This blog is from Shreshta Ramkalaon, a Residential Advisor for All Saints Student Living. Shreshta is in her 2nd year of Fashion Design and Technology for Womenswear.
I am a French speaking Islander off the coast of Africa who is now living in Manchester. I joined MMU in September 2014 as an International student and I am now on my second year of an undergraduate fashion course. When I joined the university it was my first time in Manchester, and in the UK, and well…in Europe.
Joining university and settling in Manchester wasn’t very hard at all. I was helped through each and every step of moving-in, enrolment and joining my course. Manchester was and is a very vibrant city despite its grey sky. There is always a lot to do and a lot of nice people to hang around with. Everything from transport to shopping is easy and at hand. My course has been very interesting and exciting till now, I have never been motivated to work so hard in my life.
For International students who first panic because they have trouble communicating in English: do not worry, it takes some time to get used to different accents in another country. My first conversation in Manchester was with a taxi driver; he was trying to tell me a bit about the city but I could hardly understand anything because of his accent and that kind of made me sad. However if you still feel like you need a little boost up to improve your English and join classes specially designed for international students, you can still join the English Language Services for International Students (ELSIS) classes for some extra help. They can be found on http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/languagecentre/courses-for-our-students/elsis/.
Feeling a little bit homesick is so normal among international students. You leave your country, family, friends, culture, food and language to settle so far away from home (mine is 9993 km away), all that alone, on your own. There are plenty of activities to do while you are at university and joining a least one society is a must do. Societies’ activities form part of the university culture and is a great way to make friends with similar interests. Most of them also organise socials where you can meet up with other students and have a nice time. Find the exciting societies you could join on the union’s website https://www.theunionmmu.org/your-opportunities/socs/.
However if you still feel like you need to feel a bit closer to home, you can still join societies that group people from your own country. My country, Mauritius, does not have a big population at MMU, so I joined the one at the University of Manchester. It is nice to be around my friends from home once in a while, especially because I cannot go home during Christmas and Easter break. If you feel like you miss home food, you can cook for yourself by self-teaching from YouTube. Stores like Worldwide food in Rusholme are my favourite, because they sell a lot of ethnic food from all around the world.
International students don’t really get any student loans and sometimes money might be short for a little bit of luxury. This is why I got myself a student on-campus job, both for work experience and because a few extra quids at the end of the months will not hurt! At first, I was anxious about the fact that I had to source and do a placement year and that my lack of work experience in the UK might put me at a disadvantage. However after starting my Residential Advisor Job, I felt confident and strong enough to apply for placements and at ease enough for those long and difficult interviews. This job has been the bridge between university and the industry for me. If you would like to look for on-campus jobs opportunities, visit the MMU Jobs4students on http://www.mmu.ac.uk/careers/students-and-graduates/jobs4students.php/. Make sure you get your National Insurance number sorted out first so you are eligible to work in the UK.
Finally if you find breaks boring or lonely because flights home are too expensive, it is a good idea to travel inside the UK or Europe. Coaches and train tickets cost a fraction of what international flights cost and might be a good alternative way of spending your break. Edinburgh, Dublin, Barcelona, Amsterdam or any other city you fancy spending a few days in. I work the most I can during term time so that I can afford at least one trip during the break, and so far, each and every of my trips have been amazing.
Most of the time, my friends, tutors or other people I know at university forget that I am an international student and this is a very good thing. When I am on the university campus, it doesn’t matter where I come from, I am given the same opportunities and help as anyone else. The university is a wonderful and unique place where differences are celebrated and not looked down upon.