Dear Blake McDermott,
My name is Valentina Vargas and I am a first year international student at UBC.
Unfortunately, I write to express my dissatisfaction about what I see as a grave problem with the relationship between the ISA and the at-large international community. In short, I see a lack of representation of the international community on ISA’s part and a lack of a united voice from the said community.
As a student who tries to stay informed and be involved in the international community, I have barely felt ISA’s presence on campus. Yes, you do organize social events, but I firmly believe that parties should not be the priority of an organization that is supposed to represent international students on campus.
I understand that your job is not an easy one, I have already seen and experienced the limits in communication in our fractured international community. Still, I feel that we have in front of us a turning point full of potential, one that will inevitably have tremendous effects on international student representation on campus. We are now seeing two events emerging that are increasingly important to us and our common goals:
First, the university is actively pursuing an increase in international enrollment, some people estimated that it will double this coming academic year. At the same time, however, we see a lack of international students’ voices. One of the biggest issues coming up, as you may well know, is the election of a new international student representative in the AMS council. While I am not informed enough to comment on the achievements of the current international representative, I do know that the seat is not as valued as it should be by the rest of the council. Furthermore, having personally interviewed this year’s candidates, I am seriously distressed with their competency in leading our community.
What we need now is a strong representative, one that can unite our many voices and show UBC that international students not only care but are also powerful enough to bring change upon a system that rarely makes us the priority. A representative that can show the AMS council the importance of international students to UBC. One that can effectively lead and truly represent the 6,403 students that we are.
This is not easy, and not the job of an individual. As international enrollment rises and a new representatives take seat I believe that the international community has to take ownership of what it believes in. We can sit back and lose the voice that we have worked for. Or, we can stand up. Let’s take this challenge to a new level and start something new, something strong.
I believe that with the leadership of the ISA the international community can gain a new voice on campus. I encourage you to promote dialogue between the many international student groups on campus. Be the leaders of an inclusive movement that can advocate for international students and be a bridge between them and the university. In this way, when our new international representative takes seat she/he will not be standing alone but with the full support and guidance of the ISA: a reformed international student society that is in continuous communication with the international community.
I sincerely hope that you think about what I and many other members of our community envision and that you take quick and serious steps towards achieving it.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the issue,