Today’s Star columnist: Samantha Jane Logan

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Recently there has been lots of negative press in the media about international students coming to the UK, especially in the run-up to the elections.

Students at Sheffield Hallam University would like to see some positive news stories which highlight the fantastic initiatives taking place in Sheffield which celebrate cultural diversity and create harmony in our community.

We are proud to be part of a diverse student population, which includes 4,000 international students, from 120 countries at Sheffield Hallam. It is the perfect place to meet friends from around the world and challenge negative stereotypes created by the media.

I study MSc Coaching and Mentoring and I did some volunteer work mentoring international students from Hong Kong, Malaysia, China, India and Vietnam, in order to help them settle into university life and make friends.

I enjoyed helping them adapt to British culture, as well as learning about their home countries and cultural traditions. It helped me see my own culture with fresh eyes and become more open to new perspectives.

I wanted to help more students, so I designed a cross-cultural mentoring scheme called Culture Connect, using my volunteer work, university coursework and job role at International Student Support. Currently, there are 140 members from 34 countries. Belonging to International Student Support’s SHU GoGlobal campaign, it is one of many exciting extracurricular projects that encourages students to have a global outlook.

Students get to know someone from a different country, through one-to-one mentoring. They get a learning set of different nationalities which enables them to gain a range of perspectives and develop their cultural awareness.

The scheme overcomes cultural stereotypes in a safe environment, encouraging positive relationships. Monthly training prepares members to work in diverse organisations.

When one of our Nigerian student mentees first came to the UK, he was nervous, thinking British people were uncomfortable with international students.

After joining the scheme, he has met many friends and changed his mind.

He says Sheffield is a very friendly city and this change in attitude has helped him to get a job.

Regular fun social activities open to all students, organised by Global Community (a Students’ Union Society) provides further opportunities for them to practise their informal language skills and grow their support network.

SHU Fest, a huge student festival from March 2–8 will be open to the public.