University won’t just give you a degree, it will completely change the way you look at life. In this blog, I would like to share with you some tips from the point of view of an international student who struggled with the first assignment and finished with a first-class degree.
Tip #1: For international students – expose yourself to the English language
I had a tough time for the first two years understanding the English language. I found writing and reading easy. However, talking to others and trying to understand certain conversations was hard for me. This was because, in my home country, the Czech Republic, we write and read English a lot, but there was a lack of verbal communication with native speakers. If you have a similar challenge as I did, here is a tip that I would have really appreciated to hear before coming into a new country.
Try to expose yourself to the new language as much as you can. The mistake I made for the first two years was living in a house with friends from my home country and, as you can imagine, we spoke in our native language. As soon as I started my placement, and had to communicate in English at work as well as at home, with my British flatmate, my English speaking ability literally skyrocketed. After about six months, I felt much more confident whether speaking to strangers or even leading phone calls at work.
PS: There are weekly free English language classes for international students, so take advantage of this opportunity.
Tip #2: Don’t reference Wikipedia – seriously don’t
This is going to be the first thing you will learn when working on your first assignment. Never, I repeat, never, reference Wikipedia in your assignments. As much as it is helpful, in the academic world, Wikipedia is not considered as the truthful source.
As a person who likes to ask questions, I couldn’t just accept this without knowing why. So I have asked the question. The answer is: as much as we all love Wikipedia, everyone can edit the content. Although it is being moderated regularly, the fact that everyone can do it, makes it an unreliable source.
What you can do, however, is you can start exploring the topic of your assignment on Wiki, and then pick interesting information to explore further with the help of the library resources.
Tip #3: Consider doing a placement year
For me, this was definitely the game-changer. Let me explain. I studied Logistics and Supply Chain Management and, in the first year, I really enjoyed the procurement module. I also knew I wanted to do the placement on offer and gain some experience in the field of procurement.
My placement was based in a fantastic manufacturing company. It made me realise so many things about myself, such as how I prefer to work, how I react to stressful situations and accept challenges, also how I treat others in the office. Although I had one of the best line managers I could have ever hoped for, and some of the most self-developing experiences, the placement itself also made me realise that procurement, as a profession is not the route I want to take.
Now, this was a good thing. I am grateful for the experience I gained on the placement as it has helped me, as one will help you, to narrow down which career path I want to take in the future. It’s almost like a trial. By completing a placement, you will either confirm that the career path you have chosen is the one for you, or you will know more about yourself, your strengths, and what you want to do instead. Both scenarios are winners.
Tip #4: Make the most of the Careers Hub
This tip flows nicely from the previous one. Whether you decide to take a placement, find a part-time job, or apply for a graduate role, the University’s Careers Hub is an incredible help from the very start of the application process to the assessment centre interview.
I have personally used the Careers Hub to customise my CV before I have applied for roles and for mock interviews. I have found mock interviews particularly helpful. You just schedule one with the Careers team and send them the details of the role you have applied for. The team will tailor questions based on this information, and you will conduct the interview and receive feedback on your performance and things to improve on in preparation for the real interview. I think this is brilliant, so make the most of it.
Tip #5: Try new societies and sports
Unfortunately, I missed this opportunity in the first year. However, I joined a sports team in the second year, which was terrific. I have met some great new people, but also I have found two people I can consider as best friends.
Most of the teams will have free trials at the beginning of the year but, if you contact any of them and tell them that you would like to give one session a try, they will gladly take you in.
As a final remark, I would like to give you this last small tip, which is to have fun. I know assignments are stressful and working on group projects is heavy. I personally was looking forward to when this section of the course was over but, after a couple of months of finishing university, I started to miss those stressful days. And now I only have warm memories of the days I spent in a library stressing about my assignments.
There are many more tips I could give but I believe these five, had I known them before joining the University, would be the most valuable. I would love you to share how you plan to make the most of your university life in the comments below. What tip, from my list, can you relate to most?