Suchi: Hi, my name’s Suchi, I’m running for the ISS director position and I’m running with launch.
Cormac: And what do you study?
Suchi: I’m doing a double major in psychology.
Cormac: How exciting. And are you a member of any political party or faction?
Suchi: Nope. I’m an international student.
Cormac: Could you give us a bit of a timeline of what brought you to this point and to the guild, and what experience you have as an international student at UWA?
Suchi: So I started Uni in July 2013, and basically my first involvement with any societies or clubs was with the Arts Union. I got really involved with the Arts Union and helping out with sub committees and stuff for all of 2014, and then I jumped on board as a Sports Rep in July 2015 after their female sports rep went on exchange. Then in 2016 I was the Sports Rep again as I was uncontested, so yeah, I was part of the Arts Union for a good while. And then I went over to the Science Union in 2017, I was the International Rep for the Science Union, and that’s when last year I slowly got involved with running for positions in Guild. And all this year I’ve been the Secretary of the International Student Services Department at the Guild.
Cormac: What do you see as the role of the guild in helping international students out? What are the key functions it has in the lives of international students?
Suchi: I think, as the guild is a body that’s meant to represent all students on campus, it’s one of those areas where they have to reach out to international students and help them with issues that they my face. Issues surrounding mental or physical health, because with international students there are a lot of times where they’re unsure if the guild represents them. They feel like a lot of services on campus might be more for domestic students compared to them, or they might not even know that services are available for them. So the guild kind of has to play that role of letting them know that we’re here to help you and point them in the right direction and through their university journey because we represent all students.
Cormac: What are you biggest issues facing international students at UWA?
Suchi: Being part of the International Department this year, we’ve seen a lot of issues around plagiarism and mental health issues. With mental health, a lot of people do come from societies where talk about mental health is taboo, so they’re very afraid to ask for help. Speaking up about it can be really hard, and they do crush under the pressure sometimes, failing units, VISA issues…so we’ve seen this on the rise. And working with student assist as well, they’ve seen so many more of these cases coming to light now, now that people are slowly approaching them for help.
Cormac: What’s the big change you want to see in the portfolio that you want to start working on?
Suchi: So what we’ve done this year is created a base so students know that ISS exists. And know now that students know we exist, we’ve given them general information on how to tackle problems. And from here I think it’s about stepping up to the university and saying look, there are changes that need to be made in certain areas, and I think one of the main things is having multi-linguel professors on campuses. Quite a few students have said it’d be good if they could talk to someone in their own language because the changes of being mis-disaognised through a lack of communication and understanding might be very different. There might be some key words which mean someone different to their language to English. So that’s one of my key areas for next year, ensuring there is that support at uni that can help students in that stressful period.
Cormac: How would you intend on implanting multi-linguel stuff, cost-wise?
Suchi: I think we’re looking at having a couple of days a week where we’re having people who can speak specific languages. If you look at our health centre right now, the receptionist over there, some of them do speak multiple languages and are able to help at that stage. So if we had someone to sit in at the doctor’s appointment or even the counselling services, because for especially the counselling services there’s no one there at the moment that can help students with what they’re trying to say. And a lot of students do go to counselling with their friends in the hope that their friends are able to translate it, but you need someone who’s able to understand the jargon of it that’s able to help them out in most cases.
Cormac: With the other policies I see you’ve got is a peer-mentoring program to facilitate better integration. Do you want to expand on what the issue is now, and what do you think international students are not getting from their experience at UWA that this policy would fix?
Suchi: The idea of the peer-mentoring thing is that it’s a way for international and domestic students to mingle, but more on a cultural aspect of things not like in terms of tutoring or anything. It’s more for students to understand each others culture. Because when students are flying here, they have to learn to respect the culture over here. But also, we are seeing spouts of racism between the different faculties, be it whether it’s in group work or if you have a different student presenting. We’re seeing these certain spouts of racism targeting certain people from certain countries, and what we want to do with that is we want people to understand each other so they understand the basis right and are able to work together. Right now there are so many barriers and clashes on both sides and that’s something we’re trying to break down. And when we use this peer-mentoring I think we can break it down slowly, I don’t think we can break it down immediately but we’ll work as much as we can to break it down. We understand on an international front there are barriers there and on the domestic front, so we have to work together as international and domestic students to break the barriers down.
Cormac: The most controversial motion of the year was the one that was moved about the Dali Lama. That was moved by two Launch candidates and we’re both international students, and they came forward and said they’d heard from international students who cared about this thing, and then the guild passed it. If this happened again, how would you distinguish between the issues the guild needs to be concerned with and ones that it needs to park for political purposes.
Suchi: We have dealt with something like that as the ISS this year and one of the biggest takes it that even though we are all from different backgrounds in the one committee, we all took the stand that it we respect the way everyone looks at different things. So if we think that something we post might be controversial and might hurt the feelings or views of a particular group of people at university, we won’t post about it. But at the same time, we’re very supportive of the different students from different cultures, especially in the case of things like the Dali Lama thing. It’s something really sensitive that you have to think about because you don’t know who you’re gonna offend. We try not to be political because we’re international students, we’re all here to get our degree, we’re all here for high quality education.
Cormac: So you would want to stray away from those things or consult a bit wider…?
Suchi: We definitely would look to consult all the different groups of students. You have several different groups of students at the university who follow different religions. So you’d consult them, speak to them, that’s what we’d go by before we actually go forth in something
Corm: You yourself have obviously been quite involved in student life at UWA, and a lot of international students might not necessarily have that experience, that might hang out with students from their home country and not really integrate in with campus culture. How do you think we can get international students more involved with campus culture?
Suchi: I think it starts from domestic students reaching out to international students. We’ve realised that if there’s an event with a lot of domestic students at it, international students tend to stray away from it, because they’re really afraid of judgement and if there’s alcohol involved they’re not sure of what their limit is and what’s going to happen. We’ve also realised there is an issue with timing of events, because a lot of events are run at night, a lot of students fear for their safety of getting home. It’s been raised with us a lot that it’d be good if events could be raised from 5 – 8.30 so there’s ample time for students to take public transport and get home if they’re not at one of the colleges. The current ISS committee has been running events during the day so we can account for all students coming down and being able to interact because interactions aren’t just with other international students but with multicultural societies that we are working in collaboration with. And I think it’s really important on a domestic student front that if multicultural students and clubs can actually step up to help these students by integrating them into events. And through events like sports or even a multi-cultural event that brings international students down.
Cormac: Voting’s next week, what’s the one thing people should take away from this?
Suchi: I think the main people should take away is that I’m not political in anyway, what I want do to is give back to UWA for all the help I got at uni, help students from what I’ve learnt and also help them to help the wider population. That’s how I see it. It’s not like a short term or long term thing. I want to be able to help people from wherever they’re from, whether their domestic or international, that’s the reason why Launch appealed to me so much because they have looked at that aspect of it. Representing all students on campus, reaching out to all students and what they have to say. That representation is really important. It’s really important for students to know that we do care about you and are willing to listen and will take the time and act on it.