December 31, 2018, by John
Seize the day as an international student!
‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’ In her 2014 speech to the UN Women Convention, Emma Watson’s words sparked me out of my slumber.
Carpe Diem! Seize the day!
During the cold, dreary winter, seeing people walk in the streets with their loved ones, shopping in Christmas markets with their families, or having dinner with their relatives, can make you feel incredibly lonely as an international student. Being an international student is difficult. Period. In this article, I wanted to share some things that have made it easier to live so far away from home.
1. Connect with locals
In my first month in Nottingham, I was extremely fortunate to be connected with local families living here. Since then, they have regularly invited me to their home. They have become the only family I have here in Nottingham. That’s comforting. You can sign up to be hosted here. This hospitality scheme is run by Friends International, a local charity that serves international students in the UK.
2. Say ‘Hi!’
During my first year, the friend I interacted most ended up being someone I said ‘hi’ to in a queue during registration. As international students, I think we have the natural tendency to stick with other international students, or students from the same country as us. But as comforting as that is, I have always reminded myself that I didn’t travel 10000km to meet more people like me. But as I have interacted more with home students, I have realised that they are humans just like all of us are, eager for friendship, fellowship, and fun. So, whether it be in your society, in Mooch, or on a trip, go out of your comfort zone and say ‘Hi!’ You never know what you are going to expect.
3. Be interested in the lives of others.
As humans, we have a natural tendency to talk about ourselves – our achievements, our successes, our failures. I found this quote from Timothy Keller useful in thinking about humility, and reaching out.
‘The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself.
Timothy Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness
Next time you are next to someone, speak to them. Resist the temptation to take out your phone to hide your discomfort and awkwardness. When you speak to someone, instead of talking about yourself, why not try to understand more about them? Their experiences, their struggles, their life? Take the time to listen too. Julian Treasure, a public speaking trainer, recommends waiting 3 seconds before answering. It shows the speaker that you are intent on listening, rather than interrupting them.
4. Explore the UK
It’s often tempting to visit every other country in the vicinity of Europe when we are in the UK. But besides costing a lot of money, it also prevents you from enjoying the beauty that the UK has to offer. Why not join a society like RAMSOC, which organizes weekly walks to places like the Lake District, the Peak District, and other stunning national parks in the UK?
5. Spend Christmas here.
For my first year, I spent Christmas in Iceland. I thought I was being incredibly cool. Until our Christmas dinner turned out to be spaghetti with smoked haddock. Spending Christmas in Nottingham sounds counterintuitive, but there are many people at local churches who are willing to invite you to their homes for dinner. Local host families are also willing to share Christmas with you, if only you ask. How many times would you experience the quiet comfort of every shop being closed, allowing you to enjoy solitude?
Life as an international student can be difficult. But if we are willing to reach out, instead of remaining in our traditional communities, life can be an exciting process of discovery and adventure. Dare greatly. Before you know it, your time here would have come to an end. So, carpe diem – seize the day!
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt, former President of the United States of America