Everybody has different university experiences, however, for many people, it is the beginning of an independent life. Doing your own thing without mommy and daddy; having that experience on another continent, the struggle is two times harder. Imagine being unable to speak their language fluently and being an introvert. This is what I have experienced (and still experiencing). I am writing about it now because I believe I have had time to adjust and maybe this may be interesting for anyone … interested.
1. Facing stereotypes
Stereotypes on international students vary depending on people. You get some people who think that being an international student means that you are a spoiled kid from a super wealthy family and £50 notes grow under your bed. Cause for them how else could you be able to afford to study and live in England? On the other hand, others who think because you are from Africa, you are a lucky poor kid sponsored by a scholarship and come from a place where lions, snakes, gorillas and human beings hang out together while singing Hakuna Matata. Additionally, they imagine you living in a hut with no clean water or internet and you speak “African” with your 32 siblings while your mommy and daddy are feeding the chickens that will be killed and served for the next dinner (ok that part is true sometimes). So yeah, some people assume that you are super rich or super poor and both are actually annoying. Some international students are blessed enough to come from wealthy families indeed, whilst some have scholarships and some are from very modest families who worked extra hard so that their children could have a good education…Nonetheless, everybody’s story of how they survive in England is different.
2. The famous: Where are you from?
I am not going to lie that question used to stresses me out. As a black international student, people both black and white will expect you to be from Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa…yeah that is pretty much it. I am from Burkina Faso so every time my group of friends meet a group of people and get the “where are you guys from” question, the answers sound like “oh I am from: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nigeria … Burkina” and then if I am lucky I will get the “Oooh you are the first person I meet from there”. 70% of the time I will get the “oh where is that” (actually one time a girl asked me WHAT is that…). I will then find myself trying to picture the map of Africa in their heads like “ you know it’s like…in the middle of West Africa like a little bit above Ghana…” and that will be the beginning of a whole geography lesson session having to explain what the weather is like… what we eat there, how far it is… which is good don’t get me wrong. Sharing knowledge is good and people being curious about where you come from is good as well. However what I am saying is that it becomes VERY repetitive giving the same speech for years.
3. The language
As I said I am from Burkina Faso (a French speaking country) so other African international students in England get it easier than me as they come from places where English is widely spoken (Nigeria Ghana, Zim etc…) Luckily for me, I have good ability to learn new languages but when I first came, it was HELL. Not being able to understand what people around you are saying is horrible. You feel a bit stupid, to be honest. It is okay when they acknowledge your struggle and try to speak slowly for you to understand but sometimes when you say “Can you say that again please” after three times you can clearly see on their faces that you are wasting their time and pissing them off. For them, you are supposed to know how to speak English. So yeah it makes our life MUCH harder. Socialising is tiring because you actually have to put in some efforts to understand people. You need to process and translate every bit of information in your head before you say it out loud and even when you do say it out loud people may not get it because bruh your accent is very special. So basically, people have to repeat stuff a thousand time before you understand and vice versa before they understand you… Yeah, not the best way to hit on the hot guy at the corner. Studying in another language also means that you have to work twice as much as other students to pass and 4 times more to get higher grades than them. Because your understanding is more limited you have to do more personal research, spend more time when writing essays (grammar mistakes and all that) and also multiply your anxiety by 2 when giving an oral presentation.
Christmas time is usually the most depressing time for me and I believe for many international students. Everybody leaves to see their family and if you are not lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s house or don’t have enough money to travel around then you will stay alone. I come from a home where the Christmas spirit is very present so not receiving or buying gifts for my family and seeing my friends on social media celebrating with theirs is very depressing.
Again, being from Burkina (a very unpopular country) I feel like I am the only person from there in this country sometimes. Nigerian students when they are together they speak Ibo or Yoruba a lot, Zimbabwean people often meet to eat sadza (a famous dish of theirs) and then there is me. I feel blessed to have friends from around the world but not having anyone to speak French or Dioula with me and just talk about “home” in general can be hard. Like most people have events to come together and celebrate the Independence Day of their country and yeah on the 11th of December all I can do is tweet “happy Independence Day to Burkina” (I don’t even do that anymore, to be honest).
One thing clear thing is that the experiences always remind you that this is not your country so you should not get too comfortable. International students have to pay MUCH more for tuition fees. Also for accommodation, they will ask you to pay the rent for the whole year at once if you don’t have a guarantor in the country (something many international students obviously don’t have). You need to get your passport scanned every year before you can enroll. You are not allowed to work a part-time job more than 20 hours per week during term time. I think every month you need to get your student card scanned at the international student office. It is harder for you to get full-time jobs ( sometimes) and internships. Of course, you get racism sometimes as well but that is not the only problem facing international students so I won’t talk about that here.
5. Being an introvert
I feel like the whole university system (in England anyway) was designed by extroverts for extroverts and as in introvert, I feel like… it sucks! I consider myself an introvert but not an antisocial person. That does not mean that I don’t like meeting people and going out. I do… but it has to be with people I am comfortable with. It takes time for me to open up to others, so they have to be patient. The thing is that at uni, people are always partying again and again and again… Oral presentations… and group work jeez! Too much extrovert stuff. I come from a place where when you are a foreigner, people are extra nice to you and are curious too as they want to get to know you……get to know about where you are from, share their way of life, their culture literally learn more about you. But English people don’t roll like that (at least not the ones I have met). Not to say that they are not friendly because that is not true but from what I have PERSONALLY noticed, they will hardly try to be your friend if you don’t try to be their friend first and with me being an introvert…it just doesn’t happen. Well, it happens but hardly. It’s better now that I learned to get out of my comfort zone but I really had to work on it.
There are many other things that I have come across, however, I think this article was long enough. I will probably write a part 2. Also, being an international student is far from being all bad. It is actually more positive than negative, I would not change the experience if given the chance to.
Like and share this if you want me to write about why being an international student is doooope. Could you relate to this article? Did you ignore the struggle overseas students face? Just hang out in the comment section for a bit
Post by Madya.