We all know about the link between food and wellbeing, but the second in our series focuses on the role food plays in supporting international students to transition to life in the UK.
'Having familiar foods helps settle you in and combat homesickness, while trying local foods is part of the experience of being here.'
The University of Reading created a food induction toolkit to improve the wellbeing of international students, having recognised that further support could be provided to support transition into university life.
The team engaged international students and staff to explore key challenges for international students in relation to food, and discovered the most useful materials to help them settle in to studying in the UK. They did this through a variety of methods; an online survey, food chat sessions, focus groups and competitions. Their initial survey found that 95% of respondents (students already in the UK) feel that food is important to the transition experience of international students.
Following students’ feedback, the team created a wealth of materials for international students which strongly reflected the concerns and interests raised. The toolkit features information about shopping, UK cuisine and restaurants (including a separate listing of Halal restaurants). The project is ongoing and is welcoming further suggestions and questions from students. It will be a sustainable resource that can be accessed by all students at the University of Reading and other institutions.
The University aims to attract further input from a wider range of students, both home and international, and enhance the ways in which we celebrate cultural and culinary diversity.
One student questionnaire respondent reiterated the importance of food in relation to belonging and transition:
'I always believe that food draws people together. By being able to appreciate food, we can easily create a community.'
The University of Reading will be sharing their insights at our London Members’ Seminar on 13 February. See the full programme and book your place.
View the full blog blogs.reading.ac. uk/international-student-food-project and see the full report which includes learning points to implement a similar project in your own institution at ukcisa.org.uk/wellbeing