Great! You have crossed the hurdles and succeeded. You are jumping on your toes with packed bags by your side, about to start the journey of your life.
Going to a foreign land like the UK to study seems like a perfect fairy tale, where, after you cross the hurdles of admissions, you live happily ever after. But that is not the case in most instances, as successfully getting past admissions is just the first step in the adventurous and challenging journey with many more hurdles ahead.
Is fear creeping in and making your heart beat a little faster?
If yes, you have come to the right place. Here we will discuss the 9 most common challenges faced by the Indian students in the UK, so you can go in prepared to tackle them from the start. Get ready to brace yourself!
Knock out the jet lag
Jet Lag is truly the work of the devil. You will land in your dream country to pursue your dream course but all you will want to do is sleep and be cranky. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? This is because your biological clock will not easily adjust to the new time zone.
India is 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of the UK. Keeping this in mind there are a few exercises that you can follow to avoid all the discomfort and drowsiness by training your biological clock to be on the same page as your excited soul.
1. Start training your body by following the Greenwich Mean Time as early as two weeks before your departure. This will give your body ample amount of time to get used to the new time zone.
2. Cut back on alcohol and coffee as these substances will make it hard for your body to adapt. So, finish off all your ‘going away parties’ and ‘bed-coffees’ at least a week before you leave.
3. Rest and hydrate. Water and rest will keep your body in the right place to accept change.
Fear not for with these tips and a few initial discomforts you can get right on track to continue your journey.
Conquer the climate
As Indians all of us are used to a hot tropical climate except for only a few of us from hill stations and the northern parts of the country. Thus, moving to a colder country with temperatures dropping far below the freezing point, having very short winter days and very long summer days can be a little tricky.
You wouldn’t need to pack as if you are moving to the arctic circle, but it is always better to be prepared than to be uncomfortably cold. To be prepared.
Research the climate to roughly estimate your tolerance level and the climate that you are used to. Layer up. Buy overcoats and woolen clothes to keep you warm and comfy during the winter. Raincoats and umbrellas are a must. The UK is not a place where it rains on all 365 days of the year but quite a few surprise showers do come pouring down when you least expect them, so be waterproof. Experience the chills and the storms. Push your body to adapt so you can enjoy any weather thrown at you.
Be your own personal chef.
It is a fact that food is an important part in almost every aspect of a human’s life. Luckily in the UK you are going to have the opportunity to taste the cuisines native to every nook and corner of the world. Though this can be an enriching and fun experience, at some point you are going to miss the uniquely tasty home-made idlis and chapatis.
Keeping in mind your attachment to Indian cuisine and the cost of take-out food in the UK, it is important to follow these two steps.
1. Learn a few simple recipes that you love.
2. Get into the habit of cooking quickly and efficiently.
Added benefit is the ability to surprise and impress your new friends in the UK with your authentic and healthy Indian food.
Battle culture shock and become a local
Culture shock is inevitable. Almost all the students that go away from their home country to study face this hurdle and this is especially true for Indians who are moving to the UK. This is due to the vast difference between the two cultures, norms, behaviors, etc. To add on to this we also have the language barrier to cross. Even if you are fluent in English you are going to struggle a little bit to understand the different slangs, colloquialisms, accents and variants from Scotland and Ireland.
Though it is going to be an initial shock that will leave you needing some time to adapt to the more liberal UK culture, you have nothing to worry about. Since UK is a melting pot of various cultures with a high influence of the Indian culture so you will blend in swiftly. Just be yourself, be open to learning things and adapting. Also, keep in mind the following pointers to make this transition seem almost seamless.
- Observe your surroundings, the way people behave and the local culture. This is the best way to get started in a passive manner to gain the courage to reach out to people.
- Be open to try new things that helps you learn the culture better.
- Reach out to the local people in a respectful and polite manner. Be open and talk to them to get to know the culture in a more personal way.
- If you find it very hard you can always ask for help. Talk to a friend or the university counsellor to get a clearer perspective on things.
Fake it till you make it! Observe, learn, try and within no time you will be as local as the people who were born there.
Overcome homesickness and find a home away from home
Once the glorious ‘honeymoon’ phase ends you will slowly step into the ‘missing my home’ phase. Most of the students admit that they’ve felt homesick at least a couple of times before they finished their education. When you start to feel homesick you should remember that there is nothing to be ashamed of in missing your home. You are not alone in this struggle as there are many students going through the same situation alongside you.
Though it is a little hard to talk about being homesick because of the pressures and appearances you feel forced to keep up as an international student, always remember that your mental well-being is far more important than anything else. So, feel free to talk about your feelings and emotions. Always remind yourself that… This too shall pass! Strive on and when you feel like life is getting a bit too overwhelming to handle just follow the tips mentioned below and don’t let this little hiccup stop you from being your amazing self.
- Take a few memorabilia from home. Something like a blanket or a bottle. Something that reminds you of home and comforts you.
- Call your homies. The time difference will make things a little hard in this area but it’s nothing a little planning and management can’t solve. But please don’t spend all your time hooked to skype as you will end up hating yourself for that.
- Keep Busy. Engage in new things, visit exotic places, participate in community activities, throw yourself in studies, etc. This way you will make great memories and handle homesickness.
- Build a support system. As an international student you will leave your support system back home, so it is time to get a brand new one. Talk to many people and form great relationships.
- Get help. The moment you feel that you cannot cope up on your own get professional help. Talk to the University Counselors and they will guide you out of this rut.
Remember to take care of yourself, your physical and psychological health.
End the fear of missing out
You are from India – the land of festivities. All your families have their own traditions and celebrations. All your friends will continue living their lives after you leave and you will miss a lot of special moments. But that is okay. Think about all the new people, new experiences and different but equally special moments you will have in this new enchanted land. Plus, your family and close friends will take the effort to keep you posted.
When the power of FOMO is unleahed just…
Take a moment to think about all the interesting things going on in your life. You wouldn’t miss that for all the birthday cakes and parties in the world, right?
Talk to your friends regularly (not often) or at least keep in touch through social media. Tell them about your life and get to know about theirs.
Don’t let the view of the past through rose tinted glasses stop you from making the best of your stunning present.
Fitting in and finding friends for life
Will I fit in, or will I be an outcast? Will I have many friends, or will I be a lonely looser?
These are a few questions that keep anyone moving into any new situation wide awake in fear and anxiety. I understand that this gut-wrenching feeling will be way worse for you, a student leaving your home to step into a foreign land. But remember you are awesome. You were awesome in India and now in UK. You just need to show your awesomeness to the folks around and within no time your life will be filled with loving friends and amazing plans. Provided you take initiatives like the ones mentioned below.
- Just smile and say hello. Bury all your shyness and hesitation in a deep grave and approach people. You can start small by first connecting with your roommate and your neighbor in class and then slowly expand your circle.
- Make use of all the freshers’ festivities and socialize with all the students present. Bonus is meeting new students just like you and older students who know the ins and outs of the university in a single place.
- Join in clubs and societies. This is a very important part in the whole student experience. You get to be a part of various interesting clubs, partake in all their events and make friends.
- Don’t stop your ‘friend search’ with the university. Attend events conducted by the local communities and I assure you that you will meet some interesting people.
- University friends are friends for life. This might be true, but you have time to find those BFFs. For now, just talk to as many people as you can and enjoy the experience.
Become a money management master
Money – the common concern of every international student. The cost of living on your own, paying for your education and having fun can have a field day with your bank account. The freedom of living alone and the thrill of adventure comes with the requirement for responsibility and management. So, let us get started…
Plan your expenses. In the beginning of the month note down your fixed expenses like rent and allocate the rest of the money accordingly for your wants and endeavors.
Document every payment you make. Be it a pair of jeans or a piece of candy, make note of every penny you spend. There are several good apps that can help you in this step but even a notebook and a pen will suffice.
Check out the offers and subsidies that you will receive as a student in the UK.
Analyze your spending regularly and try to be a little better with each passing day. You can even start saving money in no time.
Most importantly always keep some money aside for emergencies. As a student in a foreign country you need to have that bundle of cash to fall back on in case of unfavored situations.
At the end you can rejoice and be delighted as you will develope this special skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life.
Ace the new educational system and be a scholar
Finally! The main reason for your relocation to the United Kingdom – Education.
Coming from a strict lecture based educational system you are going to find it a little hard to adapt to the liberal research-based classes. Hence there is a need for a lot of effort.
In the UK you will be expected to take the lead in your educational journey with your professors acting just as guides. Though you might feel like you are lagging back a bit in the beginning, with small forms of effort like research and dedication to your chosen field you will soon start to excel.
To begin with you should…
Do your research before class. This is a must as the professors will expect you to be aware of the topic of the day.
Be engaging during the class, give your opinions and inputs as the classrooms are known to be a place of collective discussion and growth.
Do your own analysis and read up extensively about the topics handled in class. Almost all universities have libraries and study halls that function round the clock for this very purpose. Use them.
If you do find any concept hazy even after your personal research, feel free to reach out to your guides and professors.
Finally, when the exams come knocking, think about what is expected of you and give your best.
Don’t forget to have fun as education abroad is not just about the degree or the course but about the whole experience. But don’t loose track of your focus! Read more here If you are eager for more details about the place you are going to call home very soon.Explore. Engage. Be educated.
All the best!