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Empowering international students through peer support

25 Apr 2023

The Institute of Teaching and Learning (ITL) has released its second project report, which focuses on the innovative work of Dr Li-Chia Chen

Li-Chia Chen

Dr Li-Chia Chen, a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacoepidemiology at The University of Manchester, worked on a project to create a support system for international students studying the BSc Clinical Pharmacy (2+2+1) programme, jointly offered by the China Pharmaceutical University (CPU) and the University of Manchester. 

Li-Chia’s project created a peer mentoring scheme designed to improve the learning experience of international students and help them succeed despite cultural and language barriers.  

The International Student Experience Programme (ISEP) was a co-designed, student-led, and staff-facilitated programme consisting of six peer-mentoring meetings and four webinars on specific topics. Each student mentor was paired with five or six students at CPU, and in each one-hour small group meeting, the mentor led discussions on a specific theme. 

“The feedback from mentors and mentees was overwhelmingly positive” Li-Chia says. “Mentees made visible progress in communication skills during the ISEP and recognised the value of understanding cultural differences, learning styles, study skills, the pharmacy profession, and the healthcare system in the UK. Student mentors also benefited from developing communication, leadership skills, and confidence.” 

Li-Chia’s project is part of the ITL Fellows Programme, which aims to support the University's teaching and learning goals through short-term projects. 

The project demonstrates that a friendly, secure, structured, small-group environment for peer conversations can reduce cultural and language barriers and enhance the learning experiences of international students.  

“By building a supportive network of peers and promoting cultural exchange” Li-Chia says, “we can create a diverse and inclusive academic community that values collaboration and mutual growth. 

“We can also empower students to reach their full potential regardless of their cultural backgrounds, learning styles, or levels of familiarity with the new academic environment.”  

The report highlights the importance of student-led initiatives and peer support for creating a welcoming and inclusive academic environment. 

Future work will evaluate how to sustain this model to support international students in different programmes.  

More information