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Leicester Special Collections

Sylvia Dowling and the International Students of Leicester

The International Students of Leicester

This artistic rendition depicts four students of Leicester saying hello in their native langauge. From left to right: Austrian, Dutch, English, and Punjabi

21 October 1956

14 November 1956

25 November 1956

7 May 1956


International students were present throughout Sylvia's studies at the University of Leicester. Evidence for this can be seen in her 21 October 1956 letter, where she describes a couple of Swedish students, and how, to her, their language sounds a little odd as they intermingle English into their conversations.

The same letter describes of Jan, Sylvia's friend and flatmate, doesn't like the neighboring 'Indian girl' as she seems to monopolize the shared bathroom. However, Sylvia finds the girl pleasant, and notes in her 25 November 1956 letter that she was excited to see snow because she had never seen it before!

Another letter from 14 November 1956 also makes a brief mention of a couple Austrian and Dutch students who, due to a shortage of rooms at the Latimer House, had to sleep in linen closest for the time being.

Even the Australian Cricket team were present at the University in May 1956, and were giving a demonstration down at the local cricket pitch!

While there is a growing misconception that migration is a new phenomenon in the UK, Sylvia Dowling’s letters show the diversity of Leicester in the 1950s, sharing beautiful stories of her friends and dormmates. While the University of Leicester enrolled under 1,000 students during Sylvia’s residence, the school now hosts over 4,000 international students alone, from 110 countries, making the celebration of cultural diversity a cornerstone of our campus community. 

Does your school have a long history of hosting international students?


Sylvia Dowling and the International Students of Leicester