I’m originally from India and I pursued my Masters at Royal Holloway, University of London. When I first landed at Heathrow Airport, my immigration officer was a Sikh gentleman with a turban. Although I’m not from Punjab, I felt at ease because I had plenty of friends who were ‘Sarders’ living in the vicinity of my home.
Even my taxi driver from the airport to my university accommodation was of Indian origin and had been born and raised in the UK. This made me feel even more at home.
London is not a foreign city for Indians. In fact, you’ll frequently hear Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, and Kannada being spoken on public transport. You’ll also find Asian grocery stores and amenities scattered all over London and Greater London, making it feel like a home away from home.
During my studies, I had the world at my fingertips. I had classmates from India, the UK, Europe, Pakistan, the US, Australia, and more. It was truly an experience of a lifetime.
Let me tell you, I come from a half-village, half-town in India and had never lived in a first-tier Indian metropolitan city like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, or Kolkata before making the move to London. If I could survive and thrive, so can you.
As an international student in the UK, life is not what you would expect from the top of your head. It is an entirely new world, from juggling between classes to doing household chores.
You will find yourself running to your job, coming back to take groceries and cooking them for yourself, and cleaning your dishes. Even when you are most tired, you will remember that you still have laundry to do or that you need to iron your clothes.
From the moment you wake up until you go to sleep, you will have endless tasks to complete, and you can’t ignore any of them. If you try to do so, you will end up either hungry or eating out.
Life isn’t as fancy as it may look, but what is more important is that you become extremely independent. You don’t need anyone to take care of yourself; you become more than sufficient to take care of your needs, requirements, and almost everything.
As an international student, you will learn so many things, meet new people, experience new cultures, and eventually miss your own country’s festivals. The summer is beautiful, but the winters can be gloomy. There are so many things to discover and experience as an international student in the UK.
Studying in the UK has changed my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined. From the top-notch education and exposure to diverse cultures to the beautiful country and great nightlife, there are countless reasons to choose the UK as your study destination. However, if I had to summarize how studying in the UK changed my life, it would be the person I became during my time there.
Becoming independent was one of the most significant changes I experienced. Living in my comfort zone with family, I never had to worry about rent, food, or bills. But everything changed as soon as I landed in the UK. The uncertainty of living in a foreign country initially created tension, but it also brought out my ability to deal with it. I learned to take care of myself without relying on others and even picked up skills like budgeting, cooking, and managing my expenses.
Another significant change was the international friendships I made. Before my studies, I had limited exposure to different cultures and countries, but during my course, I had the pleasure of interacting with students from the US, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, North Korea, and many more. This exposure to diverse cultures not only enhanced my personal development but also my professional development.
Improved communication skills were also a big change for me. I overcame my hesitance to communicate in English as soon as I landed in the UK. My accent, vocabulary, and confidence kept growing as I interacted with people from different backgrounds. The part-time job I had at a hotel helped me improve my communication skills even further and grow as a person.
As an international student studying in a predominantly Indian university, I have observed and spoken with my peers to compile a list of helpful tips for other students like them:
- Make friends with people from different backgrounds – not just from India. This will help improve your English and expose you to different cultures. It can also be a great opportunity to learn about how British people do things and to share your own perspectives and traditions.
- Keep an open mind and try new things. Studying abroad can be a bit of a culture shock, but it’s important to embrace the experience and immerse yourself in the new environment. Even if you don’t end up staying in the UK, you’ll still have had a valuable experience.
- Learn how to reference properly. This is especially important for postgraduate students, as referencing is a crucial aspect of getting a high grade. Make sure you understand the referencing system in the UK, as it can be quite different from what you’re used to in India.
- Decide what you want to get out of your time in the UK. Is it just about getting a degree, or do you also want to have a cultural experience? Make sure you connect with like-minded individuals and don’t try to work with people who have different priorities.
- Make meaningful connections. Take the opportunity to meet new people and build relationships. You never know who might be able to offer you helpful advice, or even present you with future opportunities.
- Bring spices from home. It can be difficult to find the same spices in the UK, so bringing some from home can make a big difference in your cooking.