Safety challenges for international students addressed at UL forum

Numerous international students encounter security threats and racial discrimination.

The Forum on the Health and Safety of International Students took place on Wednesday, November 29, at Eden Restaurant in the University of Limerick.

Faced with the recent security threats multiple international students encountered, UL Global organised this event, aiming to provide support and training measures for foreign students.

Shuaiqing Jia, a Chinese student residing on Rhebogue Road, is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in nursing at UL. Within just three months of her life in Ireland, she has already encountered several safety incidents.

“When I arrived in Limerick in September, I bought an electric scooter for commuting. At that time, I went to stables for a meal and locked it in the bike shed. When I finished my meal and came out, only the lock was there, and my scooter was gone.”

“So, I bought a new one. Last week, on my way back from campus, three teens in a horse-drawn carriage yelled, ‘Give me the scooter bitch!’ They even came over and tried to snatch it. I clung to my scooter, shouting and threatening to call the Gardaí. They seemed a bit scared and left grumbling.”

However, after they left, Shuaiqing did not contact the Gardaí. Maintaining silence seems to be a common coping mechanism among these victims.

“Yesterday, while buying groceries, someone shouted, ‘Go back to your country,'” says Lethabo Dlamini, an international student from South Africa. 

“It stung, but besides silence, what’s my better option? Report to the police? I don’t even know who they were.

“But the next time, I’ll be braver. Whoever insults me, I’ll fire back. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Yi Bao, Director of China Engagement from UL Global, addressed the forum, stating: “When you stand up for your rights, you’re not just defending yourself; you’re safeguarding the dignity of your entire ethnicity. 

“If you don’t confront these individuals boldly, they may think you’re an easy target, inviting more harassment. Be brave, kids, and let them know you won’t be pushed around.”

According to data released by the Irish Council For International Students (ICOS), almost two-thirds of international students in Ireland have experienced or witnessed racism, with only one in ten incidents reported to the authorities.

Building the culture of people being able to understand one another, being empathetic towards one another, and ultimately, it seems to be a long journey ahead.

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