‘Don’t be afraid/ashamed/too proud to ask questions, be it in class, the mall, post office, clinic, even on the street (just make sure the person is in uniform). My tutors are the nicest people ever, and I think it’s a prerequisite for employment at the university for all employees to be helpful. I don’t know how many times I’ve received help, and my questions are always answered with a smile.’
Chioma Agwuegbo, 27, from Nigeria, Social Media at Birmingham City University
‘Studying in the UK is quite exciting; we do things so differently compared to Africa. One of particular interest is the teacher-student relationship. In the UK we see our teachers as friends; we could even call them by their names – something that is not even contemplated where I’m from, where it is seen as a sign of disrespect. Also, the Englishman's punctuality and dedication to duty were two things I found to be worthy of note. These people value their words and will ensure that they meet their targets. I also noticed that English culture encourages self-reliance and a remarkable degree of freedom across all age groups.
As an international student, you have to accept values that will not change who you are but will bring the best out of you. In other words, you have to understand the meaning of 'morality' in the new society compared to where you came from; especially when you plan to return back home after your studies.’
Dollah Kingsley Nnamdi, 23, from Nigeria, Petroleum Engineering at the University of Aberdeen
‘Nowadays, libraries will have common rooms and cafés in which you can have a chat, but try to be as quiet as possible in the main reading rooms. This may sound obvious, but two people whispering, another blasting music, and one treating their keyboard like a drum kit can quickly sound like a very bad rock concert.
If others are making noise, do ‘tut’! No matter how annoying the person at the next desk may be, it is a British (or at least English) stereotype that no one will simply ask them to behave properly. Instead, they will do everything they can to convey their anger without speaking, and students are no different. You can roll your eyes, making ‘tsk’ sounds and generally shuffling and shaking heads until the person notices! The trick is to voice your frustration without actually using your voice at all.’
Kate Brittain, 22, from the UK, History at the University of Oxford
‘Living in halls of residence is a fantastic part of the experience and helps you make friends right from your first day – but there are still a few pitfalls to watch out for. Shared spaces can start a lot of conflict, so make sure you set ground rules from the beginning. It can be more cost-effective for everyone to cook together, but it’s unlikely you’ll all share the same tastes, so decide early on what you’re going to do. Try not to hog space in the freezer or cupboards – it might be cheaper to buy in bulk, but your housemates won’t thank you if they don’t have room for their frozen peas.
Cleaning might be dull but the housework needs to be done, so sit down together and write out a rota during your first week. Make sure everyone has an equal share of the chores and don’t expect anyone to clean up after you – but don’t spend half your life tidying up after other people, either. People are likely to have different ideas of what ‘tidy’ means, so relax and remember that a little bit of mess is all part of the experience. (When it gets to the stage where you’re getting mice, it’s probably time to get the duster out, though...)
Little acts of kindness, like washing up everyone’s dishes or making dinner, will go a long way – but don’t let people take advantage. Sometimes even the best housemates need reminding that it’s their turn to take the rubbish out. It’s polite – and safer – to let your housemates know when you’re going out, but try not to make too much noise coming in after a late night, especially around exam time. Do your best to get along with everyone, but bear in mind there’s no way of knowing for certain whether you’ll get on with your housemates. You only get one first year and it should be an amazing experience, so make the most of it.’
Kate Fulton, from the UK, Creative Writing at Bath Spa University
With thanks to Education UK’s 2012 Student Journalist competition winners.