Tips for International Students

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For those of you planning to pursue your education goals away from home, congrats! It is a huge step to make and I know how daunting it can be to start off fresh in a new country. I am so grateful for the experience I had at King’s College London and I hope those starting off in the fall will also have am awesome experience. London is by far one of my favourite cities and I am so glad I took a leap of faith and took the opportunity I had to study at such a institution.

I decided to compile a list of helpful tips from my own experience to hopefully shed light on some of the questions/fears/anxieties many of us “freshers” will have settling into a new adventure. I know it was around this time that I was nervously starting to prepare all my things in preparation for the big move.

  1. It’s normal to feel lonely. I know I felt it, it was rough the first few weeks settling into London. I was terrified to be alone and explore and meet new people, but I was lucky in having people who loved me support me through it and help me take it one step at a time. Don’t be afraid to go to new events, there’s hundreds of people in the exact same situation, put yourself out there and have fun.
  2. Budget! Ha. London was expensive lets be honest, I wish I had been better at budgeting but I guess life is all about living and learning. It was nice to have money at the start, but the worst feeling is counting your pennies at the end. If you feel like you can balance a part-time job then I would say go for it, it’s nice to have a little bit of extra spending money and plus you have the potential to meet new friends and connections! I would definitely recommend settling into your new routine first before embarking on a job hunt.
  3. Packing. I would say I packed too much. I know its hard to know what you need, but honestly I would say pack what you know 100% you will use. If you are unsure whether you need it, put it to the side and think over it for a bit. My tragic flaw is I love everything and I always feel like i’m going to “need” it, but the truth is most things you can just buy a “cheaper” version if need be and a)sell it at the end or b) toss it. It saves a ton of hassle and stress when it comes time to move out.
  4. Cooking. One of the best things someone bought me was a slow cooker. Man that thing saved me the hassle of standing over a stove all day and fed me well for 2-3 days at a time. I made chicken, chilli, salmon, etc. and saved a ton of money (and fat) trying to eat in more often.
  5. Buy used. Try to find things used, like kitchen supplies. Students are always selling things and you can usually find things for dirt cheap if you look hard enough. I wish I had taken advantage of this prior, but I would say if you want to save money, you can save big here!
  6. Student discounts. Seriously, ASK even if you THINK a place doesn’t have a student discount, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to how many places do. You have no idea how many times I wanted to face palm because I forgot to ask and it was too late. Sign up for things like UniDays and other student discount sites, because saving 10-15% can go a long way, especially if you like to shop and eat.
  7. Take advantage of events at your school, things like “touring parliament or the Tower of London”, are awesome to take apart in and you save a lot of money and time this way. Organized tours are great and you can meet other young people interested in the same things as you.
  8. Get involved with your international student groups. It’s nice to feel at home with people from your own country, but at the same time its comforting to meet other people going through a similar transition as you. I was happy to meet people from all over the world by taking part in international student events at KCL. It can be hard to push yourself to go, but it never hurts to try one event.
  9. Don’t be afraid to talk to your supervisor about what you are going through. I was so glad I had a supportive supervisor who made me feel comfortable with transitioning into a different education system and who made sure I was doing okay living on my own.
  10. Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Sometimes being so far from home was draining on me, but take advantage of events going on, find a group of people who make you feel comfortable and call home or friends when you feel like you need that extra bit of support. Staying connected with those at home can help make your transition back a little easier. I wish I had taken the effort to stay connected to more people back home instead of only focusing on those I just met. It’s important to stay balanced.

I know this isn’t everything I have off the top of my head, but it is a start and I do plan to update this list as things come to me.

– M