All that study, those sleepless nights, all that hard work and effort you have put in has finally given you this golden opportunity of studying at one of the best universities in the United Kingdom. For a long time, you have been trying hard to get admission and now you don’t want to miss this opportunity at any cost.
Studying abroad is a dream for many people and all those who get a chance to get higher education from any such international university are bound to go through various tasks like, choosing the right course then selecting the college which provides the desired course, checking out financial aid and applying for one if eligible, language proficiency tests, applying for a visa, etc.
The UK is home to many prestigious and top-class universities. It is not only the quality of education but also the lifestyle that students get to experience in their educational years which attracts many young minds to take admission in the UK every year. As per reports, as many as 484 thousand international students studied in the UK in the academic session 2018-19 alone. This shows the popularity of the United Kingdom among International students.
Living and studying in the UK can be exciting and adventurous. But as it is said, life is never easy; every good thing comes with some drawbacks. Similarly studying in the UK also has some impediments. Here are some of the difficulties faced by international students while studying in the UK.
- Language barriers
Language barriers are one of the major challenges that an international student faces while studying in the United Kingdom. The majority of the students who come to pursue higher education in the UK belong to non-English speaking countries like China, the Middle East, and South Asian countries. These students struggle in their day-to-day life because of their “not-so-good English”. They face problems in reading, writing, talking, and expressing their doubts or other problems. Not knowing proper English also lowers their confidence level and self-esteem. This results in developing disorders like anxiety, depression, etc. These things may also affect their overall academic performance.
Not only students but educators also face issues while teaching or explaining even some basic concepts to their international students because of their inability to understand the true meaning of some words or phrases. This happens because every language has some of its own unique words or phrases which cannot be translated into other languages, even if done so, it cannot explain the true meaning of that particular word or phrase. This also prevents the students from fitting into the friend circle as they always feel left out of the conversation when their friends speak about certain things which are not known by these international students, or when they are not able to understand the humor and inside jokes. This encourages them to make friends from their community and avoid connecting with the local community, which is certainly not beneficial for their academic as well as personal development.
Now, this can give rise to a perception that this is the case only for people who don’t have a good command of the English language. However, that’s not necessarily true. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you are going to face this issue for sure. Even if you have a good knowledge of English and you can understand and speak fluently, the British accent can often be quite hard to understand. The accent of people living in the United Kingdom is unique and different from the people of other English-speaking countries, which makes it a critical issue even for students with excellent English as they are not used to the local slang and accent. This leads to the feeling of embarrassment or even the fear of speaking publicly.
Another common problem that arises due to the language barrier is in their academic writing. Students find it very tough to complete their assignments and projects on time, at the beginning. This happens because they are unaware of the writing standards which need to be followed while writing, even the difference in the grading system causes them to give up easily. They start to underestimate themselves, this discourages the students from completing their academic work on time and with perfection.
- Cost of education
Taking an education from any university in the United Kingdom can be very expensive for international aspirants. Particularly for those students who are having limited financial resources. Getting a degree is not at all easy in modern times, you need to pay a high amount of money to the colleges and also manage your expenses. The tuition fees, cost of rooms and boarding, transportation, food, books, and other educational essentials can drain away a lot of money. Living in the United Kingdom seems to be expensive because the UK is one of the most developed economies in the world. The value of its currency is more than most of the other countries currencies. That’s the reason why students find it hard to keep asking for money from their parents who live in some other country, mainly for unexpected arising expenses.
You may think about getting help from student services related to finance. This may lessen the burden obviously, but this financial support will only be able to provide you with funds related to education. You still have to worry about your other expenses, because even the essentials are highly prized. Also, eating outside in the UK is very expensive (certainly a big drawback for foodies).
Moving away from one’s home nation lets you explore new people and cultures but these experiences of different cultural behavior are not always pleasant. International students experience huge cultural differences while studying in the UK, which often leaves them with emotional and psychological trauma.
Changing the pattern of thinking and some old habits in the process of adaptation can be a challenging task for international students. They find it difficult to adjust to the people around them, which leads to discomfort, feeling of loneliness, sadness, frequent mood swings, feelings of paranoia, etc.
This also includes the changes in the teaching pattern and grading system. There is a huge difference between the educational systems of the United Kingdom and other countries. Students who are unaware of them and are often left confused. The UK is one of the most developed countries in the world and has many advanced technologies. But sometimes advanced teaching can also affect the learning pattern of students in a negative way who are habitual of traditional learning. They may find it difficult to learn and use the available resources due to the fear of not knowing how to handle things.
- Casual Bullying
Students also experience bullying in some cases. They are intimidated and taunted for their looks, style of dressing, accent, or even skin color. Sometimes this minor teasing may take a turn towards some serious harassment, or physical injury, which may lead the student to depression or even force them to commit crimes like harming others or self-harm, or suicide. Though it does not always take place, generally the ragging is in a mild form, which you will experience at almost every new university no matter which country you go to.
But many students are not able to handle this teasing, which often leads to disorientation, distractions, and anxiety disorders. This affects their physical and mental health and complicates their social life, and also prevents them from focusing on their academics. Which may lead the student to become a less productive person.
- Incompatible Climatic change
The climate and atmosphere in which someone was born and raised are identified and accepted by his/her body. And moving to a different place with a distinct climate may show adverse effects on one’s body. Our body needs time for adjusting to any new place and experience. But this phase of adjustment to the surroundings is quite troublesome as our body is not ready to accept new things initially, which may make us sick. This is also one of the critical problems which are extensively faced by international students. The weather is a bit cold which makes it hard for the students to adjust, initially. Students tend to fall sick and experience a common cold, and fever frequently. Not only this but sudden exposure to cold weather also affects the gut and obstructs digestion. However, these issues do not last for a long time. Once the body gets used to the changing climate, everything is normal. But the initial phase hinders focus and affects one’s study and thus should be taken seriously. If the student takes proper care and medication the climatic change can be handled with ease.
- Hardships at the workplace
Due to factors like insufficient money, students tend to look for part-time jobs. But getting a job is also not an easy task. Firstly, it is very confusing for international students to search for jobs as they are not aware of the genuine sources providing jobs, even if they find one, they struggle while proceeding further due to the lack of knowledge they have, related to the rules and regulations of the United Kingdom. Many aspects create limitations for international students while searching for jobs, like inappropriate accent, inability to understand regional terms or certain words, lack of geographical knowledge of the place where you live, etc. Students are not able to communicate effectively with their colleagues or seniors, which creates obstacles while working. This also prevents them from improving themselves and their way of working, causing them to feel inferior compared to others.
Many students even experience racial discrimination in the workplace. It can be verbal or physical abuse which may affect their mental health. Moreover, studying and managing the job at the same time can be stressful and annoying, and this may affect the academic performance of the students.
- Feeling homesick
Humans being social animals, it’s quite obvious to miss the place and people with whom they have been socializing since their childhood. It’s common for international students to feel homesick. Once you have settled and started adjusting, the initial excitement gradually starts fading, this is not a serious issue. But some students may find it very troubling to stay separated from their family and friends, particularly the ones who are not in the habit of living away from their house and those who have never stayed anywhere without their parents. It’s rather difficult and also impossible to keep visiting their home now and then. This leads to separation for a very long time and makes students more homesick. Feeling homesick for a long time also affects the social life of students. Students incline towards self-isolation and avoid social interaction.
Homesickness also forces students to make friends from their home country. This behavior restricts them from fitting in and not accepting the changes around them. It also stops them from expanding their horizons and experiencing new things and thus hinders their personality development.
Apart from this, it is seen that the UK has experienced a certain loss in terms of its popularity among international students due to over-restricting the granting of student visas since the economic crisis. Also, the UK has limited the years of stay for International students to just 5 years. European countries have managed to get the popularity lost by the United Kingdom over the past few years
Looking briefly, the UK is quite a good place to study and settle. You get to experience many new things which you have never experienced. For example, if you are a boy you will see that most boys are cultured and well mannered, they are also in the habit of preparing meals, doing laundry, and doing other household chores. If you are a girl, you will experience freedom like never before. And if you are someone from the LGBT community, you will see open-minded and not so judgemental people.
But as mentioned above, every good thing comes with a negative side. Similarly, the above-mentioned points need to be taken into consideration before taking admission to the United Kingdom.