Candidate Nurken Begali is running for the position of International Officer, and couldn’t be more optimistic about the potential to represent international students on campus, meeting the role with the idea of more opportunities than problems for international students.
The International Students Officer acts as the representative voice of international students studying at the university, and advocates for specific issues pertaining to international students – a port of call for many international students if they have an issue. They are responsible for liaising with a multitude of international societies, clubs, and students, and propose initiatives to assist with issues pertaining to unique issues international students face.
Nurken is a Kazakh business finance third year student with an unconventional trajectory that he believes assists greatly with his candidacy chances. Despite his third year status, this is technically his first year at university on campus properly. Having went into second year at the INTO programme affiliated with Stirling University, he has a close relationship with international students and the process that many international students go through at the university, and hopes to share the positive experiences he has had as international student at Stirling with others, empowering them to have a strong voice and illustrating that while there are definitely problems, there are many positive opportunities for international students.
Nurken told Brig: “Obviously the role is about amplifying the voices of international students and raising awareness of problems, but I want to focus on the potential opportunities for students on an international level, with increased cultural exchange and more engagement with what could be offered.
“I want to focus on the potential of students, and how we can come together to achieve greater goals. And I also want to focus on employment opportunities and increasing skills etc.
“I don’t think many students are aware of some of the things already on offer, and while work has still to be gotten on with, I want to spread as much of these opportunities around and increase engagement.
However, representation needs to be increased, according to Nurken, particularly with regards towards the idea of isolation. Even the INTO building feels sequestered away, he feels.
“So I was in INTO at Stirling in my second year, and before that was attending school. There seems to me to be a bit of a barrier with INTO as a separate entity, it’s kind of a different organisation altogether. There is a lot of diversity at INTO, and they do great work, but there seems to be a disconnect between the building and the rest of the campus in a way.”
As a four-time module representative, Nurken has direct experience with representing students voices, both national and international. This is something he wants to emphasise, that while his role is directly representing international students voices and concerns, that home-grown students are not factored into the equation – quite the opposite.
He said: “What I love more than anything is communicating with those from all over the world, the diverse cultures and backgrounds. That’s what I love to do.”
When asked if he saw perceived a divide between international and national students, or barriers socially, he perceives these barriers to be exaggerated, if not breakable.
“I don’t see a divide between national and international students per say as a big problem; many of my friends are Scottish here, and I have so many connections with various nationalities of students, like so many of us do.
“There are issues affecting international students that aren’t affecting national students in the same way, but I don’t perceive there to be a problematic divide at Stirling on the whole, it’s pretty dependent on who you are as a person with regards to your social circle and plenty of people intermingle. However, many students do not, and better opportunities and representation are needed. Hopefully through increased effort and engagement from the many international students I know and work with closely I can help to bring people together, get people integrating more, and being that person that so many international students already interact with about issues.”
“I feel as though I’ve unofficially been doing a position as student ambassador for international students for a while now.”
Community and Trust
Nurken elaborates on the need for more student engagement, saying: “It seems to me that when you look at it, when you talk about participation in these clubs, you see the same people, the same faces. Not everyone is outgoing regardless of being an international or national student, and it’s about finding ways to encourage participation from the faces you don’t see.
“I’m outgoing in that regard much more.
“Some people just need a little push! A small one, definitely not a big one! But we do need to push people who are not engaging who might have issues or problems or motions to raise and feel isolated from that process where we should all be involved. It’s OUR student union.”
Encouragement is a high priority on Nurken’s list, with a strong belief that his friendships, ties, and connections with international students more than equip him for the role, as trust is so important when representation is concerned.
“Many people who vote for me may do so to see a friendly face and because they know me already. In many cases it can be a case of wanting to have someone you trust just having a place on the student union.”
Work outside of the University and within
Nurken is currently a Student Ambassador, Module Representative, and is part of the organisations LEEP and SMIF.
“LEEP is an entrepreneurial society, and SMIF is a student managed investment fund so obviously as a finance student, my head is on the budget and have plenty of experience with the actual numbers when it comes to experience within organisations.”
“Mainly both societies have guest lecturers and common-minded individuals, much like I am working with many others to foster in our student international community!”
“One of my main concerns is that students are not always aware or using things that would benefit them, and increased awareness of various societal and university assets is imperative for students to have the best experience they can. The best opportunities.”
More Cultural Exchange
Brig asked Nurken about his manifesto policy regarding roughly 50 international students and 50 domestic students engaging in a cultural exchange. With a smile, he acknowledges his resources may only stretch so far in his capacity if elected; but this won’t stop him going elsewhere.
“Obviously there’s only so much we can do with the funding and remit we have, but my connections to external organisations would compel me to push and push. Someone has to do this, and I’m proud to be running, but it is a job that is ultimately entirely necessary to represent those voices, and to showcase the wonderful opportunities we have for our international (and national) students while acknowledging the links yet to be forged, the barriers yet to be broken down, and the issues international students face.”
“To be perfectly honest, I want to think about the exact way I might go about this when I am aware of all the resources I may have access to, what I’m allowed to do, and what other external organisations can help us with!”
You can read Nurken’s full manifesto at our link here, and please remember to cast your vote!
Featured Image Credit: Nurken Begali