of students. Compared to conventional social media platforms, i2i emphasises authenticity and value creation. It helps students to thrive and connect with those with whom they resonate and share the same values. I am deeply inspired by i2i’s mission and I thought this is the perfect opportunity for me to transform the student experience. Through i2i, I hope to establish a sense of community for students across different backgrounds, help them reach their goals and make the most of their university experience.
Currently, I have the privilege to work on i2i’s Micro Mentorship programme, a mentorship programme that provides peer-to-peer support for university students by connecting them with micro mentors and understanding their pain points. We assist incoming students that are struggling by helping them settle into the new environment and foster long-lasting relationships. I am really proud to be part of this meaningful project. I truly hope I could make a difference by making students’ transition into university a more joyful and collaborative experience. I also hope these experiences and friendships will become an important part of their undergraduate journey and become ever-lasting memories.
Are you are interested in making a difference for the student community and becoming a micro mentor? If yes, fill in our survey or message us on Linkedin – i2i social learning app for further details.
“Everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count.”
Chelsea Lam, 3rd year Economics Student at the LSE