Estranged Students Solidarity Week started on November 22, and aims to raise awareness and promote empathy with students who are not in touch with their family or their parents for reasons which could include abuse, differences in religious beliefs or being rejected for their LGBTQ+ identity.
Access and support advisor for the KU Cares scheme, Lydia Ansong, explained in a recent announcement on MyKingston: “The University supports students and we can all contribute to creating a culture and environment in which estranged students feel welcomed and accepted.”
Ansong mentioned the importance of normalising talking about estrangement and knowing where to access support.
This year, KU Cares celebrates its 15-year anniversary. The award winning network offers support and bursaries for care leavers, young adult carers and sanctuary scholars, as well as estranged students.
‘I know I can go talk to them’
Aside from emotional and financial support, the service extends to helping students access wider university support services and advocating to the university on behalf of the students.
“I noticed that Kingston was giving more support to estranged students, and so that’s why I applied here,” said midwifery student Georgie Stubbs.
“I go to the KU Cares advisors for anything I would go to my parents about, even if I’m stressed about studies. I know I can go talk to them.”
Stubbs disclosed on her application that she had been estranged and said that the support she has received since “has been invaluable” as she was offered financial and practical help, like helping her rent a house.
However, she admitted that it is a struggle for some students to disclose their status as they might feel judged.
“I know it can be daunting to talk about such things but knowing how supportive the team is, I would highly recommend students reaching out for support. University can be stressful and demanding and they don’t need to struggle when the support is available. Students should reach out because you deserve it.”
Students tend to agree that the support services offered by the university are good, but some stated that one issue is that they are not well known.
Pharmacy student, Asia Haji, said that she got involved with different events and charities during reading week but hopes to see more advertisements so more awareness is raised.
“It’s important because no one wants to be left alone, it’s very important as a student, especially as you have a lot of things going on. We don’t want anyone going into any dark holes or anything, so knowing that support is there is important,” she said.
Kamran B Gonulkirmaz, who is studying aviation operation, agreed that more information needs to be given by the university: “My friend who is estranged had to approach the government to get help, because he didn’t get much support from the university. He didn’t approach the university about his situation because he wasn’t aware of the type of support he could get.
“Perhaps if the university could advertise their support services more, I’m sure it’ll be helpful to many people. Perhaps they can start some courses to educate people about this more,” Gonulkirmaz said.
Fashion student, Claudia Clarke, said she first learned about the available support services through a friend.
“I know that there’s a buddy system at Kingston which is quite nice and you get a call from your buddy every three weeks. Had my friend not been using this service I wouldn’t have known about it. The system and support is good, but I’m not sure many people know about the type of support they can avail,” Clarke said.
In Ansong’s announcement, she highlighted that students can learn more about the issues surrounding estranged students from the organisation Stand Alone or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the services they offer.