Studying abroad in the UK is truly a life-changing, exciting experience.
As well as being some of the most fun days of your life, you might also find that there are some more aspects to the experience that are a little trickier.
Here are some quick survival tips…
Choose your accommodation wisely
One of the best ways to ensure that you feel at home while you study abroad is to place yourself in positive surroundings with like-minded, supportive people.
That’s why choosing your student accommodation wisely is essential.
If you share with other students, you may well make friends for life.
You could do study sessions together, hang out, make dinner together, share dishes from your home countries, and generally provide each other with day-to-day companionship and support that you’ll miss away from your family.
There are many options to choose from when it comes to student housing, from university-owned student accommodation, private student accommodation or private rentals.
Location is important too. If, for example, you’re studying in Sheffield, then it’s wise to look for student accommodation in Sheffield near major universities. If the faculties are close by then you’ll already be living comfortably and feel at home.
Keep in touch to combat homesickness
Missing loved ones back home is an inevitable part of the international study experience for many people, at least in the beginning.
Try not to get too sucked into spending all your free time on video calls and phone calls with them, but also make some time to catch up with them. That way, you won’t feel completely out of the loop.
Get involved with uni clubs and societies
Aside from making friends in your student accommodation and on the course, you can meet people by doing extra-curricular activities.
At the Freshers’ Fair at the beginning of the academic year, you can sign up to lots of different societies and clubs, full of people from all over the world who share similar interests to you.
From joining a football team to dance classes, amateur theatre to volunteering groups – there’s something for everyone.
Many international students experience culture shock.
Depending on where you live in the UK, things can seem very different to what you’re used to back home.
Maybe English isn’t your first language and the way that people speak bears little resemblance to the English you’ve heard on TV or in classes. Maybe the religion is totally different from your own, or there is a different attitude to social norms.
Our biggest piece of advice would be to accept and embrace difference.
Getting used to it might take some time, but it’s all part of the experience of being immersed in another culture. That in itself is enriching and will go a long way to making you more employable and open-minded.
You might have to get used to the British emphasis on manners. It’s normal to hear “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”, frequently, and you’ll hear “sorry” a LOT, even when no one is apologising for anything!
You might say, for instance: “Sorry, can I ask you a question?”
Another thing to understand well are the differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The accents, food, traditions, values and languages are unique in each place, so don’t assume that Britain is all the same!
Getting to know the British people is fairly easy, they are quite friendly although perhaps a little more reserved in some places.
You might be surprised by the multicultural nature of life in Britain. The UK has a diverse population, representing a wide range of beliefs, outlooks and backgrounds.
One other thing – the learning system here is different. Classes are not so formal. You’re encouraged to interact with lecturers and tutors as equals, they’ll call you by your first name, and you’ll be encouraged to practise critical thinking and self-motivated learning.
Independent learning is normal, so you will need to stay self-motivated. No one will be reminding you to hand work in the same way as at school.
The grading system may be somewhat confusing at first for international students. So here’s a brief breakdown:
First class degree – a grade of 70 per cent or higher, the top grade you can get.
2:1 (upper second class) – 60-69 per cent, often the minimum requirement to go on to do a masters or postgraduate degree.
2:2 (lower second class) – 50-59 per cent.
Third class degree – 45-49 per cent.
Ordinary degree – 40-44 per cent, the absolute minimum necessary to pass.
Explore your surroundings
One great way to make the most of your time as an international student in the UK is to explore your student city and other parts of the UK.
In the UK you can travel easily using well-connected routes of trains, buses, ferries, trams, bikes, taxis and walking.
For travelling around the UK, you can buy the 16 to 25 railcard for cheaper travel. A Young Persons Coachcard also saves money on coach travel around the country.
If you want to go even further afield and see the rest of Europe while you’re studying at uni in the UK, The Eurail Youth Pass gives you some great discounts.
Use university support services
We all encounter problems from time to time – it’s absolutely normal. Those problems may seem particularly overwhelming if you’re living in a new country and everything is new.
Most universities offer student support services. Don’t be afraid to reach out for advice – there are normally people who are experts in all things related to international study, so just ask!
They can advise you on all of the important things like registering with a medical centre, receiving counselling, careers advice, visas and identification documentation.
There you have it – our best tips to prepare you well before you head off on the adventure of your life!
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