Friday 27-01-2017 - 16:59
For many, the New Year begins on January 1. However, for myself, like many Chinese students studying in the UK, it is the Chinese New Year that encourages me to reflect on the events of the previous year - and look forward to those yet to come.
According to the traditional Chinese Zodiac, we will soon be leaving the Year of the Monkey to make way for the Year of the Rooster. In that spirit, I would like to send my very best wishes to everyone who is celebrating it.
I was born in the Year of the Monkey, and I’ve always found it a memorable year. This one was no different, and also was a year of great personal challenges. This year I completed my term as a sabbatical officer at UEA Students’ Union, and had a difficult time balancing a master’s degree in a second language and the responsibility of serving as a member of the NUS National Executive Council. More than that, it has been a particularly challenging year to be an international student: Brexit and Trump’s presidency have shown that there is an increasing great divide in our society, in which we are being blamed for circumstances not of our making. Minority groups, international students and migrants are in unwelcoming situation which is full of hostility and uncertainty heading into the future.
Students from overseas represent a significant proportion (40 per cent) of net migration into the UK, and as a result make up a considerable part of the UKs migrant communities. Following the EU Referendum, there has been an increasing atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia unleashed by the scapegoating language that was deployed during the campaign. This trend has significantly affected migrant communities, and will inevitably impact on our international students as such an integral part of those communities.
If that is not enough, we are witnessing what is no less than a global migrant crisis. For those migrants that are lucky enough to make it to the UK, they are faced with the challenges of gaining access to basic needs such as safe and secure accommodation. For those seeking to access higher education, they are charged extortionate international student fees and are given hardly financial support. In times of great division, we need to unite and pull together to build an education system and a society that works for everyone – migrants and international students must remain at the heart of this.
Regardless of their origin, all students deserve to be able to study and thrive in the UK without undue fear of deportation or persecution. We should no longer feel apologetic or powerless – which is why we must unite in our student movement: to feel strength in unity.
That is why I am proud to unite behind NUS’ call for a free, fair, and liberated education through the Liber8 Education campaign. In my Chinese New Year message last year, I called for all international students to unite unapologetically and without fear to speak out against the racism and xenophobia that seek to scapegoat international students for government failures.
This year, I repeat my call for solidarity.
In the Prime Minister’s good wishes at Chinese New Year she highlighted the significance of the enormous contribution that the Chinese community makes to this country. I hope that Theresa May backs up her rhetoric with proper action, and abandons the institutionalised racism and culture of suspicion that plagues our community. I would implore her to see the damage that her tier-based immigration policy does to the fabric of our multicultural society, and abandon the discriminatory policies that are creating suspicion and hostility towards us.
So, I would like to send my very best wishes and wish you all a happy, productive and promising Year of the Rooster. I am hoping to see the Rooster Year mark the new beginning of the strength in unity, whether you are international or home students. We should stand together: to send a clear and strong message against xenophobia and racism, and fight for a free and liberated education.
NUS NEC / International Students Campaign Committee
You can join the Liber8 Education campaign to defend international students and migrant rights.