My international journey – Czech Republic to UK

My name is Tereza. I’m from the Czech Republic, a country in the heart of Europe, and I’m studying my first year of Marketing at the University of Derby. Moving to the UK was challenging but exciting at the same time. Challenging because I had to move from Prague, where all my friends and family were, to Derby, where I was suddenly by myself without anybody I knew. Thankfully, adapting to life in Derby wasn’t hard at all.

The deciding factor

I started considering moving to the UK when an organisation called Unilink gave a presentation at my high school/college in November 2017 about the services they provide. Unilink specialises in helping students with all the paperwork related to your university application process and they do it all for free. In summer 2018 I went for a 6-week long trip to the US all by myself, and when I came back alive knowing that I’m able to survive, the decision was made. I felt so comfortable from this experience that I knew moving to the UK to study was do-able. I contacted Unilink in October 2018, and the process had begun.

My journey begins

I had to start thinking about the course I wanted to study. I wanted it to be something business related but creative at the same time, and what else meets both conditions better than marketing?! The course was chosen, but then there was the hardest part of the decision making – what university should I choose? Do I want to live in a big city or one that is more compact? Unilink helped me select my top 5 choices, and the final decision was up to me. After doing a bit of research, I knew that Derby was the one for me.

A supportive network

The support I received at home was incredible; my family, friends and all the teachers wished me the best and helped me throughout the process as much as they could. When it came to references, decision making or just emotional support, they were all there for me, and I cannot thank them enough.

When I arrived in Derby, the support I received from the University was amazing too. I’m talking about Residential Assistants in halls who helped me with moving and settling in, and staff across University sites who helped with orientation within the buildings and also the University in general.

Adapting to Derby

I was born in a smaller town that consists of 25,000 people, and I lived there until I was 15. Because I started attending high school/college, I had to move to a boarding house in Prague, which is the capital city of Czechia. I was afraid that Derby wasn’t going to be enough for me because I was used to living in a vast city of 1 million people. But the change was lovely.

Derby city feels safe and is also easier to get to know and navigate around – there is never a time I get bored; there are plenty of activities to do. Just within the walls of my halls at Sir Peter Hilton Court, we can spend our evenings playing pool, table tennis, PS4 or board games. Nightlife in the city is also a lot of fun – there are more clubs and bars than expected, which I am not complaining about!

Making friends and settling in

I would most definitely say that choosing halls as my accommodation for the first year was the best decision I could’ve possibly made. Thanks to that, I’ve met a lot of great people and made some amazing friends. I live in a six-person flat and my flatmates became my best friends literally within the first week. I honestly cannot imagine living with somebody else now, we’re even looking for student housing for the next year. Having a good group of friends is key to making university feel like home because even if something doesn’t go exactly like I imagined, my friends are there to help me get through it.

Academic challenges

Considering the school system in the Czech Republic is often only about memorising, rather than learning through discussions, practical activities and conducting research, coming to the UK was a big change. I had to completely switch from my old studying habits, but that was the best part. I can now focus on topics I am interested in and invest my time there instead.

When I was assigned my first report, I had no idea where to start or what to do. Luckily, everyone at the University is really friendly and the academics were always there to support me, from creating the table of contents all the way to referencing.

My advice to other international students

My advice to you is ‘JUST DO IT’. There is nothing better in life than experience – the day when my life completely changed was when I moved away from home, on my own, to another country while not knowing anybody, and being unsure about what my future held. Now, the second semester has started and I can say with confidence that it was one of the best decisions I have made so far. All you have to do is put yourself out there, talk to people and keep up the hard work; it will all be worth it.

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