When I first arrived in the University of Leeds at the end of September 2019, I was beyond excited to start my education and meet different people. I have always enjoyed being around other international students with different backgrounds and experiences to share. And I was so delighted to hear about the Intercultural Ambassadors scheme, where local and international students come together to plan and run events around the topic of intercultural awareness. I had first heard about the programme during a volunteering fair in the University of Leeds and I immediately knew that I wanted to join. During the recruitment stage, we were placed into smaller groups of 5-6 students and were told to plan an event. Despite it being an “interview” stage, I already found myself enjoying it a lot. To my delight, I was accepted into the programme!
As an Intercultural Ambassador, we had weekly sessions on Wednesdays that usually run from 2 pm to around 4 pm. The main objective of the programme is to plan and hold an event in a team with 5 other students. There are different events to plan, such as screening movies from different countries and holding networking events. During the weekly sessions, we learnt various topics, ranging from teamwork to intercultural awareness. These sessions facilitated the ambassadors in planning the events and also informing us on intercultural awareness. Usually, the session starts off with a quick introduction and we would be seated with other ambassadors (we were placed randomly so you never know who you'll be with!). Afterwards, we would move into our groups and proceed with the event planning.
Aside from the informative sessions, we usually have weekly “challenges”, which encourages us to interact with other students in the scheme and get to know one another! During one of the challengers, my teammates and I went to the Christmas Market in Leeds to grab some food and got to know one another. Another challenge that I enjoyed was “Come Dine with Me”, where me and other ambassadors went to eat out together. During most of these challenges, you will most likely be paired or grouped with ambassadors that aren’t part of your event team. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet the other ambassadors and really feel part of a global community.
I was grouped with 5 other lovely ambassadors and we were planning an event for International Women’s Day. We all came from different countries and being able to work with them was such a valuable experience. Our event was scheduled to be part of World Unite Festival, a week where we celebrate the diversity of students studying at the University of Leeds. Planning and running an event was challenging to say the least. As a team, we had to plan everything, from the big things, such as the concept of the event, all the way down to the smallest details such as what refreshments to provide. Thankfully, we were guided by 2 wonderful mentors who provided input and guidance.
Working in a team has always been enjoyable for me, but being able to plan an event that was impactful made the experience even better. Our team held a panel event, where we invited over 4 inspirational women as speakers and a fellow University of Leeds student as a moderator. The theme for the event was “Challenging Gender Bias in the 21st Century”. The speakers spoke about overcoming gender bias in the workplace, resilience, and how to push through with your motivations. Our event ran smoothly and we were all so thrilled that it was successful. (You may read more about our event here)
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to celebrate our success. As most of you would know by now, the university suspended all classes and the lockdown happened due to the coronavirus. Usually, the Intercultural Ambassadors would have a showcase, where we would be able to show our work to fellow students and other members of the staff. However, that was not possible this year. Instead, we held a Virtual Showcase and was able to appreciate our work and other ambassadors work as well!
Being part of the Intercultural Ambassador programme was one of the best choices I made during my first year. I learnt inclusivity in event planning, how to be work effectively in a team and how to be able to connect with anyone. But most importantly, I made friends with people that I would never meet had I not joined.