‘Take all the knowledge you can carry. UK universities are well-recognised and established in the world, and this is a great chance to be up to speed with the latest trends and developments in your field.’
Victoria Matey, 34, from Russia, MSc in International Events Management at the University of Surrey
‘Starting a Master’s right after I graduated from Baccalaureate, I expected it to be quite easy to get into the study process again. I was mistaken – it was extremely difficult, due to key differences between the British education system and the way I was educated before. For instance, in Britain students receive their overall grade at the end of their final exams, and not all work undertaken throughout an academic year counts toward it. Another difficulty is the volume of work suggested – reading 7–8 academic texts per week is not fun, and it is a nightmare for a non-native speaker.
Some people advised me to focus on 2–3 topics of each course and develop a deep understanding of them, but risk missing the rest. But that was not what I came for. So my solution was the following: I joined three other coursemates to form a study group. We had fruitful, rich discussions, which led to success at seminars. Our diverse backgrounds also allowed us to bring something special to every topic. And what’s more, we became good friends. Exploring London together was a great part of our communication.
I soon realised this was one of the aims of the Master’s programme. In addition to teaching us to do research, we were also given the opportunity to be proactive, think outside the box, learn how to work in diverse groups and communicate across cultures, manage projects, value our time, and overcome stress. Such skills are essential when working in any international organisation.’
Yuliya Kogay, 23, from Kazakhstan, MSc in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science
‘Buy a thesaurus! Not because you cannot converse in passable English, but because you will constantly need to define the words 'reflect' and 'evaluate', which are the operative words for most of the reports you will be asked to write. On my first report, my tutor said I didn’t reflect enough. I changed my approach, only to get feedback on another report that I 'over-reflected' and my work was chatty. Can you imagine my confusion?’
Chioma Agwuegbo, 27, from Nigeria, Social Media at Birmingham City University
‘You have to be able to structure your studies yourself, and being passionate about your course is a big help. Having less contact with teaching staff was a shock for me after 13 years of school in Norway, where we had 30–35 hours of school each week, but it was also a relief. You have more time to focus on what you want and find out what works for you as a student, and as the first year of undergraduate studies does not count towards your degree, you have time to get used to life as a student.’
Marie Storheim Grongan, 21, from Norway, Creative Writing with Journalism at Kingston University
‘During exams, the libraries and common rooms that were so empty and calm during term time (meaning that you had your pick of seats, desks and printers), will suddenly become packed with frantically cramming students giving off nervous energy. Arrive early and mark your territory. As exams are usually at Christmas (very cold) or in the summer (very hot), dress appropriately; layers are usually most convenient. If the library is overcrowded, coffee shops are another good option – major chains offer free WiFi and most local cafés will offer student discounts on drinks and food, allowing you to stay there all day if necessary!
It’s also important to eat and drink well. Many students turn to caffeine when looking for an energy boost, which can work well in moderation, but too much will leave you exhausted and so shaky you may not be able to hold your pen in the exam! Try to cut out alcohol until exams are finished, and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to boost your immune system and avoid any illnesses.
Exams take place during busy social seasons, with Christmas parties or good weather meaning students are more tempted to party or see friends than study. Plan in advance what time you can devote to socialising while keeping up your studies, and only go if you are on top of your revision; this should motivate you to stick at it! Organise a drink or coffee after an exam with friends from your course, or plan a big night out once everyone you know has finished their exams – looking forward to that will be motivating. Also, make sure you talk to your family regularly, as exam time is often when you feel homesick. Parents or siblings will have words of encouragement.’
Annabel Philips, 23, from the UK, Law at the University of Edinburgh
‘British universities are home to some of the world’s most wonderful libraries – whether you’re gazing into the dome of Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera, wandering through Manchester’s cathedral-like John Rylands Library, or making the most of Southampton’s refurbished Hartley complex. Universities work hard to provide modern services that fit into the non-stop, high-tech and diverse culture to which students are accustomed.
You can now reserve a book from your room and pick it up on the way to a lecture. Films, audio records and a vast variety of translated or modified sources are also accessible. Even the most rickety library will have discovered WiFi and provide power sockets for the vast array of laptops and tablets. You will find ‘quiet’ areas for notebooks only (paper, not digital!) but overall, libraries will cater for all students of the Digital Age.
Don’t keep hold of too many books. Libraries try to keep multiple copies of popular texts but if you know there are 20 people in your class and only one textbook left, then make sure you only take it when you actually need it. If you are using a book in the library, you might be asked to fill out a form with your desk number so others can find you if they are desperate. Do make the most of library facilities – if there is a chapter that jumps out at you, then take a photocopy. You might have to pay a small fee, but most libraries will enable you to scan, print, copy and save documents.’
Kate Brittain, 22, from the UK, History at the University of Oxford
With thanks to Education UK’s 2012 Student Journalist competition winners.