Lessons Learnt from a Year Studying in the UK
Studying in the United Kingdom is an all-new and exciting journey, especially as an international student. Apart from the four dominant cultures (English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish), the UK caters to the international crowd and makes everyone feel at home. Starting a new life abroad and balancing it with academics is often challenging. It can be overbearing, yet a great learning experience, not just about the world but also about yourself. The good times, the bad times, and the desperate times, everything will mold you and recreate you as a person. Here are some lessons you can expect to learn from your first year studying in the UK.
● In-depth cultural perspective.
We all have our own opinions and biases. Living in the UK will teach you to learn new things about different cultures and will make you unlearn conventions and stereotypes you have about them. It will make the world seem more connected, and you will share a more enduring bond with the international community. Knowing and living with people from around the globe will make you understand and appreciate other cultures. It will sensitise you about aspects of life you were not even aware of until now.
● Not all plans work.
You will probably move to the UK with glamorous lifestyle goals, bigger than life understanding of the country, and high goals, but it is okay to understand that not everything will pan out like you would want them to. Things have a way of going wrong; for instance, the pandemic this year has jeopardised plans for anyone living their first year in the UK through Covid-19. Nonetheless, you will meet new people, do new things. The new environment may or may not suit you; it will prepare you to understand that sometimes it is okay to go with the flow rather than strict timetables.
● Traveler or tourist?
The UK will give you plenty of opportunities to travel, and it is important to utilise and maximise these opportunities. Sometimes you will go with your friends or flat mates but other times, you might find yourself alone, and you will need for the first-time travel solo. It is all a learning curve. Each experience teaches you so much about the place. You can choose to do more typical touristy stuff or travel around like a local, but it is essential to let go and wander around. Create memories, capture memories, and make sure that you are happy and satisfied when you are back.
● Differences are not bad.
While living in the UK, when you intermingle with such an international crowd and with so many different people, you understand that certain aspects that may be scandalous to you would seem reasonable to someone else. You learn that we are all different, and our differences make us unique; they do not make us right or wrong. You comprehend it is okay to have varied opinions and disagree and debate if you are respectful of other people's space and opinions. You learn to celebrate differences, to grow through them, and embrace people for who they are.
● Budgeting in the new currency is a task.
Budgeting is a skill. It is challenging enough to stick to a budget in general but living alone and managing your finances in a foreign currency may be cumbersome. You might overspend, fail initially, or find it super annoying to mentally convert the prices of items you purchase to your home currency. UK pounds are more expensive than most other currency, so you are likely to walk on eggshells while living in the UK. Understand that it is okay to struggle with the math or the difference in pricing, and you will eventually get better and more comfortable as you spend more time in the UK.
● Get uncomfortable.
We are programmed to be shielded and cocooned in our safety net. We tend to analyse the risks of our actions in our minds before saying yes and often stay with the most natural choices, but living in the UK will teach you to take risks, explore new things and say yes, even if you are unsure. You will either get a fantastic experience or learn a new lesson. Get uncomfortable, leave your safety net, and take that leap of faith because now is the time. Unless you leave the shore, you won’t know for sure how far you can go.
● You cannot capture everything.
It is a new country, and you would be living in a beautiful city where everything looks picturesque. Who would not be tempted to take photos every thirty seconds? Take as many pictures as you can. Make that travel scrapbook you have been waiting to put together since you were a kid but know there may never be enough photos to capture the essence of the life you are leading. You will have to learn to bask in the moment and make memories instead of trying to capture it all. You will have to inhale all the freshly cut Christmas tree fragrance you can and touch the snow as it melts away in your palm. Take pictures, but do not forget to live.
● Same home, a new vision.
After living in a new country, you will start to observe your country with much more objectivity. You will appreciate it more, miss the delicious food, the beautiful landscape, and all week party vibes of your buzzing city or the quiet serene air of your peaceful city. You will miss your festivals, traditions, ideals, and celebrations. You will probably see how you took your country for granted, and there is so much to respect, love, and miss.
● Alone but not lonely.
It is natural to miss your friends and family. It feels more comfortable connecting with people from the same background and culture as yours. Leaving it all behind and moving to a new country can seem a little daunting. You may be alone for a while, but you will never be lonely. Do not be afraid to initiate the first step, text people, make plans. Go for coffee and walks; everyone has a story to tell, listen, and connect. Very soon, you will find your new people to share life with.
Living a student life in the UK is a lifetime experience, and you must cherish every bit of it. It is okay to get homesick and miss your family and friends; but remember to try to live and enjoy the present. It is okay if you feel lost; it is a new country, a new way of living. By the end of your time in the UK, you would have found a version of yourself that you could not have ever thought about. Leave your room, ditch the Netflix, go out for a walk if nothing else, make the most of it. Appreciate where you are right now and seize the day!
By Prerna Deep