IGNITE sat down with Aisha Faruqui, the 2014-15 SA International Students Officer to learn more about her tenure in office.
What motivated you to run for the SA International Student Officer post?
As the former senior vice president of the International Students Bureau (ISB) and last year’s Pakistan Ambassador, I immensely enjoyed my time in the group, where diversity was a fundamental part of it. Owing to the restrictions within the ISB, I couldn’t carry out as much work as I envisioned. This motivated me to run as the International Students Officer, as I viewed it as an effective platform through which I could both execute effective projects and improve existing frameworks.
How would you describe your time as SA International Student Officer?
To perfectly sum up my time as the SA International Students Officer, I would utilise the following words:
In hindsight, the grass was indeed greener looking in and not while part of the SA. It was admittedly hard to liaise with administration, with regards to potential projects I wanted to pursue, as meetings with the administration required a 6-week advance notice, which was usually debilitating when trying to meet project timeframes.
Would you say you have achieved the majority of things you promised in your manifesto last year?
To be brutally honest, I would have to admit, that although I have achieved some of my promises when assuming this role, I have failed in fulfilling the entirety of my manifesto. Owing to both internal and external debilitating factors, I would say that I did not fulfill all my promises.
The visa issue has been the major problem for international students. How did you attempt to alleviate this problem and can students expect the visa situation to improve?
The visa issue was something I personally deal with. While waiting for my own visa situation to be resolved, towards the end of June 2014, I accompanied and assisted the previous contracted visa services provider, when students were required to present themselves at the Immigration Department of Malaysia. In addition, I subsequently assisted the next head of the visa services, while hoping the issue could’ve been resolved by August 2014.
In conjunction, with my assistance, the ISB offered the university visa office help, with regards to all aspects of the process, which unfortunately was denied by the visa office, owing to the lack of time to train students and the process of accountability in case the volunteer students slipped up. The Malaysian ISB ambassador ultimately volunteered at the university enquiry centre, assisting the staff there, which in retrospect was the only fruitful step in alleviating this issue.
In my opinion, the visa situation will hopefully improve in one to two years, as that’s the time it’ll take to fix the visa office.
Based on your experience, what are the problems that are specific to international students (besides the visa issue)?
Besides the visa issue, one major problem most international students have when beginning their student life at UNMC is food.
Most students aren’t eager or comfortable adapting to either the local cuisine or the way food is generally cooked in Malaysia.
They find it different to what they’re obviously used to. Nevertheless, the introduction of both Subway and Secret Recipe, coupled with an improvement in Sodexo services is partially alleviating this issue.
Can you tell us more about the proposed TEDx UNMC that was eventually scrapped?
The TEDx Conference idea was proposed by the SA Home Officer, which oversees the SA Welfare Network with me. While the Network met regularly to discuss and plan out the proposed conference, the underlying issue that ultimately led to the idea being scrapped was the fact that the University did not possess a TEDx license.
While a previous Association Officer had procured the license, the SA management had unfortunately misplaced it.
That would would make carrying out the conference difficult, as acquiring a new license was beyond our budgetary means.
How can your Squad Initiative be better coordinated with the various UNMC offices (accommodation, transport, food, health, security)?
The Squad Initiative allows incoming International Students to be approached and assisted by their respective ambassadors and student volunteers, who help them settle in to campus life. This Squad Initiative gets a lot of cooperative assistance from the various UNMC offices, with the International Office and the Student Registry undoubtedly the most cooperative.
However regrettably, both the Accommodation and Security Office need to be more welcoming and a little more cooperative.
Ultimately though, the Squad Initiative is both effective and efficient.
What exactly does the International Student Bureau (ISB) do, and how can it be more effective?
The International Students Bureau (ISB) is an organisation comprised of representatives from each country present on campus, who collaborate on raising cultural awareness amongst the student populace at UNMC and ultimately help promote diversity throughout our student community. Although the ISB has proven to be a successful enterprise, there is always room for improvement. The ISB can probably be more effective via greater representation amongst it and through possible collaborations with specific societies in order to portray its message more effectively.
What has been the toughest part of your job so far?
Undoubtedly the toughest part of my tenure as the International Students Officer has been to placate the multiple visa issues prevalent amongst the student community.
Any advice for candidates running for this year’s SA International Student Officer, and anything specific you’d like to see from the candidates?
I would like to advise all candidates for the International Student Officer post to do their due diligence.
Introduce yourself to the various heads of the administration wings. This undoubtedly helps when liaising with these respective management heads on numerous issues.
Be prepared and ready to give it your all during your tenure, if and when you ultimately get elected. My time as International Students Officer was busy and hectic, yet in retrospect totally worth the ride, hope it will be the same for you. Good Luck!!
By Azfar Mustafa and Amashi Marisa de Mel
EDITOR’S NOTE: UNMC, what do you think of our SA International Students Officer? Do you have any burning questions? Contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!