Settling into the UK at university was completely different to my high school experience in the UK. Nevertheless, it was still a challenge.
Initially when I arrived (having lived already in the UK for 6 years previously), I had an idea of British culture. For that reason perhaps my settling wasn’t the same as other internationals coming straight from their previous home. Even though my situation was different, I experienced similar emotions regardless during my education.
When I first arrived, I had a culture shock. I didn’t want to admit it, wanted to convince myself that I was settling in. I was, but not comfortably. Despite these emotions, I know that they were normal. In high school I was the only international, and so I thought that the emotions I were facing were strange. I remember feeling alone, isolated and lost. Constant emotions ricocheted through my mind. The initial feeling may have been largely due to a lack of relation to my struggles by my peers.
A piece of advice I would give is to embrace the emotions you are feeling, and use them to reach out to others. I had few friends in high school, but as I faced my emotions and admitted to finding my time in the UK difficult, friends opened up. At university it was still difficult – I wasn’t completely adapted, and being accepted by peers was hard. However, you should ignore those who don’t accept you or open up. Sticking with those that do means that eventually things will be better, I promise.
Finally met some people from Leeds/international students and we all have the same struggles so I don't feel as bad
— Shannon Kee (@Shannagains) September 11, 2017
At university, all my other international friends came to me for advice. I remember advising my friends on how to set up their bank account, how to retrieve a lost phone on the bus, signing up to the GP. Yes, they were only small things, but coming to a country with a completely different system can be truly overwhelming. Asking others: your student union, friends and tutor really helps and is another recommendation I would give to future students trying to settle in.
One of the advantages of university (especially at Leeds) is the breadth of international students. Making friends, joining international oriented societies like ESN and talking to these individuals confirmed that all these overwhelming feelings were normal. On reflection, I should thank all my friends at university. Meeting so many new people and being able to talk to them at pre-drinks or breakfast in the refectory made the group feel like a small family. It’s them who made this unusual atmosphere a home away from home. Discovering their culture and the city of Leeds with them put all those feelings aside. We were in the same boat.
I think the strongest piece of advice I can give to any student, although cliché, is to simply be yourself. Open up to everyone you meet. Meet as many people as you can, because amongst the few which may make you feel uncomfortable, you’ll meet amazing friends. And if after a few weeks you realise you don’t click with a few people, it doesn’t matter. University is about meeting people, trying new things and developing who you really are. Embrace that, because it’ll be part of the best years of your life.
Photo credit: http://monitor.icef.com/2015/11/the-state-of-international-student-mobility-in-2015/