Starting university is a big deal. Starting university in a whole new country can be even bigger.
When I first moved to the UK to start at UEA I was a little scared, quite homesick, and very excited. People will always have their own unique experiences of wherever they go – for me being an international student was fairly smooth sailing, but I know that isn’t always the case. This International Education Week I want to share my first-hand experience of the work the UEA and the SU do to create lots of opportunities for International Students as well as the ways in which we are always looking to improve.
My favourite parts of my experience as an international student have been the numerous cultural societies, buddy(su) (this one in particular being very close to my heart), the inclusivity and awareness campaigns, and all the various learning support options:
Cultural societies are a great way to meet students from similar backgrounds, make friends and help with homesickness. They can also really help with potential culture shock that comes from moving to a different country by allowing you to have a bit of a home away from home. Societies often host their own events as well as events in collaboration with other societies, so you get to meet people from different cultures too. One such cultural society is the International Students Society, which I joined back in my first year at UEA and loved being a part of!
Aside from cultural societies, there are also socs for all sorts of things, and a lot of these can actually be a gateway to exploring UEA and Norwich. In my first year I joined GeekSoc and they did a tour of Norwich, hitting all the “geeky” spots in town from comic book shops to gaming cafes and lots of stores selling merchandise from all your favourite shows, and it was a great way to find my feet in the city. In my second year I was on the committee for Ghost Hunting Society and we did all sorts of adventures, trips and tours both around campus and in Norwich. It was a wonderful way to explore the city further and get to know all its nooks and crannies, as well as getting a first-hand experience of its rich medieval (and sometimes spooky) history.
I also work with buddy(su), which is where UEA students in second year and beyond volunteer to help first years settle into their new university lives. The buddy scheme is a great way to meet someone who is already familiar with the way things work and can offer advice and tips as well as being a point of contact and just someone you can reach out to if you’re feeling a bit lost. The scheme manager, student leaders and volunteers are all wonderful people who are always more than happy to help.
Turning to the academic side of things, UEA offers learning enhancement opportunities in the form of language support, academic writing, maths and statistics (just to name a few). More detailed information on these can be found on the UEA website. Learning enhancement provides guidance for people to help them be better equipped to deal with their university studies, gain essential math skills for their course or get better at writing essays and referencing - essentially all the tools you need to get the grade you want.
My advice to you, from one international student to another, would be to join as many societies as you can! Get yourself a buddy! Get in touch with Learning Enhancement for that essay you’re struggling with. Get in touch with Student Wellbeing if there’s something on your mind. There are always opportunities out there for you no matter where you’re from or what you’re into, and everyone is working hard to keep providing those opportunities for you even if it's all online.
Whatever you’re into, there's something for you - no, really. There are more than 250 clubs and societies to choose from, and I’m willing to bet you’ll find something you’ll love and meet some really awesome people along the way. Basically, put yourself out there! What’s the worst that could happen?