Lily’s experience at UCLan – Blog 2: Socializing
I hope you are all well and enjoying the end of the academic year. For those who are still taking exams, good luck you are nearly there!
In this week’s blog, I would like to talk about the importance of socializing. I know it may sound daft but as an international student, socializing is particularly important. Coming from different backgrounds and different education systems, you may have had more or less time to socialize as a student. For instance, when I was in France studying for my diploma, I had over 30 hours of lectures and seminars, which definitely wiped out any opportunity for me to socialize or even have a part time job. In the UK, going to university means leaving the parental home to get a degree and prepare for a professional career in the future, but it also means leaving home to have a once in a lifetime social experience. Studying in the UK was a life changing experience and I was really looking forward to leaving home, making myself a new home, and meeting new people. What I discovered when I finally arrived, is that the most outgoing friends I had weren’t as outgoing as they used to. At the end of the day, I realized that language can make people bond as well as making people reluctant to bond. My advice to you is to push yourself a little bit more than you normally would. The students you meet will be from many different countries and speak different levels of English. Everybody makes mistakes. What matters is that you communicate as much as possible and overcome that initial shyness. I would also advise you to mix with as many people as possible and avoid staying with groups of the same nationality as you. By mixing with other international students, you will improve your English skills and also get to know more about other cultures, traditions, beliefs, ways of working and ways of interact. For example, in the classroom, you will find that Chinese students interact very differently from students from Germany. In China, communication between teachers and students is very different from a European classroom. Students are not necessarily encouraged to actively participate and being spontaneous or providing a personal response may come across as being defiant or argumentative and even disrespectful. Relationships are more hierarchical and a teacher is a figure of authority. However, in Germany, even if relationships are also hierarchical, debating and providing a critical response is perceived in a much more positive way. So what should you do? Always pay attention, be respectful and open minded. Always think: what is normal to me may not be normal and acceptable to someone from another culture and vice versa. Growing up in France (or any country) you grow up programmed to communicate a certain way (verbally and non verbally). For example, when I first made English friends, they used to find me quite disruptive and took that as a sign of superiority on my part and it genuinely never was. I did not feel what I had to say was more important than what the other person had to say and I did feel bad for coming across that way, it never was my intention but I would never have been aware of this if I hadn’t come to the UK and met people from so many different countries.. But in France, disrupting is not as much of a nuisance as people communicate in a more expressive and spontaneous way to fill the conversation and create rapport with their interlocutor. I quickly realised I had to adapt in order to communicate more effectively. So now, I still say what I have to say, but I just tone it down and try to wait for my turn. 🙂 Being self aware is very important and I am glad I managed to make friends with so many other international students from China, Germany, Latvia, Poland and many more. Remember, being a great communicator is a very important and sought out skill in the global job market. So brace yourself and embrace other cultures! 🙂
For more tips on other cultures, please visit one of my favourite websites’: http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/