After years of international student life, I have been thinking a lot about the advice I would have given myself when I was preparing to move to the UK. Here’s my top ten.
1. Go to Canada
Canada is your best bet at having a comfortable student life. The weather is colder but you pay less for a warmer welcome and have greater job prospects after graduation. However, seeing as you’re reading this, it’s probably already too late and you’re knee-deep in the UK education system. If you still have some choice, go to Scotland, they are generally nicer.
2. Keep your name
Don’t change your name to an English one. When most westerners visit your country, do they change their names for you? Teach your new friends and teachers how to say your name. Tell them what it means and how you got it. While immersing yourself in another culture, be you.
3. Beware of
I have watched Theresa May ascend to the role of Home Secretary and then Prime Minister. She is an intelligent woman and I’m sure that deep inside she has good intentions for her country but her attitude towards immigration is seriously messed up. As long as she and the Conservatives (Tories) are in power, your student life is sure to worsen. She is out to get you. So, always have a Plan B just in case she wakes up one day and decides to kick us all out. Again, let your Plan B be Canada or pray hard for Scottish Independence. That being said, don’t let all the visa talk get to you too much.
4. Vote in elections and referendums
If you are a Commonwealth citizen, this is a little payback for the years of slave trade and colonisation. Really, the UK should be doing much more for all the pain and destruction they caused, but let’s try to forget the sins of the fathers and take advantage of this little perk the children have offered us. Have your say in British politics, it might make a big difference in your life.
5. Did I mention go to Canada?
6. Mix with people from everywhere
Don’t just hang out with people from your country and don’t live your life in nostalgia. You paid thousands of pounds and went through the gruelling visa application process to get away from home. Take the opportunity to get to know people from other cultures, learn new languages and new skills.
7. Explore the UK
Britain has some of the most stunning sights in the world with its beautiful countryside and majestic historic buildings. Don’t just sit in your university town or drift from one auntie’s/uncle’s house to the other during the holiday. Go on your own little adventure. My personal favourites: Ludlow, Bath, Skye and the Virgin Trains ride from London to Glasgow via the Lake District.
8. Learn how to smile and make sympathetic noises
For when your British friends complain about how expensive their £9000 university tuition fee is.
9. Harness your self-control and try not to slap people.
“Do you live in a hut?” and “Are you a Princess?” are still common questions even in the big cities.
10. Speak slowly, listen carefully
You’ll discover that communicating with people can be difficult especially if you have a thick Nigerian accent like fresh-from-Lagos me had. There’s no need to put on a fake generic British accent. Just slow down and be more patient. Plus, some British accents (<cough> Geordie) may be difficult to understand. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves.