Hello everyone, as a first post on this blog I wanted to talk about what life as an international student is like.
Going abroad for my studies has definitely changed my life, in many different and good ways. Now in my third year, when looking back I realise I chose my course with a lot of uncertainty. Having chosen it mainly for its unique combination of Maritime Business and Maritime Law, I expected tough studies, a lot of language problems and I didn’t have any idea what Plymouth was going to be like as a place to live. I didn't find living abroad as hard as I thought it would be. I arrived in Plymouth in July as I was trying to improve my English for the studies. There were no students but I had the luck to bump into one of my new housemates and she encouraged me to go out for a drink - definitely the best way in a foreign country to meet people and improve language skills. Luckily, since then I always tended to find myself with similar international students with the same issues and questions. Not being the only one gave me confidence in speaking so I quickly improved and met as many people as possible. Compared to my home country Germany, becoming a student in the UK seemed to me less formal but more fun. For example the first week of my degree I spent a lot of time getting to know people during maritime events i.e. on a boat trip and in the Plymouth Gin Distillery. I was also able to join a trip to London International Shipping Week giving me the opportunity to meet some third years but also many industry professionals, which was really what I wanted. Lectures are in a much smaller group than what I heard from friends in Germany and the lecturers are definitely more interactive - rather like in school.
Out of everything I did I think the most important part was finding like-minded people and good new friends - they are the basis for a successful degree. Being part of a very international course with only a couple of British students, the hardest part for me was adapting to the many cultural differences. An example of this is jokes that are fine in one country make one incredibly unpopular in another. I always approached it with the attitude that one can only learn by simply going for it and whilst I am still learning I ended up having a great time with everyone.
Living abroad for me might have been different than for others because it came as a relief from a difficult situation at home rather than a breakaway from the family as it may have felt for others. I had been doing an exchange in France for 7 months before so I was also pretty much used to the situation. However, as a student and when starting university, I think no one would really need to have any worries about finding friends and feeling at home. There are so many people to meet during Freshers’ week and whether living in halls or in another student accommodation, I have not met many people who didn’t have a great time. The typical Plymouth accommodation I have been living in so far were also a positive surprise, as all student houses in Plymouth are usually just around the University and rooms are generally very spacious. Trying to keep the living room and kitchen clean is of course not always an easy task, especially when living with guys but I never thought it crossed the line - for me it’s all about having fun and getting a good degree in the end anyways. British food was fine for me but I know that many international students say that the food is the only thing they didn’t like here. To be honest, I am not much of a culinary expert so for me it was not a big difference but for international students there is always something from their own country they can find in town. I also think fish & chips has become one of my favourites. Living with Spanish house mates, I know they cook a lot of Spanish meals and my girlfriend who is from Hong Kong will usually cook me great Chinese meals so I think there is really no problem for anyone to bring a bit of home to the UK.