It’s been four years since I left home to come to uni! Four years! And no, I’m not an international student on paper, but I might as well be. My entire family lives overseas. Like, a nine-to-fourteen hour flight overseas.
The first year was the hardest, as it always is. I cried on the plane over, like a baby, staring out the ellipsoid window at everything I was leaving behind. I still remember the guy next to me, awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact until he realised the tears weren’t stopping and, flustered, flailed around looking for handkerchiefs.
It’s that time of the year again. Chocolate Santas and gingerbread men have taken over the supermarkets and a never-ending playlist of Christmas songs encourages you to buy some more mince pies than you really need. Christmas has always been my favourite holiday, I’m one of those annoying people who starts singing Christmas songs in mid-summer, but being a university student can affect your Christmas spirit quite a bit. Between essay deadlines and exam revision, Christmas can actually come as a real surprise. Suddenly, the holidays are there, you find yourself sitting beneath a marvellously decorated tree, thinking about your upcoming exams, and being more of a Grinch than one of Santa’s joyful elfs. I’m in my fifth year of university and have spent Christmas time in three different countries during that period. Over the years, I’ve developed my own strategy to make Christmas season away from home a cheerful experience and I thought I’d share some of it with you guys.
University is a whole new ballgame which requires any new player to learn the rules. However, there are no written rules and it’s all trial and error. I mean, what’s the fun in rules anyway? Well, let me tell you what isn’t very fun for most people – adulting. Obviously, not everyone will have the same experience and will have different living situations, but people living whether a two-hour train ride or a 12-hour plane ride away from home will know what I mean. From my experience so far, living alone is the never-ending balancing act between adulting and university work.
Every year, students from Kenya travel across seas to pursue their passion miles away from home. Having watched various people I know coming and going to university, the UK was always intriguing. As much as people can explain their experience, you never really know until you feel it. Soon enough, there it was, my time to step out of my comfort zone.
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:
Language constitutes an enormous part of our lives. In typing emails, when ordering our morning coffee (though the first order of the day often seems to come out more like a caveman-esque grunt at the poor barista), when reading the news, even our thoughts are dependent on the language that we speak.
Settling in a new place can be a daunting experience indeed, especially when you’re facing this prospect for the first time. Trust me – I know what I’m talking about. Raised in an average German city as the only child of loving parents, the event of my graduation from secondary school and my thus forthcoming departure from the life I knew so far gave me more than just one restless night. Not only did I have no idea what to expect from the coming months, but I also enrolled at a university that happened to be situated at the opposite side of the country. I was leaving my family, friends and even my beloved guitar behind, which had accompanied me for the best part of my life. I was frightened of pretty much everything from bureaucratic duties to how I would perform in class.
When I first arrived in Sheffield to start my PhD, I felt totally overwhelmed. I was on my own, I could not understand people when they were talking to me –the accent from Sheffield can be very hard to understand sometimes – and, therefore, the city felt much more threatening than I expected. Those problems, however, did not last long. Continue reading →
The first semester was anything but easy for me. I am a first year international student so most of the first semester was spent settling in into Sheffield. Additionally, I had to study, participate in extra-curricular activities, make friends and settle into university life at the same time. It was super overwhelming and I feel like if I had known earlier that this would be the case, I would have been more prepared and would have handled the situation better. But I did not and these are the some of the lessons I learnt from the first semester as an international student. Continue reading →