Being an international student is, mostly, just like being a UK home student, the requirements and pressures are the same for everyone. What can be different is familiarity with these requirements.

Everybody has to travel to study, the issue is how far have you travelled and what impact will this have on your studies? Some people only need to travel a short distance, a brief walk or possibly a bus journey. For these people the concerns may simply be making sure they get up in enough time to get to their first class. Some people travel from further away while still being UK residents. They may come from a different part of London, or even a different town or city altogether. For these students settling into a new area, learning where everything is and getting used to different routines can be real challenges. Some students living away from home for the first time, can find the transition from one part of the country to another quite stressful and will need plenty of support from the university and their new friends. 

Some students have actually traveled from entirely different countries to study in the UK. For these students, getting used to the change in environment and culture can add an extra layer of challenge to their academic life. If you are one of these students first welcome! and now let us see if we can give you a few pieces of useful advice to help you settle into your new life studying at the University of Greenwich.

We are all different together:

It is very easy to sometimes feel we are different from everyone else and that no one understands our unique problems. The simple fact of the matter is that all students tend to encounter the same pressures and problems no matter who they are and where they have come from. Most students are not really sure what they are supposed to be doing and what their tutors require of them. Many students start out confused about terminology, academic technical terms and the different approach to study compared to their school experience. Whether you are a local student, or have come from a different continent, you are all likely to feel a lack of confidence in your ability to study at university, at least at first. This will pass as you become more familiar with all the things that make up studying in a UK university.

Ask a lot of Questions:

Students quite often feel embarrassed asking questions and if you are an international student this can sometimes be worse for you. Should I ask questions? Do tutors like to be questioned? Is it polite and appropriate to ask questions? Do questions make me stand out and look silly or stupid? All of these thoughts go through every students mind at some point and there is a simple answer to them all - Questions are great! Tutors love them! Questions make you look smart! Part of the university experience is gaining confidence in asking question, asking the right questions, to get the information necessary to problem solve. Tutors like students to ask questions as it show they are genuinely interested in their subject and want to understand it clearly. Questions can be simple, "what date does my essay have to be in" or more complicated "you mention that this particular design is postmodern in its execution, what exactly does that mean?" Every question is valid and important to your understanding of your course of study and your overall university experience. Some students come from a background where questioning is not a major part of their educational experience. It may not be the way subjects are taught in your school system. If that is the case for you, then you need to take the opportunity to develop your questioning skills while you are here with us. 

  • Don't be afraid to put your hand up in class and ask to have something explained to you. 
  • Don't be afraid to email your tutor with questions about your course.
  • Don't be afraid to ask other students questions. Often your class mates will be able to explain things to you quickly and clearly.

Explore, inquire and form opinions:

Students often make the mistake of thinking of their course of study as an opportunity to gather facts, information and answers. For some students, this is because this is how they were taught at school and when preparing for exams. For others, it might be because this is how their minds work, looking for precise data to apply to a specific set of problems.  Now, while there is nothing actually wrong with this, it is not the main thing that UK universities are concerned with. Higher Education in the UK is aimed at developing your critical skills, your ability to analyse a situation, to research a wide range of sources, to gather data from many points of view and to make judgements of your own based on your findings. At university, you will find that a list of facts and information from one or two sources, may get you a passing grade for a piece of work, but you will only really do well when you start reading widely, questioning what you are reading and coming to your own informed opinions. Arguing for a point of view makes for a much stronger essay, than simply providing a catalogue of one person's point of view, no matter how well respected that person my be. You are not here just to accept what you are told, you are here to come to conclusions of your own.

Speak with your own voice:

One of the things that students often find when starting at university is that everything they read or hear sounds so much more interesting and better expressed than anything they feel they can write or say. This is even more of an issue if you are a student whose first language is not English and where you have to learn to express yourself clearly and academically in a second language. Now this lack of confidence, because that is essentially what it is, can lead a student into bad habits that can cause them unnecessary problems and even disciplinary issues. As we have already mentioned, studying at university is not just about gathering information, it is about understanding what you have read and being able to express your understanding clearly and in your own unique voice. It may surprise you to learn that all of your tutors are far more impressed with your own way of expressing ideas, no matter how basic and stumbling, than they are with perfectly written text borrowed from some one else's writing. Don't fall into the trap of copying material directly from the web or out of a book, we really do want to hear your thoughts and ideas communicated in your own words.

Don't struggle with the English Language:

While most international students are perfectly competent in English by the time they arrive at university, it is completely normal for the same students to lose a little confidence once they start their classes. Technical terms, colloquialisms, academic sentence construction and vocabulary - all of these things can seem rather confusing and unfamiliar even to native English speaking students. The important thing here is not to struggle alone with your English comprehension and expression, there is plenty of help available to you at the university. Often, as we have said above, just putting your hand up and asking to have something explained to you will be enough to help you over some difficulties in academic English. If you feel that you really aren't fully understanding some things being said in class, or that you are having difficulty expressing yourself clearly in discussions or written work, there are specialist tutors available to help you with this. It is a good idea to find these tutors as early as possible, so as to get help at the start of your course and not half way through when you are hopelessly confused. Of course, the best way to master another language is to have regular conversations with native speakers. It may be comforting to spend most of your time with a group of students from your own country, but make an effort to make friends with local students. Building relationships with home students is often the best way to settle in and gain confidence in your new learning environment.

The university runs an  English Language Conversation Class that is very useful as a way of practising your English communication skills.

There is a lot of support available to you:

Many students think that the only people available to help them are their class tutors, the people who actually teach on their course. This is not even slightly true. As a student at this university you have access a wide range of tutors and support staff who are just waiting for you to ask them for help. Some of these are...