Sixteen. That was my age when I started off my first year in the University, much younger than everyone else around me. Many people would be curious about how I came here at such a young age. It was due to the different education system in Malaysia, and also the fact that I took a “fast track” 1-year foundation course instead of A Levels. As I was under 18, I was required to have a quick check-in once a week with the Chemical Engineering Wellbeing Support Team so that they could ensure that I was doing well. Although it is not easy to handle all the ‘adult’ responsibilities, it is important to know that there is a lot of support available from the University. During the sessions, I would have a chat with the wellbeing officer, and they would offer advice if there were any problems I had.
Moving to a new environment, it is common to experience culture shock. It took me quite a while to adjust to the different aspects of the UK, including the accents, mannerisms and food. From my personal experiences, realising and accepting that you’re undergoing culture shock may be a good starting point to help you adapt to the foreign culture. I tried to turn the shock into a learning experience, and even treated it like an adventure! Although I was afraid that I might stand out amongst a completely different culture, I found out that keeping things to myself only made me more isolated from my new surroundings. Culture shock has less of an effect when you’re talking to people and making friends. Don’t be afraid to speak up, since most of your peers might also be having a hard time adapting to their university lives.
Homesickness is probably the most difficult part that international students have to face. Having video calls with your family and bringing some comfort food would definitely make you feel a bit better. There are also various societies where you can connect with people from your home country, such as the Malaysian Society in my case. However, I believe that the trick in dealing with homesickness is to accept the fact that it’s never going to go away completely. To be honest, I still do feel homesick time to time, even after living in the UK for two years. You should always remind yourself of the reason why you came to a new country at the very beginning, so you have to stay optimistic and be responsible for the decision that you made. I found it really helpful to keep myself busy because it kept my mind off things and made me immerse in a new life routine.
By allowing yourself the space and time you need to adjust, you will eventually be able to adapt to the new environment more easily. After all, university life is meant to be enjoyed! Look out for my next blog, where I will give you an insider’s view into the life of a Chemical Engineering student.