This is a guest post, written by Evelina from Best Student Halls. Best Student Halls is a great website to find and look for student accommodation at the best price, as this is sometimes a daunting process if your university doesn’t offer any onsite accommodation or if the university accommodation is too expensive. The blog post explains some of the issues international students face when moving to and studying in the UK and how you can overcome these.
Check out the Best Student Halls website and blog, as they both offer great advice, tips and tricks on all student issues from job hunting to student accommodation.
So you’ve been accepted to study in the UK? Well done! You may feel overwhelmed, excited and a bit…worried? That’s completely normal, you may experience a “cultural shock” and other problems that strike students in the first study year. But don’t worry, we’re on your side – below we’ve identified and listed the most common problems international students face and the best ways to tackle them.
1. Feeling homesick
Once you have settled in the UK and started to adjust, the initial excitement about your new uni will start slowly fading away. Homesickness is a common problem of international students as it’s difficult to find time and money for regular home visits. Of course, Skype calls and catch-ups on Facebook can help a lot but they will not replace face-to-face communication with your family and friends.
Solution: this is where you have and MUST ask your university for help. There’s no shame in that and normally universities have special counselling service to help overcome personal problems and homesickness. Believe me, you’re not the only one suffering from being away from your family, so if you need some encouragement, see how your uni can help. You never know, maybe you’ll meet another international student who deals with the same problem as you – when you can share your pain, it suddenly does not seem that daunting. Another thing that can help alleviate homesickness is decorating your room so it looks more homely and inviting. In fact, Best Student Halls is a great stop for that – our selection of high-quality, stylish and modern student rooms will make sure you’re feeling just like home.
2. Language barrier
Students who come to the UK from overseas usually have a very good level of English; however, the real fun starts when you need to get used to the accents and specific British humour. It discourages students to speak up and participate in conversations, which again can knock down their confidence.
Solution: oh my, where do I start. There are many solutions to this problem, so don’t worry if your English is far from native – eventually, you’ll get to your desired level. First of all, take language classes. As simple as it sounds, language classes can be fun, entertaining and informative, above all. Not only you’ll get to practice English words but also find new friends with whom you can learn together. For all introverted students – check what’s available online and watch more English movies and shows with subtitles. Also, challenge yourself and attempt to read one of the British classical books – highlight any unknown words and check their meaning later online. Finally, there are many apps that can help overcome that language barrier, too like Duolingo app.
3. Struggles to fit in
During your first weeks in the UK, you may find it hard to adjust to the culture, behaviour and social life. Even if you come from a European city, you will still experience a slight “culture shock”. What international students tend to do is to group with others from the same country to avoid integration problems (which does not help at all).
Solution: My first advice is to seek for help at your uni. It was mentioned before but, seriously, universities are here to help and they have a separate counselling departments with intention to help solve your life problems. If counselling is not an option for you, join a society at your university. It can be anything from sports to debating society to Harry Potter Society (which is quite popular in the UK).
We know for a fact that studying in the UK is expensive. If this is the first time you are leaving your family home and starting an independent life, be prepared to face the challenges and get serious about your finances.
Solutions: once you’ve been accepted as a UK student, I’d suggest applying straight away for a NUS card. This card opens up a world of student discounts: you can get cheaper train fares, discounts on clothes, cinema tickets, tech equipment, food deals, etc. It’s totally worth it. Apart from that, you can apply for a part-time job. Your uni may have some positions available so it won’t hurt to ask. Lastly, to always stay on top of your expenses, I suggest getting a money management app, like Mint or Goodbudget.
Left your loved-one behind and now you are separated until the end of your studies – it can be heartbreaking. Being around other people and having new friends may improve or worsen the situation.
Solution: Regular chats and face calls. You want to communicate with your other half as much as possible to ensure everything is alright. Don’t be too pushy though, giving some personal space can help maintain a healthy relationship. Long distance relationship can work and survive, you just need to be confident about it. How about doing things together? You may think it’s impossible when your loved-one is in another country. There are plenty of ways to do it: go shopping together and give each other advice via live chat, cook a meal together or watch a TV show at the same time and laugh at each other’s comments. Also, a simple gesture like a parcel, a letter or a small gift is something that makes your partner happy.
It’s always a hit or miss when it comes to your roommates – you never know who you’ll be living with and how you’ll get along. When there’s a mix and match of international students in one flat, it can sound discouraging and terrifying because, most often, your habits and lifestyles will collide.
Solution: initial introduction always helps – get to know you roommates little by little, find out what are their likes and dislikes. Also, it’s useful to set boundaries and house rules to make sure everyone has their personal space. It’s ideal to have a roommate whom you can chat openly about your problems, organize a night out or join the gym; and if they are a complete opposite and it starts to rub you in a bad way – speak up. Try to solve the problems as they arise. If that doesn’t help, take it to property management to sort out.
So here you have it – any problem can be solved with a little bit of positivity, right? Remember, there’s nothing wrong in asking your university, friends or family to help – they’re always here for you. We understand that being an international student is a tough business and the problems will come and go, so hopefully this blog post shed some light and make your student life a little easier.