The transition to university life is difficult at first for most people, particularly international students. Studying a new course while having to adjust to a different country and culture at the same time is challenging.
The Language Academy recently met up with five new pre-sessional students to discuss their first couple of weeks in the UK and to find out what new students can expect during their first week at UCLan.
Hafadh and Turki are both from the Saudi Arabian capital city, Riyadh, and Bin, Xiao and Kaiyue are all Chinese students. They have all joined the same classes and become friends already as we asked them to share their experiences so far.
Why are you studying pre-sessional English?
Kaiyue: I want to practise my English. After this course I want to study International Mobility Management so my English needs to be better. My writing is very bad, I struggle writing 250 words at the moment. I hope to have developed my writing a lot by the end.
Hafadh: For me it is a really important course in order to improve and practise my English. After that I want to complete my MSc in Fire Safety Engineering at UCLan. Speaking is the most important aspect I need to improve on. In my future career, speaking fluent English will be very important.
Xiao: I’m studying the course because I need to improve my English in order to get onto a Criminology course at UCLan. Improving my writing is most important and I need to work hard to achieve it and get on to my future course.
Bin: For my BA course in Fashion I need to improve my level of English so first I hope to develop my English skills to get onto the course.
Turki: I want to study my master’s next September but don’t have an offer from UCLan yet. I specialise in Modern History. For now, I’m just looking to improve all my English skills.
What were your first thoughts shortly after arriving in the UK?
Kaiyue: I thought it was very beautiful. The people were very friendly and told me how to get from the airport to UCLan.
Bin: I was confused after landing in the country about how to then get to Preston. But there were some very kind people who gave me information about where to go.
Xiao: I arrived at Heathrow Airport and was supposed to get on another plane to Manchester. That plane was cancelled however and I had to get on a coach to Manchester. I was lucky to meet a British person who could also speak Chinese and he told me how to get to Preston.
Turki: I arrived at Manchester Airport but for me I didn’t have any problems getting to Preston. My only worry was about the weather. The weather is a lot different in the UK than Saudi Arabia. A lot colder and freezing sometimes!
How were you feeling on the morning of your first day? What induction activities did you attend?
Bin: I wasn’t nervous, I was happy and excited.
Hafadh: On the first day I met Bin and there was just the two of us in class.
Bin: It was an induction to the course.
Hafadh: Chris, Jane and Mark spoke about the course, described what we would be doing on the course and gave us information about UCLan. We also met some of our teachers.
Kaiyue: We had a tour of the library on the first day and had to have our visas checked also.
Bin: We also had to take an English level test…
Kaiyue: ...which decided which group we would be put in.
Hafadh: We were all put in the same group and were then given our timetables. We then attended classes for the rest of the week.
How were the lessons that week?
Kaiyue: Always interesting. I’m always happy with the classes.
Hafadh: I found it difficult to actually find the lessons with so many different buildings!
Kaiyue: [Agreeing] to find the different buildings is difficult but you can always look at the map!
Bin: The lessons were different and the big problem is the timetable is very complex. Sometimes we have a full day, sometimes half days, sometimes we’re in for just one hour. It’s different than in China.
Hafadh: It is a strange timetable. For example, today we had a morning class for one hour and now we are on a three hour break. This is very odd and difficult.
Turki: The lessons and systems are naturally going to be different between countries. Some people get it and some people find it difficult but for me it’s a good system.
Xiao: For me the lessons are very different from my previous studies. I’ve just graduated from high school and Chinese high school is very different. You can ask teachers questions but you must wait till after the class has finished. Here, you can ask questions at any time which is good because it makes the lessons less boring as you don’t have to just listen to the teacher. I think asking questions during lessons will help me understand quicker and improve my English skills faster.
Have you been getting involved in any activities whilst here?
Kaiyue: I’ve been to the gym and hope to keep going three times a week. I go to the sports centre at UCLan, it’s free and easy to join. I’ve also played basketball with Bin.
Xiao: In the first week I wanted to explore the city and compare it to my hometown of Sichuan in China. It’s very different and quieter which is good.
Turki: The first week was all about finding my accommodation. I’ve not really done much apart from find nice restaurants and cafes and I have been socialising and eating there.
What do you make of Preston as a city?
Hafadh: I now live in Preston but before I lived in Manchester. Even though they’re close they are both very different. Preston is a smaller and quieter city. Manchester is the second biggest city in the UK so it’s a lot bigger and busier.
Turki: I enjoy Preston and think it’s good for students to study. It’s a cheaper city than Manchester and is the ideal place to study.
Xiao: I like the style of the city with both old and new buildings. I don’t like cities where they just have modern buildings everywhere, I think it’s ugly. So I like the combination of old and new.
Hafadh: I want to improve my English outside of the classroom and it is a good place to practice. There are lots of cafes and restaurants to have conversations with people and practice my English. For example, I don’t like going to nightclubs but I went to one the other night because I wanted to speak English with people! It will help me improve my English quicker.
What are your plans whilst you are in the UK?
Hafadh: I hope to visit some cities in the UK. Edinburgh in particular I have heard and seen good things about so want to visit.
Bin: I hope to make more good friends and socialise with them to improve my English. Learning and exploring more about the British culture would be good.
Xiao: I want to travel to different cities and meet new people. Cities such as Edinburgh and London are on my list.
Turki: I would also like to visit some places. I’ve heard good stories from my friends about Brighton. Visiting the countryside is good too as I like to visit parks.
Hafadh: Avenham Park I’m looking forward to visiting and the docks and marina.
Kaiyue: Beaches as well, like Blackpool!
The Language Academy’s top tips for new students…
Make sure you know your way from the airport to Preston
Flying to either Manchester or Liverpool Airport is advised and if you are landing at a different UK airport then getting a connecting flight to one of these two airports is recommended. Ensure you know your way to Preston from the airport before arriving in the UK. You can get a train from Manchester Airport to Preston train station. Alternatively, booking a taxi can be an easier way to get to Preston.
Sort your accommodation out as soon as possible
If you are applying to the International Office they will send you details about accommodation. Alternatively, the Language Academy will help you to sort out your accommodation. You should sort this out straight away to ensure there are no problems when moving into your flat upon arrival.
Explore the city during your first week
Moving to a different country can be difficult at first but exploring Preston as much as possible during your first week will help you understand the British culture and customs quicker. There is lots to see and do in the city as well as societies and events in the Students’ Union to help you make new friends. It’s also a great opportunity to practice your English!
Attend all your induction activities
The induction activities during your first week are designed to give you an introduction to the course as well as an undertaking an important visa check and English level test. Missing any of these activities will slow down your induction process and delay you from starting your course. Maps of the campus are available to help you familiarise yourself with the university buildings.