Making the decision to be an international student during my time at university has provided me with some of the most amazing and challenging times in my life.
Let’s face it: attending university abroad sounds amazing but you’re going to feel a bit crazy when you’ve packed all of your belongings into a bag just so you can move to another country which you may not know a single thing about. And that’s scary as all hell. While moving across the globe has been the single best decision I’ve ever made, everything comes with its downsides.
Here are my 5 top tips to adapting to live in England as an international student, and how to get the most out of your time here.
1. Take time to learn not just about English culture, but about cultures all over the world.
Learning about English culture has been really amazing – I never realized how different it could be from America. With that in mind, one of the most exciting things about living in Southampton is how multi-cultural it is. No matter where you go, you’re bound to be surrounded by people from all over the world. Within your course, accommodation, and time in England, you’ll be given the opportunity to meet such a wide range of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Take time to learn about each other’s cultures. It’s been so eye-opening for me to see just how different things can be across the globe. Helpful tip: One of my favorite activities with my friends (which I would definitely suggest) is to each host a dinner specific to whatever country you’re from. That way, you can all get to know a bit more about each other’s home.
2. But never stop embracing your culture.
Staying true to your roots is important. I remember a time where all I wanted to do as an international student was to just fit in with everyone. I didn’t like being so different. I had a funny accent. I didn’t really understand most of British slang (because really, what actually is a “cheeky Nandos“?). No matter where I went, the second I started speaking, people knew I was different. But once I started embracing my American culture, I realized how much it would enhance my time being away from home. I gained a massive appreciation for my home and American culture. And even better, I learned that being an international student is actually one of the best ways to make friends – you’ve always got a topic of conversation when meeting new people!
3. Stay busy, and get involved.
For the first few weeks upon arriving into England, get involved with as many events and societies as you possibly can and meet everyone along the way! It may seem really cliche, but you never know who may turn into your next lifelong best friend. You may get homesick, but I’ve found that forcing myself to go out and stay busy was a much better remedy than staying in and moaning about it all day. The more you get involved with, the more people you meet. And the more people you meet, the less likely you are to feel homesick because you’ll have all of these exciting new friends to help you along the way!
4. Don’t get nervous if you don’t like to drink.
This seems like a silly thing to say, but when I first moved to England, I was nervous about all of the Freshers activities. I thought that if I didn’t like drinking, I wouldn’t be able to participate in any events, or enjoy the few I went to. The Union puts on a great sum of events, and there are loads of opportunities to get involved in Freshers even if you don’t enjoy drinking. The only important thing to remember is to stay involved, no matter what!
5. Make your room feel like home.
One of the most helpful tips I’ve learned when moving to a new country is to make yourself feel at home, no matter where you are. A room of blank walls and empty desks will only make you upset. Hang photos of your family and friends from home. Buy picture frames to make your room look nice. Throughout your time at university, add photos of your new friends alongside. Having a space which you feel comfortable and happy in is key to enjoying your time away from home. Everyone needs their own space, and without the effort of making your room feel home-y, you won’t feel like you have your own space anywhere.