August 1, 2014, by International students
How to make the most of your first week in Nottingham
The University runs a free Welcome Programme for new international students (from outside the EU) joining The University of Nottingham in September every year. Find out more about our Welcome Programme.
Flying away from home to study is not easy. When I was throwing things inside my luggage, my mind was filled with worries about culture shock, high-calorie Western food, living costs and notoriously gloomy British weather. After that, I crossed my fingers and hoped my luggage wouldn’t exceed 23 kilograms.
After two hours of sitting in a bus, I arrived at Derby Hall at University Park Campus, where I spent the Welcome Programme. I got the key, walked to the first floor, which is actually the second floor if you are from outside the UK, and unpacked my bags. I saw my neighbour when we were in the corridor and again in front of the dining hall. Telling myself not to be antisocial, I said “Hello, neighbour.” And that was how I get to know a person who, later on, knocks on my door to make sure I wake up for 9 o’clock lectures, makes coffee every day during the exam months, makes me feel better when I eat an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s because he does it too and shares my hatred of Mr. Walter White in Breaking Bad. He is an international student, studying mechanical engineering – he is actually half German quarter Japanese, quarter Filipino. To make it more complicated, he was born in Seoul, South Korea but grew up in Germany before he spent his high-school years in Yokohama, Japan.
The Welcome Programme is a great opportunity to meet new friends – trust me, they are very nice and friendly. Don’t be shy if you don’t feel confident with your English because it will improve tremendously after you are overwhelmed with the English-speaking environment and when you have been assimilated English through your normal life. Say hi to everyone that you meet, not only during Welcome Week but also when you move to your hall or in the lecture hall you study because you never know, that stranger might actually become a very special friend of yours.
While I was in a queue to get my food in the dining hall, I noticed that a lovely lady, who was standing in front of me, had dyed her hair blue. Yes, blue! She was an exchange student from the US – the first American person I actually talked to despite the fact that I studied in an American school for two years – not counting teachers of course. She has been the only person so far who was crazy enough to join a trip that I planned. We went to Edinburgh on 31 December and celebrated New Year’s Eve watching fireworks on Edinburgh High Street.
Welcome Programme is also the week that will make your life in Nottingham much easier. Try to listen to their announcements and go to their events. Getting your student card, which is as important as your smartphone but a lot less expensive if you lose it, opening your bank account, which I opened with NatWest, are things you must do. In my opinion, NatWest is probably the best bank for an international student. Trust me, NatWest doesn’t pay me to say this!
They also organise walking tours around the University, which is not necessary, but you better go if you have nothing better to do than trying to connect to the University internet in your room. After the Welcome Programme, I also enrolled with the Centre for English Language Education (CELE), which provides free English courses such as pronunciation, academic writing etc. Personally, I think that CELE is very helpful and fun.
After the Welcome Programme for international students, there is another week of events called Freshers’ Week. This week is Heaven for British party animals and a chance for you to explore your wild soul – I saw big yellow buses picking up freshers from my hall every night and, for me. I think their party habit is the only culture shock I have experienced. At the end, I am sure you will meet amazing people and have good memories in Nottingham, a city I now call my home away from home.
Taechasit Danjittrong, international student from Thailand studying Medicine at The University of Nottingham.