Being a student is stressful but as an international student you will have more things to get used to, from the food to the climate, which can make you feel more anxious, so it is important that you find ways to adapt to your new home and manage stress.
You may not even consider that you’re stressed but if you are not sleeping well, you’ve gone off your food or trivial things are bothering you, chances are it’s because you are feeling overwhelmed. But it’s normal to feel out of your depth in the initial weeks and months and it takes everyone sometime to adjust to being away from home. Plus, culture shock isn’t something that you should dismiss.
Not understanding social codes, people’s accents and not knowing what to say to new people because you don’t yet know what you have in common can really pile on the stress.
If you feel like you’re stressed, anxious or don’t know how to deal with depression then don’t be afraid to seek help.
Most universities offer specific support for international students as they understand the elevated problems you might be facing. If you’re unsure of who to ask or where to go then speak to your tutor as a first step. They will be able to tell you what support is available to you. Most universities have international student support officers and a counselling service, and some have a dedicated international student officer within the Student’s Union.
We have a saying in the UK that a problem shared is a problem halved, so be brave and reach out to someone you are getting on well with on your course. Chances are they are going through something similar and you could help each other, and it could be the start of a new friendship.
A really good way to manage your stress is to have loads of fun so consider joining a sports team, student society or getting involved in volunteering this will help you make friends and help you get over homesickness. But, it’s inevitable you will miss things from back home so hunt out students from your own country to handout with and a really good way of doing this is via the events the international office organises, such as coffee mornings. These events allow you to meet more international students studying at your university.
Another contributing factor to stress can be not understanding British culture. Like all cultures us Brits have our customs and ways of doing things that may seem odd to you at first but the more you are exposed to it and the more questions you ask the more you will feel at home. A great way of learning about British culture is to register with a charity called HOST UK. They organise stays with British families. You can spend a day, a weekend or even longer with a host family and it’s a great way to experience British culture first hand. Hosts will show you around and share their local knowledge with you.
Knowing more about your local area, the way of life in the UK and even what the latest TV programmes people are watching will make it easier for you to spark up conversations. And remember if you are feeling a bit down or stressed because you have an exam coming up or a project is due then that is exactly how other students on your course will be feeling so why not be the one that suggests a group study session over a bite to eat….and if you are a good cook why not cook a dish from your country to wow your friends with.
Unfortunately, being a student and stress go together, but you can manage it by taking time out to focus on you. Make sure you’re eating healthy, regularly exercising and getting enough sleep. Maybe try meditating as it’s a wonderful way to clear your mind and help you to focus.
If you find you cannot manage your stress remember you are not alone and you can reach out for help. Student Minds is dedicated to student mental health and run support groups across many campuses. And Nightline offers someone to talk to in complete confidence online or over the phone. And in some instances, Nighline will have someone who you can speak to in your mother language.