Ian Sutton BCA’s Resident Director (RD) in Cheltenham and London was born and raised in Cheltenham, England and is the perfect person to help students acclimate to life in England and find ways to become part of their local community. We chatted with Ian to learn more about him, his work and his advice for students considering studying abroad in England.
Interview with a Resident Director: Ian Sutton
Q: What do you most enjoy about being a Resident Director?
A: The aspect I most enjoy about being a Resident Director, is that I get to see my students blossom through the independence they gain from studying abroad. Through helping them settle during the first few weeks, to showing them all the wonderful and interesting places the UK has to offer, it is a pleasure to assist them with anything they need in order for them to achieve the most they can out of their study abroad.
Q: What is your favourite travel memory?
A: Choosing my favourite travel memory is difficult, as I have so many to choose from. I think it would have to be camel trekking in the Sahara Desert, and sleeping just on a blanket with a Berber tribe out in the middle of the desert under the stars. I went to Morocco with just a backpack, and purposely didn’t book any accommodation. I travelled the length and breadth of the country trying to immerse myself in the culture, and sample what each new environment had to offer. It seemed like a world away from what I was used to back in England, and whilst there were certainly some rather challenging and intimidating moments, it opened my eyes to what was beyond the bubble I called home.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give a student thinking about studying abroad?
A: The one piece of advice I would give a student thinking about studying abroad would be, that even if you are 0.01% interested in studying abroad, be proactive and speak to your study abroad advisor and seek out fellow students that have studied abroad. The pro’s will far outweigh the con’s, and you will see how beneficial studying abroad can be to you socially, as you’ll grow as a person and make some friends for life, academically, as you are introduced to new ways of thinking, new theories and different ways of learning, and for your future, as the experiences and skills you will be equipped with after your study abroad will launch you above other graduates in a competitive job market.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: No, but I would love a dog! I live surrounded by beautiful countryside where many people take their dogs for a walk. I’m very jealous!
Q: When you go to a café in Cheltenham or London, what do you order?
A: When I go to a café in Cheltenham or London, I normally order an Espresso and a piece of homemade cake. There are so many great independent Café’s in both locations, that I’m never short of new places to try.
Q: Did you study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to study abroad?
A: I did study abroad, but maybe not in the conventional sense. During my time at university, I knew I wanted to become a teacher, but also that I wanted to learn about a very different culture. I decided to move to Japan after completing my degree in English literature and Media Studies. I secured a job teaching English Language in a Japanese Junior & senior high school, which allowed me to work in a 99% Japanese environment. This accelerated my Japanese language skills, allowed me to make some great friends, learn about the culture, and reflect on my own life and what I wanted to do in the future. It allowed me to put everything into clear perspective. I lived in Japan for 5 years and I class it as my second home. The journey allowed me to focus and I knew after that time that I wanted to work in International Education and with study abroad students.
Q: What is your favourite ice cream flavour?
A: Rum & Raisin from The Milk Bar Ice Cream shop in Cheltenham. If you don’t believe me that it’s good, come study abroad and try it for yourself!
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I am a keen sportsman and I play football (aka soccer), and compete in 10K & half marathons, which I do to raise money for local charities. I am also very passionate about music, and attend music festivals when I can. Of course, travelling is still a big part of my live, and I spend a lot of my free time planning on where my next adventure will be!
Q: What suggestions do you have for the best ways to learn from the local community when you travel or study abroad?
A: The best ways to learn from the local community when you travel or study abroad is to get involved in a club or local society. Here, you’ll meet people with a common interest to you, which is a great way to strike up unexpected friendships. In the case of Cheltenham and London, there are some great local charities or projects that students can get involved in. They range from volunteering at the local Animal Shelter, to helping maintain the beautiful countryside through conservation work. There is always something to suit everyone, so as long as you are proactive and talk to your Resident Director, you can really become an integral part of the local community in a short space of time.
Q: What do you believe are the pressing social justice issues facing your communities today?
A: The pressing social justice issue facing my community today is homelessness. With the lack of social housing in England coupled with the rise in the use of food banks, the divide between the social classes is widening. This is something I encourage my students to engage with, through charities working with homeless people. My students have had a private tour of Shoreditch, London, by a vulnerably housed individual, where they could directly engage with the real social issues faced by a member of the community living it.
Another pressing social justice issue is the lack of affordable housing for the younger generation. With a growing population and a slow-down in the house building sector, house prices are at the highest they have ever been. More and more young professionals, couples and families are stuck in the rental market which brings little security to their long-term future.
The third issue facing communities today is the lack of care for the elderly. There is an ageing population in the UK, but a lack of social care and facilities to meet the demand. With social care, and health care budgets being substantially cut in a bid to reduce the countries overall deficit, the impact is already starting to affect those that need it the most. All three of these issues can be engaged with by students studying at either BCA Cheltenham or London through local and national charities. I encourage students to compare strategies and projects with what is happening in their own communities in the US. Can they be replicated for the good of their community? How would they improve it? These are all key questions that can help study abroad students grow through positively engaging with local social justice issues.
Q: What is your favourite movie, song or book to use as a teaching tool? For students to best understand social justice questions you believe are most relevant to your country-culture, what movie, book or song would you recommend?
A: My favourite movie to use as a teaching tool for social justice issues in the UK, is “I, Daniel Blake”. In a humorous but emotional way, this film highlights the very real social justice issues faced by many people in the UK today. It follows a 59 year man who is trying to navigate the UK Benefits System having suffered a heart attack. It highlights the growing divide between the social classes, the faceless nature of the benefits system, and looks at issues surrounding human rights. This movie has been quoted in the Houses of Parliament and held up as a mirror to the problems in society today.