Integration of International Students at UCD

DUBBED ‘Ireland’s global university’, UCD is home to over 6,000 international students from over 120 countries. These students have left home to study here and need to feel like they are a part of the university.But, are there enough supports in place for international students? Is UCD culturally diverse? How does UCD help international students to feel welcome and integrated into the UCD community?Ronaldo Lukason, UCD Students’ Union International Students Coordinator is perhaps best positioned to answer these questions. Lukason believes the university “is at an acceptable level of cultural diversity” yet has “a long journey ahead of them in order to achieve the level of cultural diversity which they are earnestly striving for”.The role of international co-ordinator involves fostering links between all organisations representing international students in UCD, liaising with the International Office, and assisting in the organisation and publicity of events to promote cultural diversity within UCD.As Ireland’s Global University, UCD has a Global Engagement Strategy (2016-2020) in place with five objectives. The first of these objectives is to “develop a distinctive global culture which will encompass all aspects of university life”. According to their global engagement strategy this goal involves “ensuring that a global outlook permeates the daily activities of staff, students, faculty and alumni”.The International Office are an integral part of any international student’s transition to UCD. Along with offering support pre-arrival, they also provide information on topics such as accommodation and working in Ireland. International students should make use of the International Office during their time at UCD as doing so can make their lives easier and offer them useful advice.Lukason says “the biggest challenge facing international students is integrating into campus life here in UCD”. He believes it is important that this integration happens quickly so international students are “able to contribute effectively to the wonderful campus atmosphere available here in UCD”.Sharine, a final year finance student from China, has been in UCD for 8 months now. She has found it easy to integrate into life in UCD and credits the people who she says are “are really kind and warm-hearted”.Sharine thinks highly of UCD and believes it is culturally diverse. “About 20% [of] UCD students are international students and there are many societies like Chinese, India, and Korean society” she said. She also said that each semester there are new comers from other countries that are always interesting to talk to.Lukason’s role in linking organisations is important as he is the go-between of the International Office, the students’ union and the societies. He believes the best way to increase cultural diversity at UCD is through the clubs and societies as they unite people based on their interests.Lukason thinks more collaboration between the larger societies, such as L&H and C&E, and those populated mainly by international students would lead to increased integration and cultural diversity.These larger societies have great reach throughout the university thanks to their mailing lists and popular Facebook pages. Lukason doesn’t have this kind of reach as it “would require access to information far beyond [his] capacity”.In the past UCD have made impressive steps towards cultural diversity and integration. It was the first university in Europe to open a Global Lounge which acts as a meeting place for international and local students. International academics also make up 35% of UCD’s faculty.Looking forward, Lukason also works with the ethnic diversity and inclusion sub-group who are “currently thinking of new ways to try and improve the integration of International students in UCD”.[br]Sharine’s name was changed per her request.