Alison Brown, Student, Bath Spa University offers her perspective on being an International Student.
It was 9.01am on the 20th August 2010.
My sweaty palm pummelled the refresh button on my laptop. I waited to find out if I had been accepted into Bath Spa University. Mum hovered nervously behind me. ‘Press refresh again, love’. Finally, the message appeared.
I was in.
After a lot of shrieking and excitement, I settled down and made a very, very long list. I love making lists. But this one did scare me a bit.
I had one month to pack for three years.
I have always wanted to study in the UK. After endless years of wonderful family holidays all around England, and with the chance to live an independent and fun student lifestyle, I knew that I wanted to move across the water to go to university. Now half way through my Creative Writing degree Bath Spa University, I haven’t looked back. It has been an incredible experience so far.
Due to the recent downturn in the Irish economy, more and more students are choosing to study in the UK. With the current value of the € against the £, now is the perfect time for Irish students to be spending money in England.
I decided to attend the open day at Bath Spa University. Attending an open day that is overseas may seem like too much effort, but it is definitely worth the trip. For me, finding the right place to study was just as important as choosing my right course. The university might look perfect in the prospectus, but the open days will give you a genuine feel for the place. If possible, go for a few days so that you can explore the city as well.
After the open day in Bath, I remember calling Dad from the hotel room. I told him that I wanted to move to England that September. Being a Dad, he told me ‘it sounded lovely, but maybe see how you feel when you get home, because you are all caught up in the excitement of the open day.’ Although supportive of my move, he told me that I ‘might see it all from a different perspective when I flew back to Ireland.’ But I flew home and the excitement flew back with me. In September I returned to Bath.
Living in the university residences is absolutely amazing. It has been a fantastic introduction to living abroad. University campuses provide security and independence all in one little bundle. Despite the fact that some people lived an hour away and some came from overseas, we were all in the same situation; living away from home for the first time. Within a few weeks, my housemates became like family to me. After the first few days, everyone, including me, soon forgot that I was the ‘Irish Girl’. Our accents were our only distinguishing feature, but even these blended together after a few weeks.
International students can also apply to stay with a host family during their time abroad. This facility enables international students to study abroad and remain in a family environment. From my experience, I think that you will gain more if you immerse yourself into university life, and live amongst the other students.
Despite occasional volcano eruptions and early snowfalls, flying to university has proved to be a fantastic means of transport. While my English friends regularly fork out large amounts of money for long train journeys, I have the luxury of a civilised and reasonably priced 45 minute flight to Dublin. Return flights can be as cheap as £20 with Ryanair, if booked in advance. Travelling by air means that I can get home faster than some of my English friends, despite living in a different country!
Although I am abroad, it is easy for family and friends to pop over for a weekend and vice versa. It has also given me the opportunity to live abroad without being confronted a language barrier and a culture chock.
I will graduate in June 2012, and I will certainly have a lot to thank Bath Spa University for when I leave!
Top tips for studying in the UK:
• Find out your term dates on arrival to university. Then you can book your Christmas and Easter flights. Not only will this save you a lot of money, but it will reassure your parents that you will return home at some point during the year.
• There will probably be Facebook groups for your university and student residences. Add a few people. It’s not the same as meeting them face to face, but it nice to see a familiar face when you arrive. You can also find out if someone else will be bringing a toaster, iron etc.
• Set up Skype as it is free and a brilliant means of communication when you are abroad.