A student’s sense of belonging at their institution is influenced by a number of factors, including how welcomed, valued, and included they feel in their community, both physically and metaphorically. The sense of togetherness that a student has on university has been shown to affect their level of motivation, persistence, and overall degree completion achievement, and students who lack this sense of belonging frequently experience loneliness, isolation, and poor academic performance.
International students face a variety of difficulties that domestic students do not when it comes to the adjustment and growth of a culture in their new university world, in addition to social and political stressors. When students arrive, they are confronted with a lack of common identity from their home countries, both culturally and linguistically, which adds to the transitional strain that every student bears.
The creation of a sense of belonging is said to be facilitated by interaction and involvement with the broader university community through student activities and organisations. When the activities offered to a student are not culturally relevant, however, international students’ engagement levels are often low.
To this extent, in order to foster international students’ sense of belonging to the university, city community and territory, we thought about focusing on cultural and social aspects. We are all aware of the value of gastronomy in Italian culture, and learning about it allows people to feel more integrated into the community and culture. Based on both this concept and the idea of sharing with our students some insights from Veneto cultural habits, we developed a series of Instagram stories presenting typical foods and drinks, that are a must for any curious person willing to get into Veneto gastronomy. The students were enthusiastic and enlightened by the information shared, indicating that it was well received.
On the other hand, as we discuss a sense of belonging to a culture, we should consider the global community as well, because we are all global people, right? It is fantastic to be well-versed in local and regional customs and news, but what about global ones?
We, the Mentorship Team, always claim that we fight to build bridges, and we tried to build bridges and ties with the outside world in this case as well. To this end, we launched the “International Days” campaign, in which we shared educational infographics on globally recognised international days, both related to our domain of concern and not, that commemorate significant aspects of human life and history.
International days are opportunities to raise public awareness about important issues, mobilise political will and resources to solve global issues, and celebrate and affirm humanity’s accomplishments on a global and national scale.
We believe that knowledge is strength, and we love to share it with our students.