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Tom Burgess from SCAN interviewed Yu Hong Hoh, the new International Students VP.
How have you been over lockdown, have you learnt any new skills?
I have been baking more, I have made a bunch of cakes and cookies.
What made you run for the role of International Officer?
When the first round of the election came around nobody ran for the role, I was actually very prepared to vote for whoever was there but no one took it up. My plan for the next year fell through so I thought I would try.
For those who do not follow student politics, what does your role involve?
Basically, my role is welfare orientated for international students and to give them a voice in the Students Union. It is very similar to other PTO roles as there is overlap. Someone needs to give an international perspective on things.
What are your main aims in the coming year?
Due to Covid-19, the main concern for international students is getting back to university. Being able to address the concerns of international students about returning to Lancaster is really important- I aim to be approachable and improve the experience of international students next year.
In your manifesto, you mention holding events that will engage the international community including ‘International Friendship Day’. Could you tell us what this event would involve and any other events you have in mind?
The actual ‘International Friendship Day’ is in summer but we can do our own version of it in Lancaster. Let international and local students have more interaction to bypass the segregation that we see on campus. Events to help mingling and the creation of new friends. The main goal of international students going to the UK to study is to make friends with people in the UK and learn about culture. Possible future events could be ASEAN days or European Union Days to let people learn about the different countries in the unions. We can work with different societies to create these events- ASEAN first as I come from Singapore one of those countries in the group.
In the events you organise, such as the ASEAN one, how are you going to facilitate the expression of the different cultures?
In Malaysian society, there is a good precedent for events which can lay the foundation for an ASEAN night including performers with invitations for all. Focus on mingling although that might be harder with Covid-19. Stands are boring as you have to go and talk to people and sometimes you are not interested. A night focused on having fun would be better.
Are you planning any campaigns to promote your plan to have international student voices be heard more on campus? How are you going to get the international voice heard more?
My focus is to build up the base for us. Interact with the international student body first to understand them first. Try to reach out to them by using a forum which didn’t exist before. I’m trying to start a forum or group where people can actually come together and talk about it.
Has Covid-19 affected your plans going into the new year?
My plan was based on Covid-19, in a sense, because my election was in the summer term when Covid-19 was happening. The focus was on the welfare of international students already and issues with going home and coming back.
Are you concerned about the number of international students falling due to the UK’ handling of the Covid-19 crisis?
Yeah, some of my international friends are considering deferring a year or even transferring to a different university. I’ve had an agent when I came to university and I talked to her a few months ago to see if many undergraduates would be coming. She said that not many new undergraduates are applying to come to the UK. The number will drop but the UK is not as bad as the US. Not many returning students are not as worried as new students. My local friends in Singapore are asking should I even go to university is it worth it. These are questions a lot of young people will be asking themselves. I do worry about the number of international students coming to Lancaster as it is a smaller city but we should be safer than bigger cities like London and Manchester.
International students have to pay more to come to Lancaster University, as you know. Do you think fees should be reduced for international students if a significant proportion of teaching is online?
Reducing university fees is an overall issue. I understand why international students had to pay more. This is understandable as the government wants to help local students. When we decide that we want to go overseas we already understand that we will have to pay more to get the education in another country. The fee is not balanced when most of the teaching is electronic. I think that the fee should be lowered for all, including local students. The percentage difference can still be the same- 50% more for international students but lowered overall.
The recent disqualification of the RON campaign in the Presidential election was controversial. What do you think about this?
It was weird because in my culture people are not that vocal about this sort of thing. When you talk about these things it is not that extreme, so when I first heard about it I was pretty confused. I sat watching all the debates on all the different platforms and it got kind of out of hand at the end. I have not much to comment about it and it’s new- a group of students who have a lot of opinions about it. I understand why people are angry that RON was disqualified but I also see why the SU is dealing with it- even if it is a bit messy.
What have you missed most about university?
Independence. Staying with my parents means everything is in their control. The whole environment of being alone and going out with friends is really chill- that’s what I miss most about university. I do miss my friends a lot as many of them are from different countries. I just miss the whole environment in Lancaster.
What’s the first thing you will do when you get back on campus?
I just want to start random cooking again, all those random foods and experimenting in the kitchen. Cooking with my friends and music at night. We always used to cook together- I would really like to do that with them again.
Finally, the last question: Which is better Sultans/ Ketcap?
Hmmm, I like both. I think Sultans has more variety- their lamp chop is very good. They are the best and I miss their food too. I will go to them when I come back.