Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences


Clone of International Students - PhD

Your introduction to university from a UCL International Student

Dylan, BA Philosophy, 3rd year
Dylan Ngan
Department of Philosophy
BA Philosophy, 2nd Year
Quote: “Sometimes, the only way out, is through. And through, means together. There’s only one rule, be kind.”

When I first strolled around the UCL campus, it was one of a long list of new experiences. It was my first time in London, my first in the UK and the beginning of my university education. Without a doubt, it is going to be one of many firsts for you too. It might be the case that this is the first time you’ve been this far away from home. Hopefully hearing about some of my experiences will ease your nerves and make you even more excited to begin your journey here.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed before starting first term by what seems like a lot of admin. There are lots of important documents to fill in and tasks to complete before you arrive, to make sure your transition to London life is as smooth as possible. This can include things like registering with the home office and applying for the appropriate visas. Making sure I was especially organised really helped to ensure I completed all of these key things that needed to be done. This meant writing down a list and setting reminders. You’ll also find that developing a system of getting your tasks done on time is good practice for the rest of university.

Following from organisation, finding your bearings in a new environment can be stressful to start with. It’s worth spending some time locating several places that will become part of your weekly routine as soon as you move in. For instance, simply knowing where your local supermarkets are, or simply getting to know where your favourite coffee will be good places to start. For me and other international students especially, we also searched for places where we could get a taste of home It occurred to me quite early on that, although experiencing new cuisines and cultures are an exciting and essential part of being somewhere new, it’s also nice to have some old favourites from time to time.

A big part of immersing yourself in university life is finding a sense of stability, establishing habits and getting comfortable with day to day life as well as your environment. Doing chores, doing the shopping, cooking and cleaning are not just beneficial in the obvious ways, but they also ground you and give you some routine and stability while you’re still settling in. With this in mind, try to set certain tasks for each day before classes start. You could decide on set days to visit the gym, or always do your grocery shopping on a Tuesday morning, for example.

Being far away from home can be the biggest challenge, and it’s one of the most spoken of aspects of life as an international student.  A part of what we miss is the inherent and unspoken bond of a similar culture, language and identity. The uncertainty of being somewhere new may come from having to learn and adapt to some of the UK’s social rules, and it often shows itself in what many would call being homesick. I have found a combination of two things that really helped with this. One was remaining in touch with friends and family from home. Consequently, being in a new place has helped me to find a deeper appreciation for those I love and care about. The second is doing and seeing as much as possible. London is an amazing city, and you don’t want to look back on three or more years here and realise you didn’t see most of it!

You will make new friends, some of whom will be in a similar situation as yourself, and others will have grown up here. All of these friends will empathise and share your journey as well as guiding you towards comprehending and becoming comfortable in your new cultural environment. Embracing new experiences and new people may be uncomfortable at first, but they will help you grow. At the end of the day, we are all here to do exactly the same thing, with you, with each other, together. Don’t worry, and enjoy the journey.