I have been a student in England for more than a year and a half now, but I have to confess – I still feel quite overwhelmed, physically and mentally, when things do not go according to my expectations.
Maybe I wanted to go shopping and it started raining, maybe I wanted to attend a dance lesson but it clashed with a lecture or maybe I just wanted to make an appointment with the GP but couldn’t find my NHS number; regardless of the problem, being an international student can make one feel like an outsider and uncomfortable tackling problems head-on.
While it is completely normal to feel that way, this sensation of not belonging and self-consciousness can be detrimental in the long run.
So, here are a few survival tips for my fellow international students:
I know that starting university is a great time to want to reinvent yourself. You are going to be in a new environment, make new friends and learn new things and the temptation of trying to fit in and be someone you are not is huge.
As an international student, you want to blend in but ensure that you don’t overdo it. Stick to the habits and morals that you grew up with and only do things if they feel comfortable for you. If partying is not your thing, then don’t do it just because your pals are.
Form enriching friendships
This aspect is not always easy. Do not expect to make lasting friends in your first week or even month of university. Invest time in finding the right kinds of people to hang around with.
However, I have realised that being an international student means it is too easy to just befriend fellow international students – people who come from the same country, similar background, and so on. While it is quite instinctive to do so, you should try to get over your impulse of hanging out with people who are too similar to yourself and explore the variety of potential friends that your institution has to offer by speaking to people on your course and joining societies or clubs.
Live in halls
I understand. As a young, international student moving away from home for the first time, you feel like you are ready to take the plunge and live independently.
And while there is no harm in doing so, if you have the option, really think about staying in university accommodation for at least one year. I spent my first year in university halls and I certainly think that the feeling of community and the ease with which you can make friends in halls is highly underestimated.
Ask for help
University is hard. Not having someone to reach out to for help can make university harder.
The person from whom you seek help doesn’t have to be a tutor, professor or counsellor. It can be your neighbour, your gym buddy or a senior student.
Having someone around to discuss your academic, social or personal issues with is a way to ensure good well-being. Companionship is key.