Top 5 tips for international postgraduate students: make the most out of your time at university

I came to Sheffield from Malaysia in 2012 as an international student, studying LLB Law. I completed my undergraduate degree in 2015. I then decided after three years of employment (also here in Sheffield), that Sheffield is the city I would like to do my Masters too (that proves to you how much I love Sheffield!) In comparison to most international postgraduate students who only just started their first year in Sheffield, I’m in a better position as I have already known the city inside-out as well as university life.

A lot of international postgraduate students found it difficult to make the most out of their time at university as postgraduate course could be really intense, and usually by the time they start to get a grip on everything, it’s time for them to say goodbye. So as someone who has been here long enough, here are my top 5 tips to make the most out of your time at university:

Tip 1: Be brave, speak and make friends from around the world!

A lot of my international postgraduate friends (particularly those whose English is not their first language) have been asking me questions such as: How do you speak English so fluently? How do you understand them British? Believe it or not, I didn’t speak English at all when I first come to uni. My mother tongue is Mandarin Chinese. I spent nearly a year just to get my head around different UK accents and slang words (ie. love, duck, ey up etc.)

Tip 1

What I found useful is to KEEP TALKING! You probably think, ‘I speak really broken English, it’s really embarrassing’. Believe me, you have to be bold, keep talking even though you don’t speak perfect English (at least for me, this way works!) I embarrassed myself a lot in the past (and I still do) when I was learning to speak English. I once pronounced the word ‘chaos’ as ‘ch-ows’ instead of ‘kay-os’, and my friends around me just couldn’t stop laughing (of course they don’t laugh at me in a derogatory way).

One thing I thought is useful for you to know is that British people are generally very polite, they don’t want to correct you even when you said something wrong because they think is rude to do so. I used to tell all my British friends, please correct me when I say anything wrong. I used to apologise for not speaking English really well, but my British friends told me, ‘don’t be silly, we can’t speak your language as well as you speak ours’ – which is true. So for those of you who are worry about your language skills, stop worrying! Just go out of your comfort zone and SPEAK! You will soon find yourself in the position where you start speaking better English and make a lot of new friends, not only British friends but friends from all over the world!

Tip 2: Get involved in Give it a Go activities

For those of you who aren’t aware of Give it a Go, it is genuinely one of the best ways to get your head round the (over) 400 societies and sports club in the SU. A lot of societies and sports clubs offer ‘Give it a Go’ sessions at affordable costs. You could sign up to any sessions you think you might be interested in and find out more about what the societies and sport clubs offer. You can decide later whether you would like to join the societies and sports club for a longer term.

Tip 2

Give it a Go also runs day trips to various famous attractions in the UK such as Alnwick Castle, Warner Brothers Studio Tour, Alton Towers and many more. For international students who are here in the UK for the very first time, it’s a good way of exploring different parts of the UK while you’re studying here. I have been on so many Give it a Go trips when I was at uni and I would truly recommend it.

Give it a Go also offers a lot of other opportunities such as language classes. Find out more from:

Tip 3: Try volunteering

On my first year in Sheffield, I took part in a lot of volunteering activities organised by Sheffield Volunteering. By volunteering, you can gain a lot of transferable skills such as teamwork, communication skills and time management. I did a couple of river conservation work projects with Sheffield Volunteering and have made friends for life. With all the skills I have gained from volunteering, I have been able to include them in my CV when applying for jobs. Remember, the employer won’t be looking for high-achieving candidates in academic studies only, they would like to see the transferable skills you have too! For those of you who are in your first year in Sheffield, you might find it hard to get a part time job immediately without having any transferable skills. So, start volunteering! Find out more:

Tip 3

Tip 4: Be part of the Social Sport family

Sometimes international postgraduate students might find it hard to involve in a sports club due to the time commitment. Social Sport is a great scheme run by Sports Sheffield. No commitment is needed and all the sessions are ‘pay as you go’ (sometimes you can even take part for free if you live in university residences!) I love doing sports or going to the gym whenever I felt stressed. Sport is honestly a great way to destress, whenever you feel like you ‘have had enough of studying’, why not go to a Social Sport session?

Tip 4

Tip 5: Just enjoy!

Last but not least, my last tip is to JUST ENJOY IT! You are only here for 1 year (but of course if you love Sheffield like I do, you could stay on for as long as you like), gaining your Masters degree is no doubt important, but you should make the most out of your time at university while you’re here in Sheffield! Remember: Work hard, play hard!

Tip 5

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