Practical tips for International Students: Part III

In her final post, Little Me examines culture shock, highlights some of the hidden surprises of studying in Scotland and offers some practical advice for coping.

Welcome to Edinburgh sign with Balmoral Hotel in the background

Even in the most welcoming places in the world, being immersed in a new culture can be a tiring and unsettling experience – fortunately, there is plenty of help to hand. Photo: Little Me

“The more I prepare for this article, the more I realize how tough the life could be for international students, especially for those one-year off students. As one year is way too short to adapt to the local culture comfortably, we should therefore try harder to get the most of it as possible. For me, I am sure things could have gone much better if I could be aware of the culture shock and be prepared about it.

Two months after I came to Edinburgh, thousands of miles away from home for the first time, I started crying on the way home after school for no specific reason. It just made me feel so stupid to look at the wrong direction when crossing the road or to cut off my handout by not using the guillotine properly. I also got terrified and overwhelmed in a party surrounded by so many people. But I didn’t give it too much thought until once I was asked what my biggest culture shock was.

  •  The first culture shock — My English is awful! I didn’t realize my English could be that awkward until I actually talked to the local people. Once I noticed that, I felt nervous to open my mouth instead of catching every opportunity to speak, because I was not confident. I was afraid of being laughed at. Actually NOBODY CARES if you make mistakes as long as they understand you.
  •  The second culture shock — Strange weather! Not too long after arriving here, it comes the long and dark Scottish winter time. Getting up early and enjoying some sunshine could be the most helpful advice. Don’t be too surprised when you see A LOT of people sitting on the meadows when it’s sunny, because it’s really not often. So you should probably join them as well!
  •  The third culture shock — Food! After eating up all the storable food you brought from your own country, or maybe you have had enough fish and chips or haggis, it is time to cook for yourself properly. Trust me; it can be really enjoyable when you put your heart into it, because you will definitely make something nice for yourself.
photo from inside a pub looking out of the window

Sometimes the weather in Scotland makes thinking inside a much more attractive proposition! Photo: Little Me

  •  The fourth culture shock — Socializing! Socializing can be limited by language. It is normal when we are not confident in speaking English, we feel reluctant to talk or to socialize. However, socializing can be absolutely helpful to improve our English. To avoid the vicious circle, all we need to do is to get out of our comfort zone and do everything that we can when we are here. If we don’t like clubbing or party, we could go for a dinner with friends instead.

Adapting to the local culture does not mean that you cannot be yourself. You might need to change a bit about the behavior or the way of thinking, but changing is not losing. Keep your goals in mind, and be brave! Remember: time is ticking!”

Some other sources of support:

EUSA’s language exchange, Tandem, where students can meet each other, socialise and improve language skills.

Edinburgh University’s hospitality scheme which connects International students to local Edinburgh residents.

Student Counselling offers workshops to help students deal with specific challenges such as dyslexia, lack of confidence or procrastination as well as counselling sessions to help them work through difficulties, understand themselves better and find ways of managing their situation.

This is not an exhaustive list – if you can’t find what you are look for, ask someone. There are plenty of people on campus ready to help.


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