Leaving home to go to university is a thrilling, nerve-wracking experience for the vast majority of people and it can be an even more daunting prospect if you are attending a university which is overseas – there are cultural adjustments to make, language barriers to overcome, and a wealth of activities and events to get involved in.
So, where do you start? Thankfully, help is at hand as we’ve come up with some essential tips for international students, so that you can get the best out of your time at university, as well as getting the best out of your time in a fascinating new country.
Wherever it may be in the world that you’re going for your studies, the culture and the everyday workings of that society will be different to your own. Before you arrive, try to do a bit of research on what to expect – from knowing what sort of food you can eat, to any customs you might be expected to adhere to. The locals will also appreciate you knowing about their culture!
Okay, so you’re obviously going to university to learn about the subject you’ve chosen and you probably don’t want to do more work than you have to beforehand. But learning the local language will make life so much easier throughout your time there. Even for English students going abroad, with the bonus of English being the lingua franca, being able to communicate with people on their terms when you’re in their country is a big advantage.
Most universities will have a map of the campus on their website, so make sure to take a look at this before you arrive – find out where your accommodation is, particularly in relation to all the pubs & bars you’ll undoubtedly be frequenting. You can also try and get a sense of the local area, off campus – it’s particularly useful knowing where the supermarket is, and what travel links you have access to.
4. Student Discounts
One of the major benefits of being a student is that everyone feels sorry for how poor you are, so there are loads of amazing discounts available to you! Whether it’s reduced shipping costs to get all your stuff to the university, cheap train or bus fares, a free haircut, or 2-for-1 cocktails at a local bar, there are countless ways to save money. So, find out about them all and you’ll be quids in… or euros, dollars, yen, rupees!
It’s well worth checking out what your halls are like before you a) apply, and b) arrive. Get an idea of the size of your room to know how much to take, as well as what the kitchen and bathroom facilities are like. If you’re not in halls, find out what the area is like and where it is in relation to the campus – the last thing you want is to be miles away from your lectures, or even worse… a pub!
It can be intimidating meeting dozens of new people in such a short space of time, but it’s also a great opportunity. Try to befriend people who are from the country you’re studying in, as well as other international students – the home students will have local knowledge which could be very useful (especially if you forgot to do points 1 or 3!) and the other international students will be in a similar boat and keen to make friends as well.
7. Get Involved
This is one that we can’t stress enough – Freshers, and your first term in general, may well seem like it’s moving at a million miles an hour, but try to get involved as much as possible. If you play a sport, or have a favourite hobby or past time, then join the society! You’ll meet plenty of like-minded people and being part of a team is a great thing to have outside of your studies, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar country.
If you ever run into any problems during your studies, don’t be afraid to talk to people – the Student’s Union will have advice centres, and your college or form tutor should be able to help with any difficulties you might be having. Life can in new surroundings can be tough, and it’s tougher to deal with your own.
Although you’re at university to gain a qualification, it is by no means whatsoever just an educational experience. Your time there is an invaluable experience in the broader context of your life as a whole. It provides a great opportunity to learn about the people and the culture that you are now a part of, which can actually come as a welcome distraction from your studies!
10. Bonus Tip – Get Ahead of the Game
It might be a cliché, but a lot of students like to have a drink or two… or three, then maybe a couple more after that. It will all calm down after Freshers, but why not take a deck of cards with you, learn a few drinking games, and you can be the person who gets everyone’s party started!
Top Tips for International Students was written by Simon Markland of shipping company VOOVit. VOOVit specialise in shipping excess baggage and small boxes worldwide.