Every year the university welcomes many international students as they embark on a course of study here in the UK. In fact about one-third of all students at Warwick come from overseas. Studying in a foreign country can be a valuable and rewarding experience, but also challenging at a number of levels. For most people, getting to grips with the practicalities of life is the first important step in beginning to feel at home. Learning about how transport, money, shopping, accommodation and medical services work can leave you feeling disoriented, confused and frustrated. Getting to grips with the norms of social interaction such as ways of greeting, personal space, time keeping, gender roles and humour can be equally as difficult, especially if you are operating in a foreign language. When it comes to academic work you may find that Warwick adopts quite a different approach to what you are used to back home in terms of expectations, test constructions, note taking, oral presentations, and essay writing, all of which can be sources of stress for the foreign student. Perhaps most difficult of all are the emotional challenges that come with being far from home. As well as missing friends and family, going through ‘culture shock’ and the often unanticipated ‘reverse culture shock’ upon returning home (see separate information sheet on Culture Shock) can be a lonely and isolating experience.
Making the most of your time abroad
Plan ahead. Before you leave do as much research as possible about the place you will be living. Try and have some accommodation arranged in advance and the contact details of someone local who can meet you and help give you directions. Speak to people who have been there before.Make sure all your important travel documents are in order before you go, and register with your embassy upon arrival where appropriate.Speak the host language as much as possible and try and find a ‘language partner’ to practice with. This could be set up as a cultural exchange where both people benefit from learning about a new culture.Talk to people even if it takes an effort. Try not to worry about making language mistakes, and learn to laugh at yourself when you make cultural and linguistic blunders.Use a ‘doing and reflecting’ approach where you take time to think about an incident or social interaction and make a note of what you would do differently next time in the same situation.Find natural ways of meeting people and forming friendships. Joining student clubs and societies is often a good way of doing this. Think about hobbies, sports or activities that you enjoy doing back home and try and do the same thing in your host country. Have photos and special items from home in your room, and meet up with others from your country occasionally for meals, celebrating festivals and taking trips.Get plenty of rest, eat well and exercise.Familiarise yourself with the concept of ‘culture shock’. Try and identify which stage you are in and remember that it is a normal process that many other people go through too.If you are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges, try and talk things through with your new friends or a course tutor. You may find that taking an active problem solving approach useful.
Helpful resources at the University of Warwick
Contacting your personal tutor is a good way of getting support in your department.
Resident tutors are available if you live in halls of residence.
The Office for Global Engagement (OFGE) gives advice and support to students from overseas. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/ofge
OFGE offer an Intercultural Training programme open to all students at Warwick. www.warwick.ac.uk/interculturaltraining
Go Global initiative helps students to find a number of internationalisation activities in which they can get involved (https://www.warwicksu.com/goglobal/)
OFGE Welcome to Warwick programme (open to all international students in 2017, as well as all postgraduate students) is also designed to help ease the transition into life at Warwick: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/international/welcometowarwick/
OFGE also organise a range of trips and events to enhance the international student experience throughout the year, details of which can be found at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/international/students/trips/
Student Careers and Skills Department for academic and career support. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/scs/services
The University Counselling Service is available for students and staff. http://www.warwick.ac.uk/counselling
The Chaplaincy. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/chaplaincy/
UKCISA offers advice, information and support for international students at colleges and universities in the UK. http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/
HOST arranges opportunities for international students to meet local families. http://www.hostuk.org.uk/
International Student House offers safe accommodation for international students visiting London. http://www.ish.org.uk/
https://www.student.com/articles/depression-at-university-studying-abroad/ article on studying abroad
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