Wan She, Loughborough University
I finished my undergraduate education in International Trade and Economics in China. Compared to other international students, I am in a slightly different situation because I worked 4 years for a prestigious multi-national company before I come to UK for the Master's degree. In this harsh period, quitting a well-paid job is obviously harder than any academic problems.
I chose a finance masters and hope to experience a totally new education style and life environment. After coming to Loughborough University, I really feel the refreshing atmosphere which is totally different from China. But problems in real time approach me quickly. One is communication in daily life and the other is taking useful notes in lectures. The former one restricts my social life and networking, the latter one prevents me from truly understanding contexts and responding to lecturers smartly.
In China, every module has a main textbook and further reading is recommended but not required. We will know the context in advance and study ahead of actual classes. And students will ask questions before or after classes instead of sending emails. But in the UK, we get simple slides and a long reading list to find supporting materials. It is more time-consuming and requires good understanding of module purpose. This boosts students' initiative to study by themselves. I find the biggest difference is learning style. In UK, the education is student-oriented, but in China it is lecturer-oriented. In their view of assessments, we can often be assessed by unique ‘right' answers, while in the UK students are encouraged to state their own opinions.
Due to modest characters, I normally feel ashamed to raise my hands to say ‘Sorry' or ‘Beg your pardon'. I tried to grasp whole reading materials and study texts in advance instead of being lost in lectures. Frankly speaking, this doesn't work. Lecturers often talked about what they wanted and organised the textbook according to their own style. What I felt is that I have no time to revise the older ones and study new ones.
In order to get rid of this situation, I talked with my personal tutor. She was also an international student before, then took a PhD and stayed in Loughborough as a lecturer. Actually she didn't provide any ‘real' suggestions instead of softening my nerves. She told me that it was a process that no one can skip. The only thing you can do is be open to all changes and study harder than local students.
Also I came to the lecturer's office to talk about my problems. They were willing to answer specific questions related to academic areas. Because they are native speaker, they have no experience either in being ‘deaf' or ‘dumb' in real life or in reading a huge load of materials in a foreign language.
The useful thing I found is doing voluntary work and watching English shows, because they trained me to think and speak locally. Honestly, there are no differences in intelligence or critical thinking. The biggest difficulty is the language barrier and unfamiliarity with all usual practice. If somebody can help me in these two aspects, I will quickly pick up my learning cycle.
Suggestions for improvement I hope that universities can create ‘one-to-one' study pairs (local students and international students) to help international students know local cultures and get tips of smart learning. Also international students can ask for peer help from a local partner.