Rui Zhao - Swansea City of Sanctuary

What degree are you currently studying?

Master of Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University.

Why did you choose to come to Swansea?

When I applied for the programme, I knew that I wanted to visit Swansea University because of the internships that were available. I am interested in non-profit organisations and management, and I wanted to gain more international experience in non-profit areas. This experience will be a huge benefit when looking for a job. Additionally, I was interested in intercultural communication and thought that this would be a great opportunity for me to be in a new environment, experiencing a new culture and learning how to communicate and work with people from another culture.

What have you done as a part of your internship programme?

My internship was with Swansea City of Sanctuary, an NGO that provides support for refugees and asylum seekers in Swansea and Wales. I worked with the Project Manager, Rebecca, to support events, including helping with the city map and collecting and entering data about support and events open for asylum seekers and refugees. I learnt a lot about data collection including surveys. There’s a collaboration between the Swansea City of Sanctuary and Swansea University, with research being undertaken with National Health Service (NHS) to evaluate the health care service provided to asylum seekers.

Other parts of the internship included designing certificates, presentation slides and organising paperwork for different events.

Did the teaching at Swansea University prepare you for your internship?

The teaching informed me about the general theoretical knowledge about the area, and this gave me the chance to discuss the refugee issue with colleagues and my supervisor. We would always have this discussion in work: there are a lot of barriers for asylum seekers. I had no previous experience of working in the non-profit area, and I really got a general knowledge of how these organisations work and what they are doing daily. Also, I gained an insight into how they co-operate with the Government, as well as other organisations.

What was your favourite part of your internship programme?

My favourite part of my internship programme was attending all kinds of asylum-related events. For example, the Swansea City of Sanctuary regularly holds events for asylum seekers including an information forum. This is held once a month and gathers asylum seekers, refugees and other stakeholders. There’s always one specific topic for each forum, and I attended the one on the topic of healthcare. It worked as an information exchange event for attendees, attended by experts from Swansea University who listen to refugees’ demands and provide a response.

What has been your favourite part of studying here at Swansea?
I’ve enjoyed travelling around Swansea. I’ve visited Rhossili Bay, Worm’s Head and Oystermouth Castle. I’ve also visited Cardiff and Newport as a part of my internship. I loved the weather here too, as in Texas it’s extremely hot. The weather here is gentle: sometimes rains, and there’s always a nice breeze. The best part is that there is a beach right next to the University, and you can take a walk there whenever you want.

What would your advice be to students considering studying in Swansea?

I’d advise them to relax and enjoy the surroundings and weather. Especially for international students like me, just try to get more of a connection with the local community. Take more trips, talk to people, volunteer with non-profit organisations. This will help you further get to know the university and local community, and help you to integrate better.