Arriving the First Time at Heathrow

Every autumn, hundreds of international students arrive at Heathrow airport. From there, they travel to universities and colleges across England. For many young students, this is their first trip on their own to a foreign country and arriving in London to begin an extended course of study can be daunting. They come carrying hopes, dreams and expectations from their parents who have invested a great deal of money in providing them with a foreign education.

Friends International is run by Christians and aims to support Internationals in University cities across the UK, particularly by encouraging students to make British friends. During Sept and Oct, they run a “Meet and Greet” scheme at Heathrow T3 for students as they arrive. Volunteers work with Heathrow staff and chaplaincy and University reps to assist students the moment they touch down. They offer practical help – could be assisting them make calls, helping them decipher their paperwork or directing them to the underground.

This was the first year we volunteered – made easier because we live so near the airport. International Students are close to our heart, not least because Rachel was once one herself! We each took a four-hour
shift a week, and met students from Indonesia, Kenya, Brazil, India, Japan, the USA to name a few.

Some asked why we were volunteering. We explained we were Christians keen to welcome them from a basis of our faith. Some wanted to know more about churches in the areas they were going to study and we were able to provide information to help.

You can find out more about friends international and what they do at http://friendsinternational.uk/

DAVE AND RACHEL MACLURE