Here you can find advice about settling into life at UCL and in the UK, including how to overcome feelings of culture shock.
When you first arrive in London it will likely take some time to feel settled and to get used to your surroundings. Below you can find the following advice to help you settle into life at university:
British culture may be very different to that of your home country and you'll need some time to adapt to various aspects of life in the UK. This is completely normal and can happen even if you've carried out extensive preparations before your arrival or if you have travelled a lot previously.
During your first few weeks, you will notice differences between the way things are done in the UK and what you are used to at home. There are, however, a number of resources you can access to help you adapt and feel at home. For example:
- The British Council has put together some top tips, written by students, on what to expect during your first term at university
- The British Council has also launched a new open online course (MOOC) on preparing to study and live in the UK. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with student life and the ways of teaching and learning in the UK.
In the video below, some of our UCL students and staff give their top tips for settling into life at UCL and adjusting to the London lifestyle.
The transition from a familiar environment to an unfamiliar one is often referred to as ‘culture shock’. While everyone’s experience is different, here are a few tips on how to adapt to your new life in the UK.
Surround yourself with familiar things
It is important to surround yourself with objects that have personal meaning for you, such as photographs or keepsakes from back home. While you may initially find British food unappetising, remember that you are studying and living in one of the world’s most multicultural cities; you should be able to find a supplier of familiar food. This will help you eat a healthy and balanced diet.
Try something new every day
While this may seem to contradict the point above, trying something new can gradually help you overcome the feeling of culture shock and learn more about another country and its customs. You could do this by simply exploring your local neighbourhood, or even by trying out a Students’ Union UCL club or society, where you can meet students with similar interests.
Keeping in touch with friends and family is equally important for your wellbeing, however, do try to maintain a balance by engaging with people around you to avoid feeling isolated. Reaching out to other students can help you create a support network and make new friends. Many other international students will be able to relate to your experience, just as many local students will be happy to share interesting aspects of their life and traditions with you.
Make use of the support available to you
There is plenty of support available for you at UCL, remember to take some time to find out what services the university offers. Even if at home you wouldn’t consider such steps, in the UK it is normal, and this may be of help when familiar support is missing. Here are a few suggestions:
- Students’ Union UCL offers a Writing and Language Support programme (WALS) where you can practice your spoken English with other students.
- UCL has a multi-faith chaplaincy where students of all faiths or none are welcomed for pastoral and social activities.
- If you feel like your health and wellbeing is affected, you can visit the Student Support and Wellbeing team at one of their daily drop-ins.
- If you are staying in UCL Halls of Residence, there are Wardens and Student Residence Advisers (SRAs) that you can contact if you need support or advice.
- Your personal tutor is also on hand to help you settle into life at UCL through practical guidance, support and encouragement during those important early days.
Above all, the most important thing to remember is that culture shock is very normal, most people experience it at some stage and it is not permanent. The process of adapting to a new setting can increase your autonomy and also raise your awareness about what aspects about your own culture you most value.