The International Student Experience: Settling Into the UK from Sweden

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Arriving in Southampton and settling into university is a daunting experience for any fresher, but when moving to a university also involves moving countries, the experience can be even scarier.

Despite previously visiting the UK, I spent the entirety of last summer excited but terrified of my upcoming move from Sweden to England for my first year of university. This move has without a doubt been the best choice of my life so far, but it did not come without difficulties, and there are certainly a number of things I wish I’d known before the big move.

First of all, there are the big things I knew were going to come up, like navigating the madness of left-side driving, setting up British phone numbers, bank accounts and basically moving my entire life across the pond. However, these things are surprisingly easy and in my experience, the university and the British in general are more than happy to help. What surprised me the most, is the small things you don’t even consider would be different.

Food-wise, I am still unable to understand why you are limited to toast bread in standard supermarkets, and the lack of soybeans broke my vegetarian heart. By contrast, I have also been introduced to Percy Pigs (literally the best thing about the UK, if you haven’t tried them, head to M&S ASAP!) and dirt cheap vodka… so you win some, you lose some.

The main thing you must remember is that many of the traditions and everyday practices of your culture that you take for granted, may not be a thing in England. I was SHOCKED to find that advent is rarely celebrated and finding out that you can get french fries with your meatballs in IKEA was blasphemous. Luckily, this is a great way to bond with your new university friends who are usually curious about where you come from but do expect some ignorant questions. If somebody asks me ‘soooooo… are you from Stockholm?’ one more time, I’ll assume every Brit was born and raised in London. Some ideas, like my cheese slicer and Glögg, will be rejected by your peers as weird. But others, like my introduction of the Swedish chocolate Marabou and the swearword ‘helvete’ will be extremely appreciated. I’ve also been informed that the best way to explore IKEA is with a homesick Swedish person.

Glögg | Credit: [url=https://flic.kr/p/dHPi64][img]https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8502/8349485297_90804f18b8_k.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/dHPi64]Gløgg (mulled wine)[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/lemsipmatt/]Lemsipmatt[/url], on Flickr
Then, if you are a non-native speaker like me, there is the inevitable issue of the English language. I personally speak the language fluently and cannot, therefore, speak for those who struggle worse with English, but I will state that regardless of fluency, you will get criticized for it. My accent is a weird blend that leaves everyone besides Americans thinking I’m from America and the Americans confusedly asking where I’m really from. With this, however, comes American vocabulary; leaving my flatmates sarcastically asking what I’m talking about when I ask them to throw something in the trash can, and pants/trousers debates are inevitable. One thing you may encounter, that I detest, is the idea that because you are not native, your English is less than those born here. I don’t sound like I’m fluent, I am fluent, and my native tongue is irrespective.

Everything considered, Southampton is an amazing place for all students and I hope that like me, you’ll love it here. Settling in isn’t as difficult as you would expect, and making friends is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy at our university, but surprises are bound to arrive as you set foot on Limeyland as a first-time permanent resident.

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Second year English Lit student, passionate about novels, doggos, women's rights and mojitos.

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