Jinnang Zang with her fellow students
Jinnang Zang with her friends at Queen's University Belfast

Jinnang Zang from China has just moved into the third year of her postgraduate course in Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland. In this article she shares her experience of her first term studying in the UK. 

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It is back-to-school season again! It is the time to pack your luggage for new university life. I could clearly remember that I lost a lot of sleep the night before heading to the UK. Nervous, fear and expectation, all of these hung over me. I believe that most international students who are coming to study in the UK have the same feeling before departure.  I hope that I can give you a taster of what to expect during your first term at university, and make you feel better.

Settling down is easier than you expect….

The universities in the UK are professional and experienced in helping students to settle in. I arrived in the university one week before the main courses started, this week is called ‘Welcome week’ or ‘Freshers’ week’. My university had designed so many fantastic fairs for Freshers’ Week, from the registration and campus tour to the icebreaker games and movie night out - all of the events are well organised. I would recommend you attend as many as possible like I did, this really helped me to settle in quickly. There are so many events especially prepared for our international students, such like a taste of the culture, a trip to the local market and international breakfast networking events. There are so many fun things to do, which really help me to keep distracted from my homesickness. 

Cake and homemade food
Throwing a party with some homemade food can help with home sickness

Keep calm and study hard

My first class was a formal lecture, which made me feeling very anxious. Why are they laughing? I didn’t quite understand the humour. What are they saying? I felt a bit like an outsider. It seems that my language barrier and culture difference where contributing to this. To solve these problems, I decided to take action. I spoke with my local classmates and my teacher as much as I could. They are so friendly and helped to correct my pronunciation mistakes and explained a little more about the UK culture. Fortunately, I am improving all the time. The assignments of my course are always arranged three to four weeks ahead of the deadline, which helps me manage my work load. Obliviously, I learnt quickly that with study in the UK you have to be self-organised and self-motivated. After my first assignment I learnt not to leave it too late as nobody wants to stay up all night before a deadline. 

Take advantage of the student union

University life is not always as busy as the first welcome week, so keep looking for things to do. I found that there are lots of new things I could do in my spare time. There are so many student societies available in the Student Union. Some of them are quite attractive and new to me, such as skydiving, Aikido and Archery. They usually have a ‘taster session’ for Freshers’, which gave me a chance to try them out. Joining a student society is a great opportunity for me to meet people with similar interests and to make new friends. 

There are so many things that impressed me when I look back over my first year.  You never really know what it is going to be like before you get here. It is definitely a big challenge for most international students, but believe me it is totally worth it!

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If you would like to hear more from Jinnang Zang, read her blog here