Needing a connection?

Sometimes life at uni can be isolating. You are surrounded by people but no one knows your culture or you’ve just not clicked with those around you enough to call them friends. It is usually at this time nearing Christmas, where homesickness kicks in because no one knows you like your family and friends back home. No one cooks like your folks and your own cooking or takeaway meals just isn’t cutting it. 

If the last paragraph resonates with you, we’ve got a lot of volunteers who have opened up their home for international students in your position. You can go on your own and we can join you up with other students being hosted or you can bring friends. 

We also put on events so that you have opportunities to make memories and develop those times that friendships grow off of. 

The best way to do get involved either with being hosted or an event is to download the Friends International App, register with us and then click the “Request a host” button. We’ll then get you connected with a local family and a home cooked meal, even if you want hosting on Christmas day!

Suggestions for International Students by an International Student

A guest post by Connie who completed a masters in Events Management last year.

Connie with Friends International Guildford at Windsor Castle in August

Before you arrive

Before you arrive, you might feel excited and have got your airplane tickets and luggage prepared.  Or you might be a little bit uneasy thinking about the unfamiliar culture to you.  However you feel, that is happened to me too.  It was the last six days before I came to Guildford when I bought my tickets to the United Kingdom and started to pack up my luggage.  Fortunately, I got some useful information from some students who studied here before.  First, there are some airlines which have special offer to students who are going to studying aboard, like 45 kg of baggage allowance.

However, you do not need to bring everything, like rice cooker!  What I did was getting lots of second-hand things in Wechat Group from Chinese students, an app like Whatsapp.  Of course, it is up to you.  There are plenty of places for shopping in the Guildford!

I assume that the first place that you visit is the airport.  The University does provide a welcome team to pick International Students up at the airport for free for a few days before the start of the semester, which is applied online.  You could also apply your accommodation offered by the University.  Personally, I recommend the rooms within the main campus.  I lived in the Manor Park.  Believe me, every time I woke up at 8:30 am and had a lecture at 9 am and had to get on the bus with a bus annual pass, which might be 160 pounds per year, to the main campus, I wish I could have lived in the main campus which is just 5 minute walk to the lecture rooms.  Furthermore, if you finish the report in the library at 3 am and wish to go back to Manor Park, there will be no buses until 6 am.  However, there will be an advantage living in the Manor Park, which means the Surrey Sports Park is within 3 minute walk.  If you are keen on doing sports, it would be quite convenient to live in the Manor Park.  Wish you make a good choice.

During your stay

There will be a welcome team who are the volunteers from the University to help you to get your room key, find the right room and unload the luggage.

A box in your room is ready for you containing a sim card and WIFI setting machine which is quite to set up.  Pop up and activate the sim card and say hello to your families who might be worried about you if this is your first time to travel for a long way to a new country.  Make some friends at the your flat because you will live together for a year. 

There will be a fresher week when all kinds of events take place, like welcome parties held by the Student Union, your school or other student societies.  Also guidance lectures will be given to help students to get used to the University life, such as how to use “Surrey Learn” to find your timetable and summit your report, how to use facilities in the library, how to book proofread services for your reports by attending English lectures and how to make use of “Surrey Pathfinder” for advice for your CV.  There is a “Surrey Move”, a website application to count your steps to get you rewarded, which I recommend that you should register if you are a fan of running or walking.  I collected 2400 points by walking every day and redeemed my points at Hillside Restaurant for my free hot drinks.

One points that I would not to miss out is students could have 10 pounds allowance for students to print freely in the library.  It might not be shown in your Student Account.  All you have to do is to ask IT services in the library about it.  Use the allowance wisely and print the lectures and seminar notes in advance so that you could preview and get yourself prepared before your first lecture in the library.

Speaking of cooking, it might be the first time for you to cook.  Why not try something easy to make, like just boiling the noodles?  Or you may want to make some friends who know how to cook and learn from them.  The first day I arrived here, I did not know how to cook at all, all I did is asked for help, learned from my Chinese friends who are so kind and willing to be my “master of cooking”.

It is good for your keep tidy in the kitchen if you share the same kitchen with someone who are from the East Asia where their culture values order, polite manner, clean and tidy, especially Japan, Korea and China.  It is polite to ask and respect when you encounter “cultural shocks”.

During the exam period or before the report deadline or the holiday when everyone is back to their home, you might feel a little bit lonely when you are alone.  Why not go out and have some fun with Friends International?  I felt isolated when I was alone in the manor park, fortunately, I took part in the activities held by Friends International and attended Bible Study at my friends’ house regularly.  I felt alive by connecting the local community telling myself that I was not isolated.

Eating lunch by the river in Windsor.

Another way to deal with sad feeling is turn to the Centre for Wellbeing which provides a twelve-week exercise referral scheme for students and staff who feel depressed and anxious.  I applied for that scheme and got a twelve-week free pass for gym in the Surrey Sports Park which definitely encourage me to put my iPad aside, leave my room and do some sports improve my wellbeing.

In terms of part-time job, there is a Unitemps in the University of Surrey where you could register with your passport, National Insurance Number and apply for a job online.  Or you could find a job by yourself, please remember to sign a contract or agreement with your employer.  I understand that sometimes Chinese students tend to find jobs in the local Chinese stores, restaurants and travel agent because you might think it better to trust someone from the same cultural background, however, please do remember sigh the contract or agreement to protect yourself and rights.   

Leaving

Sometime it is quite hard to say goodbye to a place that you have been staying for a year.  Submitting your dissertation, packing everything and say goodbye to your friends.  You might feel uneasy again just like when you were preparing to come to the U.K.  Talk to someone you trust and get yourself prepared for another cultural shock because you might get used to the lifestyle in the U.K.

Added note: Friends International have resources to help you with both arriving and leaving, please do get in touch if you need help with anything. We hope this guest post helps as well!

Routine

Fresher’s fairs are done, welcome parties have finished and now lectures are in their second week. At this point it might start to settle in that you’re away from home for a while as the routine of a university week kicks in. If that is the case, do get in touch, routine and homesickness can be tough and lonely and we’re here to support you. Even if you don’t feel that way and it still feels like one exciting adventure, we’d love to hear from you.

Were you at our welcome party? The photos are now on Facebook and you can tag your friends: click here to go to Facebook. You can see a selection below.

We had a great time together and it was good to meet so many students from so many countries! If you were there and want to give us some feedback (positive or negative – we want to improve if possible!), please do get in touch.

Last Saturday was meant to be an autumn walk to explore the mount and various other places around Guildford that a visitor should see in their time here. Unfortunately it was a bit wet! Thank you to the students who attended and we hope you had a great afternoon despite the weather.

Our next major event is on the 6th of November for bonfire night, but watch this space – we’re looking to fit something in between now and the end of October. Look at our calendar to see what regular events happen around Guildford, and don’t forget you can connect with our Local Link and get a home-cooked meal.

We’re here for you!

So you’ve arrived, unpacked, been to Tesco and had Freshers Week. The start of university probably doesn’t feel that much of a shock and is just a lot of fun but there is the awareness that lectures start on Monday… but then our welcome party is happening! We are looking forward to having as many international students as possible fit into the Hillside Restaurant on campus from 6pm to 10pm. There will be live music, pizza and soft drink and a presentation about all the things you can get involved with through Friends International. 

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks meeting you all at Tesco and at the International Information Fair on campus and we’ve had a lot of new sign-ups to our mailing list. We’ve given out over a thousand leaflets for both our welcome party and events for the autumn term and we’re looking forward to getting to know as many international students as possible over the next few months.

Friends International isn’t just about events though, we are about making friends. To do that we want to spend time with you! We have volunteers who open up their house and put on a meal for students, if you are interested click this link to go to local link. Our staff worker, Phil is also available for a cup of coffee throughout the week, but will always be on campus on a Wednesday. As an alumni of Surrey University, he knows his way around and the services available to you if you need them. You can get in touch through the contact us page.

Welcome to the UK

International Students at a table

As students arrive, we’ll be looking to blog a little more and share the stories of interactions, friendships, events and trips. We want students to feel welcome in the UK no matter their background, faith or culture and we think that every student we encounter is special and has a story to tell. We think the English culture has a lot of positives but we also want to learn from the cultures that arrive on our doorstep at the University of Surrey. Keep an eye out as we grow this blog and show off the awesome people we come into contact with through Friends International Guildford.