The Problem with International Student Visas

Amy Suiter is an American student in her second year of the MFA. She spends her time writing a novel, juggling the PG Cert and a part-time job, and trying to cut down to two cups of coffee per day. She occasionally finds time for random musings on her blog, A Minnesota Yankee. Today, she explains the visa difficulties that international students face and considers the effect this situation has on UK higher education.


Of all the issues I have battled as an international student – adjusting to a new culture, shopping, weather, and finances – none has caused me more stress and anxiety than my ongoing need for a visa. Even working out my exorbitant fees as an overseas student does not compare to the energy and effort I have had to expend to live and work in the United Kingdom legally.

This, I believe, is a horrible shame.

International students have been said to bring along their own set of issues, three in particular: ‘Socio-cultural adjustment…Language…[and] Learning/teaching problems due to “culture”’ (Biggs, 2003, pp.121-122). Despite these issues, I believe studying abroad should be encouraged across the globe, both to develop the lives and minds of the students, but also to inspire growth and new ideas in teachers.

Anything that adds to the difficulties that are already ubiquitous amongst foreign students is foolish. While it may not be the fault of any particular university that many countries present rigorous visa applications, something may still be done to lessen the burden. My course leader has offered to write a letter to the UK Border Agency, for example. He is an American legal resident of the UK, and faced none of these problems when he originally came into this country.

International students bring in revenue. We are charged twice as much for our fees on average, sending hundreds of thousands of dollars into the coffers of universities each year. Losing overseas students due to impossible visa regulations is a mistake that universities can ill afford.

Teachers and staff would do well to take a stand against making life any more difficult for international students. The development of their own minds and teaching methods, as well as the cultural scope of the next generation, may depend on it.


Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 2nd Edition. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.

Advanced Critical Reading Tuesday 11 December

We regret to announce that Barrie Keefe’s lecture next Tuesday has been cancelled. It will hopefully be rescheduled in the new year.

Fiona Curran

Fiona Curran

Fiona Curran

Fiona Curran is a poet, sonic artist & filmmaker (other hats include Art Critic & Columnist), who lectures in film at Kingston University. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. As a poet, she has been published widely in the UK & Ireland, and most recently published in The Wolf, South Bank Poetry, Magma and the Loose Muse Anthology. Wrecking Ball Press published her first collection, The Hail Mary Pass, and a second untitled collection (she hopes) is imminent.  As a sonic artist (moniker 21%) she has presented sonic works at the Car Boot Art Fair and The Literary Kitchen. She has recently produced two experimental films “Clean” & “Allium” and is working towards a gallery show. She also belongs to the art/action collective The Yesperados.

On 20 November 2012, Fiona taught a seminar for Advanced Critical Reading on the MFA course that looked at the relationship between visual art and poetry.

Read and be Damned (in no particular order)

The Master and Margareta by Mikhail Bulgakov

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Lobster by Guillaume Lecasble

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

You Cannot Live as I Have Lived and Not End Up Like This: The Thoroughly Disgraceful Life and Times of Willie Donaldson by Terence Blacker

‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann

MFAs Read for Fun, too

That’s right, we don’t just work, read for dissertations and scribble furtively in notebooks. We read for fun. Anyone who says that a writing degree ruined reading for them isn’t doing it right. So for your reading pleasure, here’s what the 2012 MFA cohort recommends to ensure an enjoyable, literature-filled holiday. Take a break from work and delve into some of our favourites. Here are our individual choices with a couple of words about why we love them:

Recommended Holiday Reading List from the MFAs

Citlalli: Dark Matter – by Michele Paver. “An arctic ghost story…I was scared!”

Jeanette: A Kind of Intimacy – by Jenn Ashworth. “Brilliant, funny and an unreliable narrator par excellence”

Amy: Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid – by Lemony Snicket. “Known for his gallows humour, Snicket does not disappoint with this pocket-sized book full of humourous quips. Not a novel, nor a book of short stories, and certainly not poetry, it is a book that you pick up to read to remind yourself that life really is just a funny little thing.”

Emma: The Corrections – by Jonathan Franzen. “Because Xmas is all about family, and this book is all about a family gathering for one last Xmas.”

Vivienne: The Quantum Thief – by Hannu Rajaniemi. “If science fiction brings to mind pages of turgid technical description and butt-ugly writing, give The Quantum Thief a try. Rajaniemi turns quantum physics into poetry and explains nothing until around 250 pages in.”

Beatrice: A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In – by Magnus Mills. “The latest of Mills’ eccentric, deadpan and addictive reads, this world is a sort of mixture between Medieval England, The Prisoner and In the Night Garden. Mills has the ability to mix humour and menace in his own idiosyncratic fashion – and we believe everything.”

Lucy: The Hearing Trumpet – by Leonora Carrington. “Surreal, funny and the main protagonist is a grumpy old lady who suddenly finds herself in the middle of a strange adventure.”

Simon: The Mask of Dimitrios – by Eric Ambler. “The Mask of Dimitrios is probably [Ambler’s] best, and vastly superior to, for instance, [Graham] Greene’s A Gun for Hire. Nothing new under the sun.”

Danny: Catch-22 – by Joseph Heller. “A moral masterpiece. The greatest novel of the 20th century. And sidesplitting.”

Alaa: The Gates – by John Connolly. “This is a hilarious horror novel that teases the reader with science and child innocence. You follow a boy who has discovered a plot to open up hells gates by some very inexperienced demons.”

Dorin: Me Talk Pretty On Day – by David Sedaris. “Because all of his non-fiction/memoir/essay books are comedic and just fun to read. It is the type of book that shows you how ridiculous life can be and gives you a good laugh.”

Catherine: US – by Michael Kimball. “This is the book I would love to write. It would also make a good beach read (if you don’t mind shedding a tear in public that is!)”

Ryan: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – by Michael Chabon. “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001, this novel promises elements of Jewish mysticism, Americana and a comic-book superhero. From 1930s Prague to Brooklyn, this will be my winter solace.”

Carol: Bridget Jones’ Diary – by Helen Fielding. “The fastest book I’ve ever read that also made me laugh”

Sinéad: Poppy Shakespeare – by Clare Allan. “This hilarious, insightful novel is told in the voice of a patient at a north London psychiatric hospital. I was hooked from the first sentence and held spellbound by the engaging story and witty prose to the final page.”

We would love to hear what you think of our suggestions, what you’ll be reading this winter and what books, poems, plays and short stories you recommend to others – see you in the comments section.

Happy holiday reading from all of us!

An Open Letter to Stanislavski

Amy Suiter is an American student in her second year of the MFA. She spends her time writing a novel, juggling the PG Cert and a part-time job, and trying to cut down to two cups of coffee per day. She occasionally finds time for random musings on her blog, A Minnesota Yankee. Today she considers whether and how she can apply her dramatic studies to teaching creative writing.


An open letter to Konstantin Stanislavski, after using his sense memory acting technique to teach fellow students how to write sensory character descriptions:

Well, Mr Stanislavski, my idea was a bit daring. Can I really use an acting method to teach people a new way of writing? Even more, can I teach this to people who have little to no experience writing?

Yes, in fact. I believe I can. With careful preparation and enthusiasm, I feel that I succeeded. The session started off quite well with genuine interest from the students. I introduced my idea and learning outcome: that they should be able to write a sensory description of infatuation by the end of the lesson. I proceeded straight into an activity, asking them to recall a time when they were infatuated with someone.

This is where I believe I made an error, as I then called out examples for them rather than letting the students come up with their own first. The Teaching Center (2009) warns specifically against this: ‘Do not give in to the temptation to answer your own questions, which will condition students to hesitate before answering.’ While my over-eagerness may have limited the number of responses, they still had plenty of ideas of their own.

After explaining the idea of putting oneself in the character’s circumstances, the class was asked to write the reaction of a character to a specific circumstance, using guided hand-outs I had prepared. I intentionally avoided Power Point slides as I did not feel they were necessary with the time constraints, although student feedback suggested it would have been beneficial to include the quotes I delivered as a visual aid. After all, who would not want to read your great words, Mr Stanislavski?

Overall, however, I felt it was an invaluable experience on my road to becoming a teacher, and saw from the student feedback that it was an enjoyable lesson for them as well.


The Teaching Center: Washington University in St. Louis. (2009) Increasing Student Participation. Available at: (Accessed: 6 November 2012).


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