Studying away from home is an adventure and a journey that promises both challenges and rewards. Many students come from different countries to join our university and they have to overcome many difficulties that can be additional to those that the UK students have to face. Two students who come from different countries, Kornelia and Mathias, talk about their personal experiences and give advice to those who are scared to start their new life in England.
“When I arrived in Exeter”, writes Kornelia, “I initially felt overwhelmed by the university lifestyle. My timetable was surprisingly empty, and social activities like clubbing and pub visits were foreign to me. As an IB graduate, I was eager to dive into academics again, but the workload was lighter. During my first term, I had my first clubbing experience that I did not enjoy and I decided that I preferred to spend more time by myself studying. I did enjoy my time, but it wasn’t the ‘uni experience’ I wanted. Therefore, I think my biggest advice to make Exeter feel at home as an international student is to start making friends and work on those friendships. It doesn’t have to be people in halls, there are loads of societies that you can join, that are always looking for new members and are very welcoming. I started making more friends in my second year and getting comfortable with them and since that time, I’ve been having the best time at Exeter. We study together, do goofy things, go party or to a pub and no matter what we do, I always love it and make the best memories.”
I think my biggest advice to make Exeter feel like home as an international student is to start making friends and work on those friendships.
Mathias emphasises the possibility of finding friends through international societies: “As an international student at the University of Exeter, I’ve come to realize that this experience is a beautiful blend of difficulties and sensational moments. The challenge that you will very likely face at the University of Exeter is adapting to a new culture. The UK, while welcoming and diverse, may present norms, and even humour (prepare yourself for it) that differ vastly from what you’re accustomed to. Initially, this cultural adjustment can be intimidating but everyone working at the University will be there to help you. Never hesitate to ask for help or, for example, join an international society linked to your home country, in case you want to reconnect with your culture or language. Joining an international society will help you to be surrounded by other international students and help to overcome possible homesickness. One of the reassuring aspects of being an international student at Exeter is the incredible support system the university, but especially the Students’ Guild provides. If you try and contact the Advice Team, I can assure you from a personal point of view that they will be of great help. They understand the unique challenges we face and offer counselling services to help us adjust both academically and personally. Therefore, I really believe that studying in England as a person from abroad can be a transformative experience. It challenges you to step out of your comfort zone, develop independence, and become more adaptable – qualities that can serve you well throughout your life.”