Being an international student and what to expect when studying abroad...

Wednesday, June 03, 2015 12:00 AM

Last September, I arrived at Heathrow Airport, nervous, sweaty-palmed and ready to start my first year studying in the UK.

Arriving at a new school in a new country easily tops my ‘Most Nerve-Wrecking Things I Had To Do’ list. The decision was easy; I came to the UK to study A-levels because my old school in Hong Kong didn’t provide the subject combination I like. Now, I am happily studying Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and English Literature. Like I said, the decision was easy, but that didn’t prepare me for all that change.

Going to a school in the heart of Hong Kong meant that I wasn’t a stranger to being a part of an international community. Yet somehow, I was absolutely terrified of trying to make friends with a bunch of girls that on hindsight, were probably as anxious as I was. Most importantly, I was extremely nervous about boarding school life – do I really have to turn off my lights at ten? Would my new room-mate be angry because I sleep like the dead and need four alarm clocks? I was thinking about consulting books on boarding etiquette, but I shouldn’t have been worried. If you’re going to a new school like I was, scared out of your wits, then don’t be! The chances are your new schoolmates are as nervous as you, and the next thing you’ll know, you will be all sharing pizza in the common room. Make the most of this opportunity to learn about different cultures and widen your own view of the world.

With one of the seemingly important problems out of the way, it wasn’t difficult to settle into a new school. Sure, we all had that weekend when we really missed our mum’s cooking; that first week when getting to your next class feels more like navigating through Narnia; and the shock of being at the end of the lunch queue. Soon you’ll find that you have loads of support from everyone at school, and it’s always nice to make a new friend when you’re both standing confusedly in the middle of a school hallway.

Going to a school in the UK is an amazing opportunity. Besides expanding your horizons and meeting new friends, there are opportunities around every corner. Since I am hoping to study Medicine at university, I have taken the liberty of broadening my knowledge through work experiences in UK hospitals and medical lectures. There is a lot of information available for students and you should take the chance to explore other options. Although I was planning on returning to Hong Kong for university, I am now contemplating other possibilities.

Studying in another country sounds terrifying and a big step out of anyone’s comfort zone. However, remember that it also means an incredibly rare opportunity to learn more about other cultures, other pathways and also yourself. Take the most out of this new beginning to broaden your view of the world and develop your own prospects.

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