Babatunde Kudirat Ibrahim, MSc Environmental Management student, talks us through her experience being an international student at Teesside and the advice she would give others coming to study in the UK.

For international students, travelling abroad and leaving family behind is a journey full of emotions. I know the feeling as I have been on this route myself. Below I share my advice on how to make the UK a home away from home – to find comfort and create meaningful relationships and priceless memories while studying here.

  1. Make friends with other international students. It’s comforting to be with people who have gone through similar things when you’re in a different country. I found international student groups and communities on campus, had talks with them, exchanged experiences and forged connections that go beyond national borders. These relationships have turned into my support network, providing familiarity and empathy when I feel lonely or homesick. They made me feel liked and accepted, and we became closer as a result.
  2. Participate in campus life. Teesside’s vibrant campus provides chances for interaction and development. I felt it was crucial to immerse myself in clubs, groups, and activities to fully experience the active student life. To me, participating in all-campus events is an opportunity to discover and learn new things in a new setting. I found that stepping outside my comfort zone, going to social events, and striking up discussions with other students really helped me. I felt that the warmth and inclusivity of the diverse community embraced me.
  3. Integrate with the local culture. Although I am proud of my heritage, I felt even more like I belonged when I embraced the local way of life and was immersed in the cultural heritage of the UK. Explore historical sites, indulge in regional cuisine, and take part in festivities. You might feel a sense of unity with locals by adopting their culture and weaving a thread through it to your new place.
  4. Engage in support services. It can be daunting to navigate the educational system in a foreign country, but you don’t have to do it alone. In my moments of need, contacting Teesside University’s support services has really helped me. They are committed to fostering our success and are aware of the particular difficulties encountered by international students. Counsellors, private tutors, academic advisers, and foreign student services can offer support during tough times and serve as a reminder that you are not doing this alone.
  5. Investigate virtual communities. Although physical distance may keep you apart, the strength of the internet can unite you with like-minded people. Find social media groups, forums, and online communities with international students. Talk to each other, exchange stories, and take comfort in the relationships you create between screens. These virtual ties act as a constant reminder that despite your physical distance, a sizable, encouraging, and supportive family is there and eager to greet you.
  6. Participate in volunteer work. Contributing to those in an environment that has welcomed you can sometimes provide you with the deepest sense of belonging. Volunteering and lending your time and expertise to causes that are important to you, and making a difference in other people’s lives gives you a feeling of connection and purpose. It also allows you to form stronger relationships with the community and make lifelong friendships and memories.
  7. Maintain contact with friends and family. Love has no bounds, even when distance separates you. Using video calls, meaningful notes, and virtual get-togethers to stay in touch with those who are dear to me back home has been really beneficial. I can share my happiness, grief, and accomplishments with the people who know me the best. Family and friends can provide you with the encouragement you need to stay motivated and make the most of your time overseas.

Establishing a feeling of community in the UK as an overseas student is an extremely emotional process. It’s an endeavour to create connections between your history and present, your heritage and the place you currently call home. Keep in mind that you have dreams that are shared by others, and with each step you take, your sensation of belonging will grow.