Campus life is as confusing as it is exciting in your first few months at university. As a student in the UK, you will automatically become a member of the NUS and your local students' union. There are many different ways to get involved in your union and if at any point during the rush of the first term and your attempts to settle into college life, you need support or help, then pay them a visit.
The National Union of Students is an organisation run by and for students and is designed to help you make the most out of your time at university. NUS was set up as an association of students' unions back in 1922. Today, it is one of the biggest student organisations in the world, with over 800 student union members and representing over three and a half million students in higher and further education throughout the United Kingdom.
Just as you are members of your students' union, your students' union is a member of NUS. Through your local union you get access to all of NUS' services. The most visible and obvious one is the NUS card which gives you access to literally tens of thousands of discounts. The NUS card you receive at the start of your university career is a national identity card that guarantees great discounts in museums, art galleries, cinemas, theatres, travel agents and many clothes shops and outlets, both national and locally. There are also special deals for students through Endsleigh Insurance, the insurance company originally set up by NUS to provide cheap and secure insurance for students.
Your students' union also takes responsibility for the social side of student life and other activities outside studying. The events, clubs and societies in your union will be diverse and hopefully inspiring enough for you to get involved! Some of the things students unions organise are: entertainments; student radio and TV stations, websites and publications; any kind of sport from ping-pong to water-skiing; training for your future career. All are there for you and we hope you make the most of them.
The diversity and various interests of the student group are represented by NUS. Every union has student officers who are elected each year by you, the student members of your university and they are there to represent you and your needs. If you have anything you'd like to discuss or change about your union or university then you can talk to the student officers about it. Around 1,500 of these representatives meet at our National Conference each year at Easter to decide policy and elect the NUS executive. There are also conferences in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you get involved in your students' union this year, you could be there too. Your students' union represents you at local level to the management of your institution, but NUS also represents you and your students' union at national level to government, Parliament, the media and other opinion informers and decision makers. NUS employs a team of researchers who specialise in different areas of student life, from housing to student funding to women's issues. We also have a team of solicitors who can give you and your local union free legal advice. NUS trains over 3,000 student officer every year and the chances are that your students' union officers are among them.
Most universities and colleges will have an individual International Students Society where you and other students from overseas can meet and support each other. As an international student, your experience of studying in the UK will perhaps differ from students living in Britain. As well as studying for a degree, you'll be dealing with a new culture and might find the British teaching methods and ways of doing things different, so its often helpful to have the support of a society to know that its not just you who's new here!
There is also an organisation called UKCOSA (UK Council for Overseas Student Affairs) who help students coming in from abroad. They offer information about living in the UK and advice about everyday problems such as setting up bank accounts. If you'd like to get in touch with them, their address is:
9-17 St Albans Place,
London N1 0NX.
One of the most recent focuses of NUS has been the Regeneration Campaign, which aims to increase the involvement of international students, mature students and others in their unions. Part of this campaign's aim is to try and see more international students elected to sabbatical roles in their local students' unions, helping them to extend their visas, and encouraging their involvement.
NUS is a union which is here for you and we hope that you make the most of it. However you chose to spend your time studying in the UK, I wish you all the best for the future.
Your student union will be a source of solace, support, fun and frolics throughout your time at college.
For most students it is the place for sandwiches, stationary, big name bands and undiscovered stars live on stage. It is for aqua-aerobics, accommodation advice, a shoulder to cry on, for keep fit and for sport. It is for debating and dramatics, for quiet philosophising over a pint and noisy music, student TV, student radio, student newspapers, student magazines, community action, mad charity carnivals, fashion shows, grand balls and tacky discos.
Student unions provide all students with a whole range of activities, events and facilities, from cheap bars through to trained counselling. It costs nothing to be a member of your student union, in fact, every single student is automatically a member of the student union and automatically involved in running the business. This is your union and you do with it as you will. If you want to learn lambada, if you want to parachute, if you want to disco til dawn then go to your student union. If it isn't on you can make it happen - because student unions are run by all the students, and what you want is what can happen.
Your student union will be more than parties, advice, food, drink, sport, shopping and support. In addition it will also represent your views to the college administration, to your course directors, and through NUS to national government and organisations. If you want the library hours extended, if you want a new hall of residence, if you want a new sports hall, your student union will work to present your views to the college committees and decision makers.
Student unions offer special support for international students. If you run into any problems go along to your student union welfare centre and they will be happy to help you out, whether it's with homesickness, visa problems, financial worries or academic pressures. There's also a special organisation which represents the interests of international students in the UK. It's called the United Kingdom Council for Overseas Students Affairs and your student union can put you in touch with them if you need their special help and advice.
Every year all students vote in a secret ballot to elect a team of student representatives to run the day to day operation of the student union. This team of students is the Executive and they will be working for you. You can expect them to work very hard, listen your every whim and wish, and do their utmost to ensure you have your say.
Nearly all the student unions of the colleges and universities in the country are members of the National Union of Students, and through NUS your student union will represent your views to a whole range of external organisations, to the media and to Parliament.
NUS is a confederation of student unions, representing over two million students in the United Kingdom. It is one of the biggest youth organisations in the world, and is widely respected at home and abroad.
NUS provides research, information, training and support for your college student union, and provides national representation, speaking up for 3 million UK students, forcing national and international debate on policy, equality and opportunities for young people in education.
NUS has over 70 professional members of staff, in eight regional offices, in our national offices in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and at the NUS Headquarters in London. They provide support and information to all the student unions in NUS and help with everything from hiring bands through to the latest research on housing legislation.
Every Easter around 1500 students from all the colleges in NUS meet in Blackpool for a four day NUS Conference to debate issues of concern to students, to decide policy and to elect a team of national student representatives and a national president to act on your behalf nationwide.
The national student officers are held accountable to you through the NUS Regional Councils and National Councils held each term, and to the annual NUS Conference in Blackpool. Every single student has the opportunities to present their views to NUS through the democratic structures of their student union and because of the extensive network of local NUS area student officers, and the regional NUS officers it is very easy to get involved and to have your say.
For more information on student unions, on NUS and current issues for students at universities in the UK have a look at our daily updated website on http://www.nus.org.uk It's packed with information and advice and there's a special section just for new students.