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Embracing opportunity and learning to be open - What I have to thank the UK for

Anita Nkonge

By Anita Nkonge 22 February 2016

Anita Nkonge is a Kenyan student studying BA Journalism and the News Industry at the University of Kent who has been selected to be a student journalist for the Education UK website. Here she describes moving to the UK and dealing with culture shock as an international student.

The best decision I ever made was to come to study in the United Kingdom.  I will never forget the day I got my acceptance letter, personalised specifically for me. How exciting!

What followed next is still a blur - the visa applications and deadlines, the packing, the saying goodbye to friends and family. It was not until my mum left me sitting alone in my room that it hit me; I am here on my own. What will the next three years be like?

My friends and family told me it would be the most exciting time of my life. What I was not told however, was how it could be lonely sometimes or how I would get homesick more often than I would have liked. But it is through this that I learned one of my biggest life lessons, and something I will always thank the UK for; learning to be open.

I have learned to be open to every experience, every opportunity and every person that walks into my life. I wish I could relive my first year of university again because I remember being so overwhelmed and shutting out everything and everyone as a result. Looking back, I wish I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone and embraced every new person and opportunity. But at the time I was scared and felt out of place - I guess I was suffering from culture shock.  What I realise now is that everyone was in the same boat as I was. Everyone was experiencing being away from home, be it an hour away or two continents away.

My second year of university has been all about making the most of my time in the UK.  Two months ago a new friend of mine and I took it upon ourselves to go on an adventure and ‘take over London.’ We did typical tourist activities like visiting Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and all.  But it was also lots of fun getting lost in the city together, figuring out the tube (underground transport), finding interesting restaurants and going shopping - all on a student budget of course!

Studying in the UK has introduced me to so many new people from different parts of the world. My favourite thing is learning about their cultures - I’ve realised we all have a lot in common! I can now confidently say that when I leave, I will not only have a great advantage in the job market with my degree, but I will also have lots of friends from the UK and around the world. The UK has given me, and continues to give me, lots of treasured memories.

My advice to you if you are moving to the United Kingdom to study is to be open. Meet new people, visit different parts of the UK if you can and most importantly, enjoy it! I promise you, you will look back on your time very fondly.