My international warm welcome to Derby

International student Ioannis-Thomas Dimakopoulos has come from Greece to study Business Management in Derby. With our International Student Centre topping the International Student Barometer 2018 rankings for the UK, he tells us about his welcome to the University.

Settling in

As an international student, I was worried about leaving my home in Greece to study abroad. Although I am not afraid of a challenge, I still felt a little anxious about what I would face studying in the UK but it’s not at all scary and it is really worth it to take that step and study abroad.

On the day of arrival, everything went really smoothly and I soon got used to the new environment. The good thing with UK universities, especially the University of Derby, is that there are a lot of international students already here from all around the world. So my first thought was reaching out to find new friends. From the first day, I met students that were like me, and making friends was very easy.

Societies are important to me. There’s a wide choice of societies you can join, from ones that are linked with your favourite sports, art or course to those with students from a single country. I joined the Greek and Cypriot society, which is great. We get together at the weekends for activities – having fun, going on a trip to new places, clubbing or organising parties with lots of Greek music and dancing.

Another aspect that really made me feel supported were the lecturers at the University. I was expecting to struggle to understand and communicate with them but it wasn’t a problem at all. Sure, in the first days you might not understand everything straight away, but they showed great care and were there to help me. Everyone was friendly which helped me settle in to my studies more smoothly.

Life-changing experience

This whole experience, leaving my country and coming to the University of Derby, has been life-changing. Many aspects of my life have changed for the better. Firstly, I am learning how to be more responsible and organised, not only with my studies but in my life too.

My way of thinking has changed because of the challenges I have faced and the new things I have experienced and learned. I think it is hard to remain the same person and not to become more confident and independent when you join a university in a new country. New friends, group projects, bigger responsibilities, joining societies and living by yourself are all challenges. It’s not easy but you get so many positive experiences out of it.

Why Welcome Week is a must

Finally, I would like to thank the University for the Welcome Week organised by the International Student Centre. It’s all about making you feel comfortable, getting to know other students and an introduction to your course.

In my Welcome Week, there were events like barbecues, parties at the Union bar which was really fun, and introduction sessions with some interesting activities.

There was a particular activity held for Business Management students. In this session, we had to form a team and complete a presentation about why a student should choose the University of Derby. It was a good chance to get to know other students and find out more about the University. The presentations took place in Derby Cathedral and many local and large-scale businesses attended. It was a competition and the team that had the best presentation would win a prize. I really enjoyed the activity because I got to make some friends, gained a greater awareness of Derby city and I got the chance to network with people from the business industry.

The Welcome Week helped me a lot when meeting new people and made me feel comfortable before starting the semester. The lecturers that talked to us in the sessions gave us advice and a good taste of what is ahead of us over the next few years. I think it is a must and no international student should miss it. Food, drinks, making friends and learning things about your course – there is no better way to start.

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