As those of you who follow me on Instagram knows, I recently moved to England to study. Being an international student is definitely the best experience I have ever had, although the process of moving to a new country where you know absolutely no-one have definitely been super overwhelming and at times intimidating.
I really wanted to write down some of my experiences while they’re still fresh in my mind, and if it can help anyone out there prepare to move abroad themselves that would be great too! So here are some of my experiences and a few tips that might me worth noting down.
Getting to know people
It is intimidating moving to a new country where you know absolutely no one. For me I got quite lucky as I arrived during the university induction week. This meant that everybody else was just arriving too, and there was a general mindset of openness towards getting to know one another.
When I first arrived I used to literally go up to random people and say “hi, my name is Olina, nice to meet you”, and although that may sound super odd and awkward (and believe you me, sometimes it was) it honestly worked about 9 out of 1o times.
Keep in mind
- During the first days (and weeks) you are going to meet a huge amount of new people, and some of them you may just not click with. Don’t let yourself feel defeated by this. There will always be some people you vibe with more than others, and I promise you’ll meet your new best friend if you just give it time.
- You might meet some people during the first few days who you totally vibe with, yet once the induction period is over and real-life sets in you won’t stay in touch. The first few days I went to as many social events as possible in order to meet as many new people as possible. At these events I met so many amazing people who I just happened to never really get in touch with again, and that’s just how life goes.
- That one person who you’re not really clicking with during the first conversation might end up being your best friend. Lot’s of the people you meet will most likely be new to the university and area as well, which means they may be nervous or shy. Give everybody a second chance and don’t judge first-hand impressions; who knows people might surprise you.
What you should take from my experiences
Make sure to use the first days in the new country meeting as many people as possible! This includes:
- Letting go of any shyness (although it may be difficult) and stop thinking about whether or not a situaiton is awkward.
- Going to all the social events you possibly can, even if they seem stupid. During my first days I went to a one hour lecture on the history of Norwich, and yes I did meet some great people there.
- Make sure to branch out! Don’t just make conversation with the same type of people, instead go to different kinds of events and meet different kinds of people.
I promise that although it seems stressful, getting to know a bunch of different people will come in handy when the semester really begins and you already have a huge group of friends around.
The culture shock
Moving to England, I didn’t expect it to be much of a culture shock. I mean the english culture is pretty much everywhere now a days. Movies, music, books, even the news. I felt like I knew exactly what to expect of of the English culture. This was not true!
Even the small things takes time getting used to. Little things like how british people dress when they go out, have smalltalk with the cashiers while grocery shopping, shake hands instead of hug, and ALWAYS use dear and NOT hi when emailing their professor was things I needed to adapt to a little bit at a time.
The many different slang words they have, and which words and phrases you can and cannot use during certain situations was also something that took some getting used to. Cause trust me, some of their slang is SEROUSLY confusing.
I also constantly felt lost in the pop-culture, and still does ask my English friends about names of celebrities, television programs, chain-stores and more about 10 times a day.
Stupid question overlord
With everything being completely new, you’re going to have tons of questions about literally everything! Both practical things like “where should I grocery shop” and “what’s appropriate to tip”, but also stupid random questions like what does a certain slang mean. This is where it comes in handy to have made a bunch of local friends.
Questions you should definitely ask your new local friends:
- Am I allowed to drink the tap water?
- What are the wages like her? This way you don’t risk working for a lower pay than is acceptable, and you don’t risk embarrassing yourself by asking for too much during an interview.
- Ask about certain words or slang you’re unfamiliar with to prevent confusions and misunderstandings.
- What is appropriate to tip?
- Where should I grocery shop?
- Food recommendations
When you move to another country it’s expected that you’re going to miss home. However, I’ve surprised myself a lot with of the things I’ve been missing. Danish food that I usually didn’t eat that much I now crave like crazy, and I added Danish music to my playlist which I haven’t heard listened to since I was 14 years old.
What to be prepared for
Suddenly not having a support network around you at all time. No longer living in bike distance from your family and all the friends who have known you forever was for me incredible difficult to adapt to. This is also why it is so important to begin making new friends as soon as you arrive!
Homesickness. I honestly thought I was too old to be homesick, but that definitely wasn’t the case! I was so homesick for the first 10 days, I would even call my mom crying. Fear not though, I am here to tell you that after those 10 days it was totally gone. And I was far from the only one who felt this way, lots of people (both international and local students) got homesick during the first weeks and it was no big deal!
Things I’m really missing:
- mom and grandma’s cooking
- speaking in my native language
- having a safety net around in the shape of friends and family
- Danish food
the extra tiredness
Thinking everything you do over an extra time to make sure you behave appropriately in regard to the cultural norms and common manners takes up a lot of energy.
And it’s not just the big things that becomes tiresome tasks. Living in a new country, even the smallest and most basic tasks takes so much effort. Things such as crossing the street (when cars comes from the opposite direction than you’re used to), translating everything in your head before you say them, even going to buy a pack of butter, becomes super energy draining activities.
Going grocery shopping in a new country is a lot of effort. You may not realise it, but at home you’re used to just going to the grocery store and knowing exactly what brands you use, the layout of the stores, and the range products.
Moving to a new country means finding new brands of food, and substitute products for the things you can’t get in your new country. I for example had a really difficult time finding danish rye bread.
The prices is also something to get to get used to. When I got to England the very first grocery store I saw was M&S so I just assumed that the products there was what groceries cost in England. It wasn’t until my flatmate (who are English) asked why I “had bought the expensive version of everything” that I realised that M&S is a highbrow store.
Hanging out with other international students
When you move to another country you do so to get to know the people and culture of that country, however, in my experience it was also really nice to get to know some other international students. Having friends who are also new to the country and alone there is great as they can relate to certain things you may be feeling much better than any of you local friends.
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