The end of summer has rolled around I’ve suddenly found myself catapulted from the long days and organised chaos of Welcome Week with the ISAS office back in to the world of highlighters, note taking and juggling university work, society commitments with The Linguist magazine, volunteering shifts with Fierce Festival and rehearsals at the Crescent Theatre.
My last few weeks as International Welcome Project Intern flew by as I made the last preparations for the new international student community to descend upon the Edgbaston Campus. The logistics of organising events for large and often unpredictable numbers was something I hadn’t anticipated, and work on the airport collection registers didn’t really come to an end until we were on the 6am coach to Heathrow to get Saturday’s arrivals. There were also practical aspects to consider. For example, how many bottles of water do two people need to carry across campus in order for all students on all coaches – over 400 people who had already had long journeys – to feel comfortable. Enough to break a very considerable sweat, as it transpires. That said, while driving down the M40 on the Sunday evening I realised how important the twenty eight hour weekend and the tops that needed to go straight in to the wash were. I realised that I (and the ten temporary staff helping over Arrivals Weekend) had been entrusted with the first impression of the UK and the University of Birmingham for 450 students who had worked hard and striven to come and study with us, and that is both a huge responsibility and a huge privilege.
Other than the airport meet and greet service, I was also responsible for organising the Evening Welcome Reception and the Afternoon Cream Tea events. I thoroughly enjoyed liaising with former international students regarding the speeches they would make at the evenings, encouraging them to share their memories and the hurdles they overcame to make the most of their time here, and to encourage the new students to do the same. I also developed my desktop publishing skills, using Lucidpress to create high quality, professional posters to promote these events. The fluctuating numbers for the Cream Tea events meant I had to be in regular contact with catering teams to ensure the final events would run smoothly, and I used my contacts as a student to ensure a presence from home students and society members. Creating and running the ISAS stand for the Welcome Marquee, particularly on International Day allowed me to stretch my creativity yet further. I designed photo scavenger hunts, set up an international themed photo shoot complete with photographer and props, and created a map of UoB’s international presence as students and staff alike attached memories, hopes and messages to the relevant nations across the globe. Being in a position to discuss these cherished memories with people I had never met before was really lovely and made me proud of both the University, and the role I have played in the arrival of this year’s international cohort.
(One of many great photos captured during the photoshoot I organised for International Day)
Due to a member of the office leaving and another being on paternity leave, I found my role expanded over the last few weeks and this was a real test of my time management and organisation skills. I feel that this experience helped me to develop the way I handle stressful situations, and I’m pleased to say I kept a level head throughout. I have come away from my summer working for the University of Birmingham with a greater appreciation for the demands of employment and, without repeating the things I discussed in my first blog, a whole host of transferable skills that will stand me in great stead for a future in any industry. I also leave with a wonderful group of friends and former colleagues who I will be meeting for lunch later this week!