practise Chinese community Nottingham2By Feng Gao.

As an international student from China who has stayed in Great Britain for many years, I have substantial experience in either observation or personal involvement regarding the integration of local Chinese into the mainstream society. The increasing number of Chinese internationals students brings a question of how could they integrate with the local community? Integration is a universal dilemma facing every immigrant group on earth. This is particularly true for the Diaspora Chinese who are often called the ‘hidden community’. A small group of scholars and students in the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies (SCCS) at the University of Nottingham explored novel ways for not only understanding, but also doing something to cope with this challenge.

Lead by Dr. Bin Wu, a senior research fellow of SCCS; an exploratory project called ‘Practice of global citizenship in local Chinese community at Nottingham’ has tried to conduct a ‘social experiment’ in Nottingham for the last two years. It involves university staff, voluntary students, local councils and civil society organisations working with all local Chinese groups and the wider community for the integration of the local Chinese community.

One of the outcomes from this project is an event held in the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies (SCCS) on the 17th of January 2013. Titled ‘SCCS Community Building’, this event attracted around 50 people, including SCCS staff and students and representatives from local councils (Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire County and Broxtowe Borough), civil society organisations and local Chinese community organisations. Most striking to me was that this local community event consisted of many diverse participants. In past local Chinese community issues meetings the participants have been fairly homogenous groups: students only or businesspeople without the involvement of other stakeholders. Mr Richard Lea from Broxtowe Borough Council reminded the attendees that the Chinese community is one of the largest minority groups in the borough, yet it is also a diverse group of which any simple assumptions would be arbitrary.

The biggest issue facing the Chinese community is a lack of communication between different community groups which impedes communication and mutual understanding. For Chinese international students social isolation from the local community is the root cause of many issues they face. These include mental health problems, learning difficulties, communication barriers as well as vulnerability to racial and criminal attacks. For example, Chinese students are reluctant to contact the police when they have been a victim of a theft. This has encouraged thieves to target them. Aware of this problem, the local police force has issued warning notices in Mandarin to help students avoid being targeted.

practise Chinese community Nottingham3The forum discussed how student and community integration could be developed. Workable suggestions were to create volunteer opportunities for students in local Chinese community development projects. This would be beneficial to the students for their understanding of the concepts of community development and social cohesion, cross-cultural communication skills, working experience and development of leadership skills. For example, students could use online social media to draw the attention of the wider Chinese student population. It was suggested that the university could organise students to carry out a social survey with the local Chinese community to identity their needs. From my perspective as a student who has a background in sociology, I enjoyed this forum immensely. It provided a bridge between theory and social practice; and between the university and local communities. Both functions, in my view, are vital for the students’ development.

Feng Gao is a PhD candidate in the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors

Comments

  1. Looks like there’s lots of attention on how to integrate and building of opportunities to integrate. Are there any programs that will enhance the will for these Chinese students to integrate. Do they even want to integrate ? When they are asked, they may even say yes. But do they really ?

  2. “mental health problems, learning difficulties, communication barriers as well as vulnerability to racial and criminal attacks”, these are main concerns of all chinese students as well as their parents in China.

    As the constant growing chinese students in the UK, such issues need to be drawn attention in oder to successfully complete their overseas study. “This would be beneficial to the students for their understanding of the concepts of community development and social cohesion, cross-cultural communication skills, working experience and development of leadership skills”, which apparently are part of high education objectives.

    In fact, enabling students to integrate into community should be part of study since that is one of reasons why overseas study are keen to seek for further study overseas.

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