Being away from home, there are so many overwhelming new things. New home, new people, new food, and most terrifyingly, for international students, a new language. Beth, a Wellbeing Rep at Emily Bowes Court shares her experiences.
Having to adjust to a new language is never as simple as it sounds. It is more than just learning a set of new words and grammar, but you also have no choice but to create a new identity, because people will now perceive you differently than they have had back at home. By not speaking in your mother tongue, you are challenged every time you speak. It’s a whole new learning process that you have to go through in order to express yourself as well as you can in your own language.
In short, it’s a journey that is out of everyone’s comfort zone.
For that reason it’s very understandable for any international students to want to surround themselves with people from the same home, who understands their struggles as much as them, and be part of their own country’s community in the UK. Because when people live away from their home they all want a sense of belonging.
How do I know this so well? Because I have felt the exact same feeling. When I was seven years old I moved to Australia from South Korea. It is never easy for anyone to adjust to new culture but once you have mastered adjusting to a new culture, you now have the beauty to understand both very well.
Here are some few tips I would give to fellow international students:
1. Make a friend from a completely different background to you
One of the most beautiful things about London is its diversity. Especially being part of UAL- you will encounter people from all around the world. As tempting as it might be to approach a friend from the same background, have the confidence to approach to someone from a complete different culture. Whether it is from your flat, from a Social event or from your tutor groups. Get to know them, be open to learn new different cultures and inform them about your own. Keep in mind that they are just as challenged as you are, trying to adjust to this big city, London. Being curious and being open minded to other cultures and talking about your home to people who perhaps have never been to, will excite you and it will be a natural way to help you get more used to the language as well.
2. Explore, explore, explore!
Used to the underground yet? Thanks to City mapper, you can basically figure a way to go anywhere in London. London is a big city with incredible amount of history to get to know. You don’t necessarily have to travel far to explore. It can simply be going to the nearest weekend market or going to an open space such as the park.
You can learn little details just by people watching. Perhaps it’s watching how people interact, the way they use hand gestures (I know that there are more hand gestures whilst speaking in the West), maybe what people are reading to the way they dress. All these things can be little pieces of puzzles that will help you understand the British culture in a much richer way. Those observations can also be a great conversation starter to a friend you are getting to know as well. A very interesting thing I noticed when I first moved to the UK was how little amount of people actually opened their umbrellas when it was raining. It just proved to me how normalized the rain was to the people and how “the rain never bothered them anyway”.
4. Never be afraid to share your thoughts in class
Participating in class, sharing your thoughts to others and discussing is a huge part of learning process that students in the West are encouraged from young age. However, if you are from a country with a very strict seniority system like South Korea for example, this could be a whole new learning system that you may need to get used to. By participating and being more engaged in class can not only make your experience at UAL richer, but can also help fellow classmates to learn new perspectives on things!