Every year at the beginning of the new semester it’s a common scene at the airport to see many parents sending their children to study abroad. The students carry heavy luggage and say goodbye to their parents and friends before leaving to begin studying in another country.
Different architecture, a different lifestyle, an unfamiliar language, homesickness, new food and a very different style of education can make it difficult for international students to fit in. This can lead to loneliness and even depression.
Zheng Zeng, a student from China, said: “At the beginning I felt very sad and could not adapt myself in the new environment here.
“I don’t like the food here and I find it hard to make new friends. I can’t understand what the teacher and my classmates say.
“Every week I have lots of key reading and work to do outside of class. All of this puts me under a huge amount of pressure.
“I still remember the first time I called my parents after going aboard. I couldn’t say anything and kept crying. I wanted to go home immediately.
“However, I’ve begun to adapt to the life here and now know how to arrange time effectively. I now try my best to get involved in the local life here at UEA.
“Now that I’ve chosen to study aboard I need to keep going, not only for my parents but for myself. This is my responsibility.”
Astrid Heidemann Simonsen, international officer for the Union of UEA Students, agreed that the language barrier can be a big problem, but students do have the opportunity to practice their English in a friendly environment at UEA.
International students can join the free English language classes offered by UEA, or join the Conversation Club to practice their language skills with native English-speaking students.
She went on to say that UEA Nightline is a good way for international students who are struggling with depression to get some help. Students can also go in person to talk to the friendly volunteers if they feel it would be easier for them than speaking over the phone.
The key thing to remember is not to struggle alone. Despite the fact that most international students will want to integrate with home students, there is nothing wrong with students who speak the same language helping each other.
Always receiving help in English can be difficult if it’s not a student’s native language. Sometimes seeking help from other international students can be a very useful thing.
For many international students, studying abroad is a part of growing up. It will have been full of difficulties and confusion, but looking back on their experiences; it will have been a great achievement.
For further information on the help available, visit www.uea.ac.uk/services/students/International.