Joining the UK as an international student can be daunting. You have to change your schedule, figure out new routes in a city and even learn a new language. Its an experience of a lifetime and can be so much fun. We interviewed a couple of international students from different parts of the world to see their lives as international students.
What was your first thought when you came to the UK?
“All the houses look the same. What is with that? And why was it so cold. I remember looking around and trying to see if there was something different, something that could stand out. But none. Nada. The thing is I still get lost trying to find my accommodation in Leeds. It’s like a never-ending maze in this country.”
“Some parts of the UK are very bland to look at. You have to conduct research to find out the secret places to visit. Or make a friend that knows the city in and out.”
Morning routine as an International Student?
“For frokost (breakfast), I usually have an open sandwich with strawberry jam. Open sandwiches are very common in Norway for both breakfast and lunch. Just because I’m in England doesn’t mean I can’t bring some of my country with me (I won’t mention the flag in my room). The coffee here seems to be slightly stronger than any I’ve tasted, and there are so many choices to choose from! I always remember to set my alarm early, so I have time to make a quick coffee or a quick sandwich. I usually wake up early and check the news for both the UK and Norway and send my mother a good morning text.”
“Like anyone else, wherever you are in the world, I check my phone in the morning before getting ready for my lectures. Where I’m from, I always used to make a full Korean breakfast. This would usually keep me full for the majority of the day (as a foodie I still eat). In the UK, they have the ingredients I need to make the, but it just doesn’t taste the same. Which I think is one of the big downsides. Saying that, I always eat Avacado on toast in the morning with a cup of tea. ”
What do you think of the food here? Lunch/Dinner Routine?
“I love some of the food here. A lot of the takeaways that I have on a Friday with my friends are really oily, which I like to avoid. For lunch and dinner, I always try to make a variety of meals from both back home and the ones I’ve picked up in the UK. The majority of the UK dishes are frozen, but they’re perfect when I’m in a rush”
“I always have pasta or a sandwich for lunch. If I’m feeling down for it, I’ll let one of my friends drag me down to Trinity Kitchens (in Leeds), and we try out the variety of foods there. For dinner, I either make something from scratch or order some takeout.”
Making new friends?
“I was fortunate enough to have two friends already from the UK, so I wasn’t lost in the middle of nowhere when I came. Making new friends, however, was difficult because a lot of the time, they’re already together in a group when they come to the university. I’m awkward and shy, so I did struggle at first but eventually, I realised that I’m not the only one. It’s always good to just go with your gut and be the first person to approach and make conversation. At times, I do feel like people struggle to understand me with my accent but I’m okay with that.”
What do you think is the biggest con of studying in the UK (Leeds)?
“Well everyone can predict this, but as an international student, I miss my family back home so much. Sending cards, souvenirs and video calls never do any justice to what it’s like living with them every day. Sure we get our freedom as a student, and we learn to stand on our own two feet, but the experience is never the same if your family aren’t there in person. Furthermore, I feel like there’s not enough support for international students at universities (e.g. translators, extra guidance, help around the city) and its something we have to do ourselves.”
“Other than not being able to get the food I want, it got to be missing my parents. I always make sure to text/call them every night before I go to bed and first thing in the morning. Another con about studying in the UK is that you have to adjust your lifestyle to fit into the UK culture. For example, having to say sorry for things that aren’t your fault (which I still don’t understand) or even the clothing I sometimes wear might not be seen as appropriate or ‘fitting in’.”
What do you do in your spare time as an international student?
“I definitely take the time out to learn about the city (Leeds), that I’m living in. There’s always so much to explore. I always take a friend with me because they know the best places, and they enjoy being my personal tour guide. Even though I’ve been an international student in the UK for just under two years now and there’s always something new to look at every time I go out. This is definitely a place I’ll come to visit after I go back!”
So for anyone wondering whether to study abroad as an international student, be that here or elsewhere, know you have some information to go off of.