As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we explore Bangor University’s mindfulness project for international students.
Having found that fewer international students than home students were taking part in their Mindfulness sessions, Bangor University set out to create a course tailored for international students.
What was involved?
The project was promoted through the international office as well as through the counselling department, enabling more international students to be made aware of the course.
Changes were made to Bangor’s Mindfulness Scheme to make it more accessible for international students. For example the delivery was adapted to avoid working in pairs and was replaced with small group work which students found less nerve-wracking.
The project consisted of eight weekly afternoon sessions of two hours exploring different mindlfulness techniques and also required participants to undertake a daily home practice of 30-60 minutes.
The team held an orientation session at the start which acted as an opportunity for prospective participants to get an idea of what the course involves, the demands of attending, the potential benefits and to meet other group members. They also have an opportunity to experience the approach. The session involved a short meditation followed by a an opportunity to ask questions. This helps students to make an informed decision about their participation and reduces drop-out rates.
What were the outcomes?
In qualitative feedback 100% of participants rated the overall course as "good" or "very good". The feedback indicated that participants derived many different benefits from the course. They learnt skills which enhanced their personal development and capacity to manage stress and difficulty. One participant explained:
‘I have learnt strategies to cope with everyday stress, identify triggers and acknowledge them but not react’.
From observation it was also clear that friendships and cross-cultural relationships developed among the participants in both groups. Both groups formed supportive communities where participants felt safe, free to be themselves and were able to understand and support each other. Of those who completed the course, 69% showed improvement in levels of functioning and wellbeing.
Recommendations to run a similar course in your institution
The team suggest the following steps:
- Appropriate recruitment and, if need be, assessment and selection of group members, as well as an orientation meeting before the group commences
- Securing an appropriate venue for the duration of the course. MBSR courses are best taught in a large room (some meditations are lying down) with moveable furniture and a carpet. It needs to be private, and quiet is helpful but not essential
- Access to yoga mats, cushions, meditation stools and blankets enhance the experience but are not essential.
- Securing the support and assistance of your institution’s International Office staff at each step of the process, particularly in promotion and recruitment of the course.
Read the full report and download resources Bangor created and used to promote the course at www.ukcisa.org.uk/Bangor