Are you an international student coming to the UK for the first time? We know it can be overwhelming. This is why we asked an international graduate for top tips to help you get settled and make the most of your time in the UK.
I am Bonnie Liu, originally from China, has just finished my master’s at the University of Leeds. Here are 10 things I wish I knew when I arrived in the UK. I hope these tips help you get prepared to embrace the wonderful life here!
1. It’s common to feel overwhelmed at first
During my first month in the UK, I was so overwhelmed with BRP, bank accounts, GP registration and stuff like that. I was not able to even order a pizza because I couldn’t download the right app with my Chinese Apple ID!
But one month later, I got everything I need. It’s very common for everything to feel difficult at first. Don’t worry, you will get through it soon!
2. Student life isn’t just about study
I came here for my master’s degree but I also learned a lot outside the classroom. There are so many interesting societies to join and so many amazing people to meet. It’s a great opportunity to do something you really love. Just dive in and enjoy!
3. Time flies
If you are studying a one-year programme, you will find time flies fast. This year was especially intense for me because I want to stay here and find a job.
It requires some time management skills to make sure you meet your goals of both study and employability. Do prepare earlier for job seeking as most graduate opportunities open one year before graduation.
4. A healthy financial situation is a key to happiness
I have to say, living expenses in the UK are higher than in many countries. I planned my monthly budget to avoid “being broke” and even saved some money for nice trips. So far I’ve been to Spain, France, Germany and Morocco as well as many places in England.
It’s important to keep a healthy financial situation so that you can spare some money for what makes you happy.
5. It’s a good opportunity to develop English
I found the best way to learn English is to talk with people. I built confidence as I talked more and more. It will also help you engage in class and express your own opinions. Furthermore, as an international student, you have to overcome the language barrier if you plan to find a job in the UK.
6. Get involved in the area you are interested in
I’ve always been interested in AI technology since I was in China. Although I don’t know how to programme, I’m involved in this area all the time. I did volunteer work at an AI summit in Leeds just out of interest. Eventually, this experience inspired me on my dissertation topic, and I interviewed some people I got to know from this event.
Get involved in the area you are interested in. You may not know how it will help, but it will.
7. Go out and meet people
In the first semester, I didn’t know many people and most were Chinese. I felt homesick a lot. In the second semester, I set a goal for myself to make friends in the UK. I went out for social activities and tried to talk with people from other countries. It was fun because they always brought me new ideas. And what’s cooler than having good friends from all over the world? My friends from Asia, Africa and South America have invited me to visit their hometowns. I’m so excited to explore the world.
8. Don’t push yourself too hard
Before due assignments, I wanted a good grade so much that I refused my friends’ invitation for anything and forced myself to stay concentrated for a whole day. But it turned out to be ineffective and made me super stressed. Then I learned to relax and not push myself too hard. After that, my grades didn’t drop but improved. I think it is because my brain also needs rest, it cannot perform well under pressure.
9. Make the most of the resources from the University
The University provides a wide range of resources including the library, career services, online courses and free support covering almost every aspect of your life! Make the most of these resources as they are included in your tuition fee.
10. Just go for it and enjoy
Studying in the UK is my most valuable experience. I believe you will feel the same. To make friends, to immerse in a totally different culture, to learn new skills, to challenge yourself. And most importantly, to enjoy. It can be difficult sometimes, but it’s worth it. Just go for it!