I had decided two years before arriving in the UK that I wanted to study abroad so to prepare, I started studying subjects in English e.g Biology, History, Business etc.
The qualifications I achieved in those two years meant that I managed to get a place in Aberystwyth University, a historic Welsh town on the coast of Midwest Wales in Ceredigion county. Before I was offered my place, I had no idea about Wales and I had never imagined myself living there.
I was told by friends to be patient and make sure that I listened well to Welsh people when they speak as they have an accent that I wouldn’t understand as I was not a native speaker.
In my first days I was slightly overwhelmed by the new environment and the fact that I had moved to to the town, well at least for the next 3 years.
However as time went by I started becoming more and more used to the place. It helped that the university brought everyone in contact in events and that I was in a very multi- cultural environment To this day, it is one of my favourite things about living in the UK, especially as I now live and work in London. Having a few Greek friends there, also made it slightly easier as there was someone to speak the same language and remind you a bit of back home.
The town took me in as I got to know more and more locals when going out or working in a few places there. The locals were always willing to help and treated us nicely. I worked in a few restaurants in the area which helped me have conversations with them and get a feel of what they were like.
The lectures were very comprehensible. A big difference about the education in the UK in comparison of how we were taught back home was that it was more about understanding what you are reading rather than memorising it for a test. That helped me with having a better understanding of whatever I was studying as I knew that I would be tested in my understanding and not how much I could remember.
The best thing about coming to study in the UK was how I was introduced into more cultures as the year went by and how the multicultural environment took me in straightaway and made me feel at home.
On the other hand, this was also something that kept me away from the reality of living in the UK. When you start work and create a life outside university, you need to know more about the British culture and how to interact with people. This however, I found out was something that life will teach sooner or later if you live in a foreign country long enough. Work certainly helps you understand a foreign culture.
There is loads of advice I could come up with to give someone who comes to the UK to study. The one that comes to mind first is to enjoy and make use of the multicultural environment that the university offers. It’s a great place to learn about other cultures and share your own. This might actually help you understand more about your own culture and how it really connects with other cultures.
Another one would be to try new and different things that you wouldn’t otherwise try back home. This might be because they don’t exist there or because you would be judged differently. The university offers a great range of activities, events and societies that you can be part of and depending on the town or city your uni is there might be even more stuff to try out there.
In my first year in uni, I joined the university’s internet radio station and co-hosted a show with a uni mate of mine from Bulgaria. Apart from learning more about how to host a radio show this was a good lesson on copyrights as I could only use the CD’s I had because we were not allowed to use any songs in MP3 format. I learnt to always have a playlist prepared before every show and also prepared what I was going to say for each song.
In my first year I also joined the town’s boxing club which was not part of the university but as I was also interacting with the locals I was invited to go and try it out. Thinking about it now, this would not be the ideal place for a lot of people. The Aberystwyth Boxing Club was in an old horse stable, it was small with no heating and old rusty equipment. The only heating was the boxers’ body heat and the winters can be cold. However,it was the place that led me into boxing properly, a craft that has taught me about discipline, hard work and determination and that club is one of my favourite memories from my time in Wales.
Finally, the university will give you your first taste of how to make connections in the UK and would probably give you your first connections at least your social ones – if that’s your first experience in the UK. Learn how to network and make the most out of the events hosted by the university or the university’s societies. Remember, your network is your net worth.