Dear International Student,
Welcome! You are reading this blog probably because you are in a dreamy state, imagining your time in England or Wales or Scotland and all the fun memories that you will soon have. Or you are having a nightmare with the English weather and just want to see if I have got some tips to make it in any way better. Either way, welcome!
Like yourself, I am an international student and I have spent over four years in Brighton, England. I know what you are thinking, how was I able to survive the cold weather? My answer is: You will get used to it. In fact- Autumn is now my favourite season.
This could be the beginning, the middle or close to the end of your time in Britain. So, here are my not-so-serious observations to help you make sense of living in the UK and guide you on this exciting journey.
- The English weather at its best is three days of rain!
A week in the summer is like three straight days of sunlight- everyone is on the beach and next thing you know, you are soaking wet and the cars just seem to move slower on the streets as if the rain as somehow affected their engines. Take the end of July for example. It was hot and everyone everywhere was like ‘this (the sun) is too much!’ Then, it is August and next thing you know, its wet and rainy as can be.
I always think to myself – how far the human race has come yet we have not invented something better than umbrellas?! I recall once running after an umbrella as the wind made a mockery of me but the rain kindly hid my tears of frustration.
The weather is always and will be a great conversation starter. So if you are feeling a bit lonely, walk outside (not too far of course) and ask ‘is the weather not lovely/horrible today?’ and there you have it, you have made a new friend! There is always some imperfection about the weather to discuss.
Not to talk of the winter- oh boy! You’re in for a shock if you’re from a warm country. Two words: wrap up! Get one of those woolly scarves that cover half of you face and if you don’t know what ‘layering’ clothes is, google it. Repeat after me ‘I refuse to be deceived by the sun!’
- Try the English cuisine: Potatoes, Potatoes and Potatoes
Trust me you will come to love it. Potatoes as fries (oh, chips!), mash, roasted potatoes and when they make a special appearance as dauphinoise potatoes? Yum! The English cuisine does feature more than potatoes to be fair. You will be blessed by the sight of fish and chips (potatoes again!) shops dotted around the city. Not to forget the speciality- mushy peas which tops my list of ‘what not to eat’.
But don’t worry, most of your time as a student will (should, I hope) be spent studying that you are grateful for the rarity of roasted potatoes or a good traditional English pie. Oh, don’t forget to treat yourself to the very appetising toad in a hole and jellied eels.
On a serious note,the English breakfast although calorific is in my view, pretty decent. Also, desserts here are the best: trifle, sticky toffee pudding, tarts and cakes- Oh heaven!
- Brexit and all its meanings
Brexit and a potential Scotxit. Well, its all on our minds, what does Brexit mean for you as a student? I wish I could tell you with certainty but I have good news- if you are from outside the EEA, you have no worries and can carry on paying your fees that cost an arm, a leg plus a few kidneys!
- Greetings from Huggers and Kissers
Is it two kisses or just one? The horrible mistake of almost kissing the person on the lips is on my list of what not to do. I find that it helps when you are kissing someone just to very quietly say ‘two kisses?’ I know right- I say follow the flow but there needs to be a rule book for this!
- Get to know Britain
The easiest and cheapest way to know Britain is to watch Come Dine with Me which is one of my favourite shows. If you feel like something extra, tune in for Two in a Bed or whatever the show is called. Come Dine with Me is honestly the easiest way to know Britain geographically as well as its people. For example, you get to learn the difference in the welsh and scottish accents without moving from your living room or ever interacting with a Welsh or Scottish person. You will also realise that the British definition of spicy is significantly different especially if you are a fellow Nigerian. I can only recommend that you watch the show on channel 4: its a great mix of humour, culture and mostly average food. Plus, why would you not want to watch a show that makes you feel like a chef with 20 years experience?
- Transportation: Long and tall buses
The trains, coach, tram, buses and the tube!! If you’re like me, you’re probably used to two modes of transportation: a car or your legs. You have a variety of options (which is good) but can be tricky to understand. For this, Google maps is your best friend. Another thing is that most people are kind to direct you (or misdirect you) so if you ask for help, you will get help. During my first few days in England, I waited in the winters cold for almost six hours because I was lost and did not know how to get home! Careful with the roads if you drive on the right side in your country. I still make the mistake sometimes heading over to the drivers seat. The underground takes some getting used to but if I can do it, so can you.
- Unspoken rules and The Golden words of the British Dictionary
An often unspoken rule is the respect for the queue. I love how polite people are when it comes to queuing, it does not matter that you are wealthier or whatnot, you wait in line until it is your turn! Sometimes the queues are not straight so it is always polite to ask, ‘are you on a queue?’ especially in public toilets.
The golden words apply. Most people say thank you when getting off a bus. Sorry, please and thank you are just easy ways of getting things done. Also, make sure you ask rather than tell as it makes a huge difference.
- Does accommodation rhyme with exploitation?
Getting a guarantor can be a headache? Nope, its more like a migraine for one month straight. You will need to get used to the assumption that you are rich by being an international student and thus expected to pay your rent for 6 – 12 months in advance. Try and find a private landlord to reduce agency fees and the other expectations can be negotiated. PS. A typical student accommodation does not resemble the picture below.
Oh, I am sure that you will love your time as an international student. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have made the best of friends here and met the most amazing people so its really an experience- enjoy it. Honestly, the English are some of the warmest and kindest people I have met. Wherever you are, do reach out and don’t forget to share.
From another international student that does not understand why hot and cold water taps are separate 🙂
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