Going to university is a huge step in any young adult’s life and as it is likely to mean leaving home for the first time and in many ways, moving out of their “comfort zone”. There are challenges that will accompany this regardless of where you did your schooling and where you want to go on to university. In many ways, children of expats find the transition more straightforward than many going on to further education in a country where they went to school.
As one of the leading British international schools in Hong Kong, we appreciate the magnitude of what awaits students, and we do everything possible to ensure that they are prepared. Of course, this is on an academic level, but we also try to prepare them as people. Many of our students come from the UK; they will know what to expect. However, for others from other countries or have always lived in Hong Kong, they need to be prepared for a completely different way of life, including the famous British sense of humour and local customs. Here are some of the things to expect.
One of the benefits of coming from most international schools in Hong Kong and going straight into university in the UK is that the lessons will follow a similar structure. Of course, as we teach the English syllabus throughout school, it will also be more in line with what will be needed for university courses. It will mean that it is unlikely that you will need to take any additional foundation courses which you wouldn’t have required in the UK.
The transition from studying A-Levels in Hong Kong and going to university should be relatively smooth in terms of the academic steps. Naturally, and regardless of where you come from, more emphasis is placed on students to manage their own studies and time. There won’t be teachers querying why work hasn’t been completed, or lectures weren’t attended; just your results will suffer, which is the same for every student.
Even if you are British but have been an expatriate for several years, adapting to the culture can be one of the trickiest things. Like any country, Britain has its own quirks and traditions that will take time some adjusting to, such as the earlier mentioned, British sense of humour. The food will be different and how you live your life on a day to day basis will unlike what you have been used to. Although it does take some adjusting to, most students enjoy their time in the UK and choose to remain after they have finished their studies.
Britain is very diverse culturally, so finding others from a similar background and with common interests will probably be a lot easier than what you would imagine. The most important thing is that you go with an open mind and be prepared to mix and try new experiences.
Making New Friends
Moving to a new school, new city and especially a new country can be tough on teenagers and young adults. One of the biggest concerns you will have is making new friends and how you are going to fit in. Don’t worry; this isn’t something you are experiencing because you come from Hong Kong; every other student on the campus will be going through the same emotions. Although no one can tell you how to make new friends, we would always suggest joining in activities and making an effort to talk to people. Some people find this harder than others but just be yourself!
All universities in the UK have a Students’ Union which will organise social activities especially for “freshers”. Undoubtedly there will be things that you don’t want to do, but equally, there will be plenty of things to capture your interest. Pick and select those that appeal to you, which will increase your chances of meeting likeminded people.
Homesickness is another emotion that most students will experience to some extent during their first weeks at university. However, as you make more friends get used to your course and student life, this will get easier. Students from overseas can experience greater homesickness as they are further away from home, but conversely, they are often better at adapting. Essentially, what we are saying that it is down to the individual!
We recommend keeping in touch with friends and family in Hong Kong, but it is crucial that it doesn’t prevent you from making new friends in your university city. Social media and phone calls are fantastic, but they are no substitute for friends who you can go out with and talk to face to face.
There is no escaping that the weather in the UK isn’t very good, particularly in the winter months. If you have never lived in Britain, you may find this challenging at first but once you get used to wrapping up warm and spending more time indoors than what you are may be used to, you will quickly forget about it. The UK caters well for the weather conditions, so you don’t need to worry about being short of things to do.
Groups and Activities
As we mentioned, all universities will have a Students’ Union that organises a wide variety of activities, but this shouldn’t stop you from join in things that are organised separately. If you enjoy sports there will be local teams you can join, most pubs will have quiz nights, and then there will be a wide variety of other groups and activities available. Whatever your interests, there will be likeminded people either in the university or close by. The internet is a fabulous tool when it comes to finding niche groups.
Universities are used to welcoming overseas students and will know precisely what you are experiencing. If you are finding anything difficult, whether it is the culture, the course or homesickness is getting too much, there will be people on hand to support you. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help; it is what these people are there for.