January 10, 2019, by International students
International Student Ambassadors: Alessia Cottone from Italy
I am Alessia Cottone, I am from Italy and this is my fourth year in the UK as I have been studying psychology at Leicester. Now I am doing a Masters in Occupational Psychology in Nottingham.
What attracted you to the UK?
I have always had a passion for travelling and getting to know other cultures different from mine, but I think the biggest push to study in the UK was my huge interest in research. I am really passionate about psychological research and I knew that in Italy the chances of succeeding in an academic career were really low. Researchers are not well paid and they struggle to get funding for their research interests. In addition, the most researched field of psychology in Italy is rather scientific (such as cognitive psychology) or strictly clinical. My passion is instead focused more on social and occupational psychology, areas that are deeply studied in the UK. I knew that doing research at university in England was much easier, and that psychology was valued in all its aspects. That is why I decided, to the surprise of my parents and all my friends, to try and start university in England.
Was it hard to adapt to a new country? What helped you?
My decision was something that was seen as surprising and exaggerated by some of my friends and classmates. Even now, when I tell people in Italy that I study abroad, a lot of people look at me with surprise and admiration. “I would never be able to get away from home” or “How can you study in another language?” are often the things they say to me. This is because in Italy people are not yet used to travelling away from home a lot, especially when they are 18 years old.
Having seen this reaction from people, I realised that what I did might have been difficult and challenging. However, if I look back, everything seemed to find its way somehow. Indeed, I have always seen the difficulties I encountered as something that was expected and that I would have probably encountered in my country as well, just in a different way. In addition, I was aware that what I was doing was quite exceptional and that there would have been bigger difficulties in the beginning, but that the payoff later would have been more for that very reason.
I have to say though, that one of the major parts of my successful adaptation were my friends. This is something I really encourage everyone who is coming from a different country to keep in mind and take as “gold” advice. Find some friends who make you feel at home, that are sharing your experience and that you can complain to about everything that bothers you. The cold weather, the accent being too hard to understand, and the essay that you really do not know how to structure.
In my case, I found a group of Erasmus coming from all over Europe in my first months in university accommodation. Together, we helped each other adapt to the new culture whilst, I would say, also creating our own. In other words, I think the UK is a very “flexible” country in terms of culture: it does not have a specific one, but it adapts to what other people bring to it. That is a real positive for people who want to bring bits of their own world with them to the UK. On a less positive note however, if you are coming from a Mediterranean country like I do, it can feel cold and distant sometimes (the climate also does not help let’s be honest).
I believe, nevertheless, that with some spirit of adaptability, England can be a really nice place to study and live in. Again (I cannot stress it enough), the people you are surrounded by will help you make the most of it.