HELLO, bonjour, hola...
Welcome to the United Nations of Sheffield.
The Steel City might, internationally speaking, be something of a small South Yorkshire settlement – but it seems our hill-surrounded village is something of a hit with youngsters from around the world.
For a Star investigation has found 150 of the world’s 193 countries recognised by the UN are represented among the city’s students.
And that means, excluding London, it is thought to be the city with the most diverse student population in England.
More than 6,000 young scholars are enrolled at the original university while 4,250 study at Hallam. Together, it is estimated they pump in excess of £150 million into the local economy each year.
“Of course the city is popular,” says Krissy Meyer, international students officer at Sheffield University, and herself from Germany. “Sheffield University has an excellent international reputation and courses you can’t do anywhere else.
“But the city itself is a huge draw. Its reputation for being friendly, green and vibrant is a big thing. They were big things to me when I came here.”
But if Sheffield is good for the students there can be little doubt the students are good for Sheffield too.
Apart from that economic boost, there are cultural, educational and civic benefits with the incomers simultaneously importing their traditions – Chinese New Year, Diwali and Sheffield University’s annual International Food Festival, for example – while exporting the city’s name to other parts of the globe. Staff at Sheffield Scene shop, in Surrey Street, reckon much of the Christmas trade is made of overseas scholars sending Made In Sheffield gifts back home.
“They play an important role in adding to the city’s dynamic environment,” says Professor Rebecca Hughes, pro vice-chancellor for international students at Sheffield University. “They also bring a wealth of talent, knowledge and skills to the city and help boost the regional economy.”
“We are proud to be an international university,” adds Professor Cliff Allan, deputy vice-chancellor at Sheffield Hallam. “It benefits all of our students who will experience an increasingly globalised workplace when they graduate. Our international students bring their culture to the city, and they help to broaden the horizons of everyone here.”
The countries represented at Sheffield’s universities are: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burma, Cameroon, Cambodia, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, East Timor, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, French West Indies, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, North Korea, South Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldive Islands, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan
Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Sao Tome & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yeman, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
GALATI, in eastern Romania, is in many ways similar to Sheffield.
A large post-industrial city, home to several steel works, it experienced a sharp decline in the 1980s.
But the differences, as Alex notes, are huge too.
“You have parks over here,” says the 21-year-old who arrived in 2009 to study accounting at Sheffield University. “Back home there’s hardly any greenery. There are parks but you don’t want to go. I remember being amazed the first time I saw a squirrel,” says the Solly Street based youngster.
Favourite thing? The squirrels, it seems.
Worst? The weather: “It’s so unpredictable.”
WHY come to Sheffield? Because it’s the centre of the world, says Gomolemo, from Botswana.
The mechatronics student considered moving to New York where his sister lives but chose the UK “because it’s in the middle - you can travel everywhere from here.”
He picked Sheffield University three years ago.
“Meeting people is important to me,” says the 24-year-old. “Not just students but people from Sheffield too.”
Favourite thing? The people. We’re friendly.
Worst? The city centre is kind of small. “I remember the first time I walked round, I was thinking ‘Where’s the rest of it?’”
NICOLA misses the sea breeze more than anything.
“It’s weird being so far inland,” says the 19-year-old from Perth, Australia. But that doesn’t mean the Sheffield University urban planning student isn’t delighted with the Steel City.
“For someone like me who’s really into architecture, Sheffield is amazing,” she says. “In Perth it’s just sprawl then skyscrapers but here the buildings are so quaint. I love them.”
She’s been living in Endcliffe just six weeks as part of a year abroad.
Favourite thing? The buildings.
Worst? Being the UK’s most land-locked city isn’t ideal for a beach girl.
HERE’S a turn up – an overseas student who likes the English weather.
“It’s too hot back home,” says Layla Chen from Xiamen, China. “Here’s just right.”
The 21-year-old has been in Sheffield two years studying broadcast journalism at Hallam University.
“I love the food here,” she says. “I like cooking. I’ve been learning how to make English breakfasts, pies, all kinds of English food. I eat a mix of that and Chinese.”
Favourite thing? The food. “Shepherds pie is probably my favourite.”
Worst? She doesn’t want to say – “I’m Chinese, I’m too polite.”
AMERICAN Chella Quint first visited Sheffield almost 20 years ago to meet a South Yorkshire pen pal - and she’s loved the place ever since.
“I remember her grandparents gave us £5 each to spend at Castle Market,” says the 34-year-old New Yorker.
“And I just thought it was so kind. I think it sums Sheffield up.”
Now the Hallam University education student has been here 11 years and reckons Heeley is home.
Favourite thing? Chella’s American – she’s enthusiastic about everything...
Worst? The expensive flights home. “They kill me,” she says.
FOR Renata Brandao, being in Sheffield feels a little like recharging her batteries.
“I’ve been in London for three years,” says the 24-year-old from Sao Paulo, Brazil. “And there you constantly feel like you’re on the go. It sucks your energy. But Sheffield is such a beautiful city and there’s so much greenery, it’s relaxing living here.”
The Sheffield University global journalism student has been here six weeks “because the course here is perfect,” she says.
Favourite thing? “You know what I love? All the stone buildings. We don’t have those in Brazil.”
Worst? “Is it a cliche to say the weather?”