Adjusting to Life as an International student

Date 5 October 2022

Starting in any university is pretty anxiety-inducing. This blog will let you know of any problem points and advise on how to overcome them.

Mckenny Ndifor

Adjusting to becoming a student

The Challenges

First of all, there are lots of challenges many of you will face. I will name and describe the three that I see as very important:

Adjusting to life in the UK

Being an international student and coming to the UK, university is a challenge in itself, let alone the further challenges you may face. The language barrier may or may not be a big thing for some of you, however, there will be many who may struggle with understanding the language. Understanding laws as well will be very difficult. For example: coming from an African nation to here, you may struggle to understand the rules on drinking, requirements to be able to work, etc. You also may not realise things like the perks of being a student, such as student discounts and freebies that universities and other organisations can offer.

Culture Shock

The culture shock can be massive, especially coming straight from Africa and Asia. Trust me, I know how it feels – little children with smartphones more powerful and expensive than the ones most people have back at home. Everyone has a phone, let alone a smartphone. Every road and street is paved, houses and buildings look relatively the same, so many races and ethnicities, so many hi-tech vehicles, and the huge amounts of westernisation .

New environment

Living, let alone spending, a lot of time in a new location is always quite difficult at first. Learning the transport routes for school, home and the town centre. Getting used to the change of people, of culture, and maybe even of technology. It can be daunting as well to get to know new people – your classmates, your teachers, your flatmates, members of the public, etc.

Studying

One major thing I and many others struggled with in relation to this is leading a balanced life. In truth this is very hard to do. Say, for example, you have lessons 3-5 days a week and travelling to and from the University takes a couple of hours, you also stay an hour or two in the library for revision purposes, you also need to go food shopping for that week, you also have boring household chores like laundry to do, but then you forgot that you have a 2000+ word essay due in a week… and you’ve only done 300 as you had no idea what to do at the time! Having all these happen to you weekly, it’s easy to get bogged down in the constant struggle and forego your mental and physical health.

Methods for easier settling

Support for foreigners

“If you want to do well, find out how things work” – Jim Rohn. Do you struggle with English? Download language apps. Use the University support services such as ASSIST, ISSS (International Student Support Services) and even any English-speaking friends. Moreover, maybe visit the UKCISA website to get some tips on how to deal with culture shock and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Money management is imperative for all. The University has a `Money Management Guide,` as well as a Financial Support Team.

Laws

My fellow students, when I started working in April 2022, my workplace let me know that as a student I am NOT allowed to work more than 20-24 hours a week – most workplaces will let you know about this very crucial law. The best place to understand and learn more laws? Go and visit the Police… seriously… we have a Visitor Centre at the UON campus, which is run by the Northampton Police. Believe me, they are friendly and always happy to help.

Perks

As students we get a lot of food, shopping and transport discounts. Even in the University itself, they give every eligible student a one-out-of-three perk option of a free laptop, £500 for food in the canteen, or £500 off accommodation costs*. Visit the Student Information Desk in the Learning Hub for further help. International students: the NHS is FREE (however you must live in the UK for at least six months)! Register with a GP (Moulton Surgery is close by), as this will help with general health enquiries and problems if they arise.

Mapping the new area

Get to know these big three: the University campus, accommodation, town centre. In my opinion, one of the best ways to spend your firsts few weeks is by knowing where these are. The best transport routes, GP surgery and hospital registration, places of worship, supermarkets, bus and train station, etc.

Studies

Most of your time should go on attending lessons and revision – goes without saying (I hope). Budget your time. Make time to exercise. The University has partnered with a gym called Trilogy Leisure (of course you can choose others), which is £15 a month to use the nearby gym and swimming pool. Eat well, less takeout and more home cooked meals. Read – university is apparently one of the best times for self-improvement and development. But also have fun – go airsofting, indoor wall climbing, clubbing, gym, whatever. Leave time in your life to be happy.

Acclimatising to a new environment takes time, don’t rush it. Enjoy the process as best you can.

Mckenny Ndifor
Mckenny Ndifor

Mckenny Ndifor is 19 years old of Cameroonian-British heritage. His hometown is Bedford, and 2022-23 will be his second year at University, on the Electrical Engineering course.