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Navigating uni as an international student

Katerina Lygaki gives her tips for international freshers.

Starting university and moving to a new city can be daunting enough on its own, but when the transition from home to campus also involves changing countries, the entire process becomes all the more complicated. To make this time a bit more enjoyable, breaking down necessary steps into manageable sections is key to organising your new life in the UK whilst also allowing yourself room to be a fresher, meet new people, and acclimatise to Oxford. 

Getting your affairs in order

The first step for any international student should be to get their ducks in a row. Priorities include:

1) Getting a UK SIM card or starting on a new phone plan. 

2) Opening a bank account: the banks that have branches in Oxford include Barclays, HSBC, Halifax, Lloyds, Nationwide, NatWest, Santander, and TSB. 

3) Procuring your NHS (National Health Service) and NI (National Insurance) number if you are eligible.

4) Getting set up with the college GP (General Practitioner) as a medical point of contact. 

5) Organising your travel/ visa documents, as you never know when you are going to have to reach for them. 

Situating yourself

After getting all the administrative hurdles out of the way, do take time to get to know the city, even if that just means exploring the different streets and pinpointing your nearest supermarket and favourite coffee shop. This step sounds very self-explanatory, but having some grounding spots within a new city can help make the unfamiliar feel a bit less strange. I personally found immense joy in exploring my local Greek takeaways and coffee shops, as they allowed me to manage my homesickness.  

Joining societies 

Academic work, especially at Oxford, can feel intense and stressful at times, and the pace here definitely takes some getting used to, so if you want to take this first term to situate yourself academically before getting involved in extracurriculars, then by all means do so. However, joining societies can be a great way of meeting people from your country or people who share the same interests or hobbies as you. Some societies are very low-commitment and usually host a social every week or every other week, whereas other societies may include more participation (for example, training for a sports team or getting involved with student journalism).

Enjoying yourself

The number one tip that I have in mastering the transition between home and university is to not let people bring you down about your academic potential. Imposter Syndrome affects so many students here and being a non-native English speaker can add to that feeling. Quieting the voices of criticism is such a valuable tool to have. It has to come from within yourself, but asking for help from classmates and joining subject-specific Facebook groups can be useful in helping you realise your full potential. 

Image credit: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi via Pexels.

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