Studying abroad can be a hugely rewarding experience but it can also be a challenging time. For foreign exchange students arriving in the UK, to spend a year either working in a business or attending university, there are several factors they will need to address.
Living in the UK when you speak very little English can lead to feelings of isolation, as well as making even the simplest of everyday tasks, such as buying a cup of coffee, more stressful. If the students are working in a business environment it becomes even more imperative that their English language skills improve quickly.
The best solution is to enrol in an English language school. Language schools not only improve their students’ language skills quickly but the environment helps them to gain confidence, feel less alone and offers the opportunity to make friends with others in the same situation. Tti School of English in central London, emphasises that learning should be tailored to students’ individual needs so that they are able to progress much more quickly. The faster a foreign exchange student gains fluency in English, the quicker they will settle into their life and work in the UK.
The second issue foreign exchange students face is finding somewhere to live. If they are lucky, their parents will be able and willing to invest in a property in the UK. This means that they have a secure place to live and can rent the other rooms out to fellow students, so will feel less alone. Buying a rental property can actually be a very sound investment for parents as they can retain the property and rent it out even after their child has returned home or they have the option to sell it, often for a substantial profit.
Many universities and work placements are centred around London and the South East, but that doesn’t mean that a house has to be purchased in the capital. If the search area is widened a little, cites such as Slough, Dartford and Croydon become potential areas of interest. Watford is another good choice and as local estate agent Marshall Vizard highlights, Watford offers an easy commute to London alongside a high growth area with plenty of new builds, shopping and nightlife, perfect for students.
The other option is for students to find a host family to live with. Admittedly this means they don’t have their own space, but the upside is that by living with a family they gain a support system. Students’ language skills also improve more quickly in this environment as they are conversing with the family on a daily basis.
Being alone abroad is a difficult transition for anyone. While feelings of homesickness are natural they can quickly escalate and lead to real unhappiness if the student feels isolated. It is important therefore that the business or university the student is attached to offers social events so that they can meet others and form friendships quickly. The student can also look for social gatherings, classes and events in their local area. Meetup.com offers the opportunity to network with others based on a shared interest, or you can even find people who speak the same language as you. This is the perfect way to start quickly making some friends and to lessen the effects of homesickness, especially if you are connecting with people from your home country.
For any foreign exchange students who want to prepare for their time in the UK, it is well worth looking at the website of the UK Council for International Student Affairs. This national advisory body was set up to serve the interests of international students living in the UK. It offers a wealth of practical information on visas, financial issues, healthcare and accommodation. The more preparation a student makes before travelling to the UK, the quicker they will settle in and be able to enjoy their time here.