As Malaysian Law graduate Woan Chiun (Joe) Ng takes over the role of Students' Union Vice-President for International Students at the University of Leicester, UK, she is aware that she is the latest in a distinguished tradition.
The University of Leicester is one of very few UK universities to appoint a full-time sabbatical officer whose sole responsibility is for international students. Her predecessors have been leading Leicester students from across the world, including last year Noelle Njeru, a medical student from Kenya.
Joe graduated in July 2000 with the degree of LLB from the Leicester Department of Law - cited among the top ten in the country for graduate recruitment by leading law firms throughout the nation. When she arrived three years ago as a new undergraduate it was her first visit to England, but she felt welcome right from the start. "I was impressed with the University of Leicester, especially as I began to get involved with the student societies. I quickly came to realise that the University is one of the few that actually does things to care for its international students.
"I also like the compact campus, and I tell students that everything is so centralised. You don't have to walk miles to lectures or to the library. The shops and services here were so friendly and patient with new international students."
During the last academic year she took a leading role in the Leicester International Students' Association (ISA), an organisation of which she feels proud. "I know international students are here to study, but most of us also love to travel and see more of this country. The ISA organises trips that allow students to relax away from their studies. We keep costs low and aim just to break even.
"The locals think we are mad, but for many of us it is exciting to stay in a country that has four seasons. For instance this year we spent Hogmanay [New Year] near Ben Nevis in Scotland. It was wonderful to see all that snow."
During her year in office, Joe will work closely with the International Welfare Officer and with the University's International Office. Its Director, Mr Tony Pearson, said: "The fact that the University is so unusual in appointing a Vice-President (International) reflects how seriously we take the well-being of our international students. We benefit enormously from having one of our students in this role. One of Joe's first responsibilities will be to help us organise the free airport bus which the University operates for new students arriving in the UK."
As a new Vice-President for International Students, her immediate objective is simply to make her presence known to the new students who will shortly be coming to the University for the first time. "I understand how international students feel under pressure when they first arrive, especially those who come on their own. When you come in a bigger group from your country you have each other for support. I want to be of service to the international students. I want them to know I am here to help them."
Note to editors: Further information is available from Joe Ng, Vice-President for International Students, Students' Union, University of Leicester, telephone +44 (0)116 223 1127, facsimile +44 (0)116 223 1112, email email@example.com.
A photograph of Joe Ng is available via the University of Leicester Press Office.
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