Born and raised in Nigeria, the universal dream of almost everyone is to travel “overseas”, as overseas is seen and termed as the greener pasture. So, when I was making plans to travel to the UK in 2015 to get a Masters, believe me when I say this – it felt like a dream, even up until I boarded that British Airways straight flight to London.
It all felt unreal. I kept telling myself that am about to “live the dream” of millions of Nigerians.
I didn’t know what to expect but I knew that it would be a new life for me, new experiences, new friends and new environment. Because my intention for travelling was for study, I wasn’t sure how well I would adjust into the classroom filled with “white people”. Even though I speak very good English, I thought to myself – would I be able to understand what the teachers were saying or understand what my classmate says when he or she turns to me and asks a question. All these thoughts lingered in my mind.
Truth be told, that was just me overthinking because none of those fears were valid, I settled quite easily into the class and because of my witty personality, I was liked and loved by members of my class.
If this is the first time you are reading my blog, you might not know my course switch story. So, I’ll give you a quick run through.
When I got admitted into Middlesex University, I applied to study Telecommunications Engineering but after about 2-4 weeks into the course, I realized that I wasn’t happy with the course, my mind and brain wasn’t in sync with what was being taught and I dreaded going to the lectures.
So, I decided to switch my course to a course that I resonated with the most. Thankfully, one day as I was in the Library trying to do some research on my course (which I hated and didn’t understand), I was sat next to a guy named Alex, he was also there to do some research for his course and we started talking. I then asked him what course he was on, he said “Business Information Systems Management”, and then went further to explain that the course in a nutshell is how to use IT in the business world and how it affects and can bring growth to businesses.
Instantly, I knew that was the course for me because I had an IT background and I’ve always been an entrepreneur. It just made sense to be on a course that allows me to explore and grow both skills. To cut the long story short, I switched my course from Telecoms to BISM and that was what I finally got my Masters Degree in.
The above story doesn’t really have anything to do with the points I will talk about below but I felt the need to give you some type of background story about my early hurdles in London. On second thought, I think the story I just told you above is somewhat needed and can serve as number one advice, which is to ensure you are doing a course you love and enjoy! Or else, you will be so miserable in a country that you should be living your best life in.
Without further ado, here are the 6 ways to make the most of studying in the UK as an undergraduate or post-graduate student.
1. Stay In The Halls of Residence. (trust me)
This one sounds kind of funny but it’s true.
So, the halls of residence is the official accommodation provided for students by the University. I want to believe that a large number of Universities have this. This is where students live whilst studying. Unlike the “hostels” in Nigeria, the halls of residence in the UK (and am guessing US as well) is way more fun.
For starters, there’s no gender segregation. This means, there are no “boys hostels” and “girls hostels”, it’s one accommodation and everyone gets a room they’ve paid for and they share a communal kitchen and bathroom.
Being someone who did my undergraduate in Nigeria, the idea that both male and female live in the same accommodation blows my mind and the idea that there is a well equipped kitchen in the accommodation equals (=) Mind Blown!
This set up allows for proper networking, creation of friendships, bonding, learning about someone else’s culture and most especially maybe finding a girl or boy of your dreams. (lol)
I didn’t live in the halls of residence, I lived outside of school and the only time I visited the halls was to hang out with my class mates. Everytime I visited the halls, I always saw and knew deep down what I was missing. I was missing the most important part of education which is fellowship with your peers.
I missed out on a lot of fun, friendships, relationships and experiences. Even as I write this, I feel bad remembering those days and what I missed out on.
So, if you can – make sure you live in the halls of residence for students. It’s going to be a fantastic experience for you.
You will learn, love, live and gain lifetime experiences you wouldn’t get in a normal rented house.
2. Do Not Be Quick to Get a Girlfriend because She’s Got A Fairer Skin.
As someone who has lived all his life in Nigeria and has only dated black girls up until the time of my move to London, it wouldn’t shock you if I gravitated towards girls with fairer skin, would it? It shouldn’t and the simple reason for this is because – the human brain loves new adventures and we always love to try new things other than what we are used to.
That being said, my advice of not being so quick to get a girlfriend still holds weight and I stand by it.
Why I say this is because I saw my fellow Nigerian friends getting into “serious relationships” with girls in just months of their arrival to the UK. These girls were not necessarily their taste in women but because they had a fairer skin and showed them some type of attention, they felt overwhelmed because they haven’t known better and this led them into getting into serious relationships with girls they chose not from “abundance” but from “scarcity”.
(Abundance in the above context means – having options from a lot of girls to pick from after getting a lot of experience while Scarcity means going straight for the first girl that shows some type of likeness towards you without having experience of what other girls are like)
The interesting thing is all these guys dreaded their relationships because they started to see what was out there, they started to see what they could have had if only they were not so quick to getting into relationships with the first Jenifer who said hi and winked. Their girlfriend became a burden. I am talking from experience and conversations I had with these guys, they were not happy in a place like London where there is abundance of women to pick from.
My advice is this, do not rush into serious relationships unless of course you genuinely think the girl is your taste and you are not suffering from “First girl to show me attention is the girl I will date syndrome”. You want to experience the UK in it’s beauty. You want to then decide to date a girl because you now know what you want, not because she’s the first fair skin girl who has shown you some type of affection or/and attention.
3. Do Not Form Stupid “Cliques” with People from your Country.
Its natural for foreign students to instantly want to associate themselves with other students from their home country when they arrive in the UK.
To them, these people know them, understand them and are the right people to make friends with. Well, if you really want to go further and learn new things, you certainly won’t be learning that from people with the same background and experience as you.
I get it, it’s easier to talk and relate to them but is “easy” what you are really looking for? You need to put yourself out there and instead of creating groups with people with the same background and language as you, do that with people who you can learn new things from, either from their culture or background.
This will not only make your stay in the UK a fun and interesting one but you will also make friends with people who might and will beneficial to you in the future.
Does this mean you should stay away from your “fellow country man?”, Well, the answer is no! However, you shouldn’t make it a priority to only walk with or talk to your fellow “country men and women”.
4. If You Can, Kiss one or More of Your Professor’s Ass.
Am not the type to kiss ass and all through my Undergraduate years in Nigeria, I was never the favorite to any lecturer. I hated the fact that some people created very close friendships and bond with lecturers not because they genuinely like their company or like the person but because they want to be seen as a “favorite” and use the influence of that to get good grades.
I have always and will always believe in my own abilities to get good grades. However, looking back at those Uni days, maybe creating relationships with those lecturers wasn’t a bad idea, even if its not for the grades but for future recommendations and what have you.
I will give you an example of this below;
Most of you might know that I got endorsed by the UK as an Exceptional Talent in Digital Technology and this is the visa I am on currently in the UK. In order to get that endorsement and visa, there is a need to show a lot of documents, evidences and letters of recommendation from people with high reputation in Tech either in the business or academic world.
Guess what? One of my strongest letters of recommendations came from my then professor who I kind of created an outside the class relationship with when he needed my service to create a website for an EU group he was the chairman for.
Looking back at it now, if I didn’t have a relationship with him, he wouldn’t have been able to go above and beyond for me to write a letter and actually get it sent to me on the official University’s letterhead and stamp (he went above and beyond for me).
Now, I know my title says “kissing ass”, I didn’t necessarily kiss his ass per se because I also offered him my service and time for free to create something I would have charged thousands of pounds for. So, its a mutual ass kissing I guess.
You get the gist, try to create relationships with your lecturers and professors. Besides them giving you advice and looking out for you, you never know when you might need a recommendation in the future and he/she might be able to stand in for you.
5. Don’t Just Come Here to Pay Your Fees and Then Leave (Really?)
Just like every other person who comes to the UK as a foreigner, there is always a thought of staying back after studies because the UK offers “more opportunity” and quite frankly is more advanced than the countries we come from.
The advise here is not to just have it as a “thought” to stay back but find ways to make it a reality. International students pay thousands of pounds for their studies and I think it’s wise to find a way to make that money back before going back to your country (if you ever go back, lol).
Do not be like the thousands of people who come to the UK, pay all these money and then go back to their country with nothing but their dick in their hands. I get it, its not easy but its worth the shot. So, from day one, start researching how to stay back in the country (if you want to) rather than leaving this to when you have only 3 weeks left on your student visa.
The UK is a good place to live in, so the process of staying back is tough – but with good and early planning and research, its possible!
I hope this post has been somewhat informative and fun to read. I got inspired to write this because I wish I knew these things before and when I moved to the UK in 2015.
The UK is a great place to study, come, learn and have fun! All the best