Each new edition of SEB, we’ll shine a light on a different aspect of the Student Education community at Leeds. This edition sees the University’s first ever International Officer, Franks Feng, take his turn in the Bulletin’s Q&A hotseat.
The International Officer post is new to the University, can you outline what the role will entail?
Hello. I’m excited to tell you more about myself and I look forward to working with many of you in the coming months, discussing issues faced by international students and their academic life, based on their feedback.
I will represent the student voice as the first-ever International Student Executive Officer at Leeds University Union (LUU), it is my duty to build up a foundation and long-time project for this wonderful role, working closely with other student executive officers as well as feeding in international students’ perspectives.
What do you hope to achieve in your tenure and what do you think will be the most challenging parts of your role?
As part of the my role, I hope to amplify the voice of all international students; ensure more international students participate in LUU activities and events; also, to understand the difficulties international students face, and, help overcome them; and to promote a culture of sharing and exchange.
Covid-19 is out of my control, but it still provides a huge challenge for me, especially given as my role will involve speaking with lots of students and organising student events for different groups to get involved.
However, I am not working alone, I work closely with other officers and we all support each other.
During my first few months of working in my new role, I am already starting to understand the structure of the University better, whereas in the past, it was easy to complain that the University didn’t make things change fast enough.
I now understand that successful change needs to be based on research and on the University’s operation, and the resources available. I can’t achieve anything without the other departments.
As a consequence, it will be another challenge for me in terms of internal communications skills: how can I make sure that I talk to the right people? How do I keep in touch with them so we can build together, keep track, and follow up meetings and action plans, instead of leaving them in my notebook.
Another big part of my role is to tackle any racial abuse and discrimination on campus suffered by students. I will talk with students and staff to better understand the situation, and will work closely with other officers to ensure the University can follow up with policy and actions.
I’ll also feed into campaigns about anti-racism in order to educate all students to create a real inclusive community, to work towards creating an inclusive community of students, who all enjoy their campus experience.
Which parts are you most looking forward to?
As the first International Officer, I will focus more on long-term projects, and make sure I meet as many students and staff as I can, to make sure the long-term cooperation will keep going, because I will only take this role for a year.
In my opinion, within the University, freedom of thought is one of the key things that student should learn on campus.
University should not focus too much on telling students what they are supposed to learn. Rather, how to think critically and develop new things based on the knowledge by previous scholars, in order to push forward the human world, I feel this is how we should encourage our students to challenge themselves.
I look forward to working with LITE, the Language Centre, and other academic and research-based institutions, with the aim of bringing the international student perspective into the University’s future strategy.
Our University already achieves a high standard for student experience compared with other universities in UK. I want to contribute more on international academic research and reduce achievement gap among all student groups, which includes the decolonising curriculum work. I believe that the background of students should never decide the dream they want to achieve on campus.
Although my objective this year will cover a diverse area, I prefer to achieve less targets perfectly, rather than join different project but achieve none of them.
Even though Covid may affect our work, I hope in the next year, if everything is back to normal, when the new International Officer takes over my role, I can tell them proudly that: ‘Everything is ready for you to go straight forward. Now you can see my whole year plan and how I’ve delivered it.’.
Tell us about yourself outside your role, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Besides my work I have lots of things to do. I have joined over six societies and experienced lots of great moments.
For example, I worked as a cameraman during the 2019 General Election overnight live news with Leeds Student Television.
I report on international student news for The Gryphon newspaper and Leeds student radio. I was also the president of filmmaking society, and joined the table tennis society for weekly exercise. Through this society I gained lots of helpful work experience and got an internship in Reuters London.
I also love taking photos when I travel to other countries during Christmas, and cook delicious Chinese foods as cultural food exchange with my international friends. I love culture sharing and helping under-represented students.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I want to work in the media industry. I will be so happy if I can be a journalist, reporting issues faced by minority group and help the public understand the issues.
I also hope my journey this year can bring me more ideas for research during my final year study, with more global perspectives.
It is always a pleasure to share cultural knowledge with everyone I meet and educate others to have an international perspective. However, my future all depends on what I am going to achieve this year, and I am confident that I can learn a lot.