5 Social Tips for International Students

Your suitcase is crammed with everything from kitchen appliances to your favourite stuffed animal, your new shoes are polished and ready to trample the streets of London, and you’ve packed every local delicacy that has ever existed in your hometown for the pangs of homesickness that will inevitably strike you. “So, what’s next?”, you might ask yourself. Well, there really isn’t anything else you need to do at this stage, but if you want to be one step ahead of everyone else, here are some tips I’ve compiled that might help to give you a kick-start. The first chunk of this 2-part series will focus on the social aspects of being a student, whereas the next one will be slightly more general.

If you’re stepping foot onto foreign soil for the first time, it’ll be absolutely normal for you to experience some form of apprehension as you wander through the city looking for a familiar face. However, what’s important to keep in mind is that you’re far from being the only international student in the university, and that you’re actually part of a diverse group of individuals who hail from all corners of the world.

A great way to meet new acquaintances (and hopefully, besties) would be to attend the orientation parties held in student halls during the first move-in days. Get to know your housemates as well, and if any of them are locals they’ll be able to lend you a hand in familiarising yourself with the city. You’ll be staying with them for an entire year, so it’s certainly important to build a good rapport with them early on. Nevertheless, in the unlikely event that you don’t enjoy staying at your current residence, you can swap your room with someone else’s after a month – it’s as simple as filling in a form!

You might also want to partake in several Welcome Week events organised by KCLSU, such as pub quizzes, picnics and campus tours. One of the main thing I was worried of before coming here was that I would be excluded from social events since I don’t drink alcohol, but I found that to be entirely untrue! Pubs and bars were rather foreign to me, and I was genuinely afraid of entering them solely due to my fear of the unknown. However, I’ve realised that they’re essentially just more casual versions of restaurants, and non-drinkers can always order an alternative beverage such as fruit juices and nobody will disparage you for doing that. If they do, then they clearly aren’t worthy of being your friends, wouldn’t you agree?

I can’t emphasise my next tip more — attend the Welcome Fair at the Barbican! It was literally a life-changer for my university experience, as it led me to join numerous societies that have been a huge part of my life these two years. As its name suggests, the Welcome Fair puts all King’s societies on display in one massive venue, and the best part is that you’re free to browse through all of them at your own leisure. You might even encounter several societies that you had not previously been exposed to and who knows? You could end up uncovering a hidden talent that might take you all the way to the bright lights of the West End.

Whilst you’re at the fair, I would also recommend scouting and joining your country’s dedicated society at King’s (if there is one). When everything seems all too foreign, it can feel very comforting to know a group of your fellow countrymen who are in the exact predicament as you, and can understand exactly what you’re going through. Besides, one of them can probably whip up a convincingly authentic meal from back home, so that’s a plus! Also, don’t forget to pick up your very own NUS card which would typically be sold at the fair – it’ll get you many student discounts for a variety of essential items and services.

Lastly, attend your induction! King’s has designed a ‘Welcome to King’s Guide’ this year which you can download onto your device. I’ll leave you to peruse that while I put on the final touches for the sequel to this article. Make sure to check that out later!

Exploring London on a weekend – Shoreditch + Borough market

It’s the start of your weekend after a week of lectures and seminars, and you’re thinking ‘I wanna make the most of my weekend so : what should I do? where should I go? where should I explore?’

Hop onto the overground and get off at Shoreditch High street (Zone 1), wdishoomhich if I were to describe to you would be similar to Camden Town only, less busy and is a mixture of ‘upper-end’ atmosphere with an edgy, grunge feel to the area.  If you’re in the mood for good food, I highly suggest Dishoom in Shoreditch (there are a few other branches in London) which is a beautifully, edgy lit up corner restaurant, with its wonderfully aromatic incense burning away and its Bombay-an styled decor, you’ll be whisked away into the streets of Mumbai, where the restaurant originally began its chain. Try the ruby chicken; your tastebuds will genuinely explode with the glorious flavours that are complimented with both a generous mixture of sweet and savoury. With the food under 10 pounds each dish, you’re bound to leave fully satisfied and wanting to come back next weekend! So now that you’re interested in a well-budgeted restaurant that sounds like convincingly good, I bet you’re wanting to know what type of cuisine it is…

It’s Indian.

banksy

Aside from food, you’ve got to check out Banksy’s artwork nearby the street! You can feel the artwork on the wall and admire all the other graffiti sprayed onto the brick walls – past the Banksy’ art is a Taiwanese bubble tea store which, if you love Bubbleology, you’ll realise what you’ve been missing out on: real bubble tea. (Go for the original milk tea with tapioca pearls)

After all the walking, a group of my friends and I headed over to Borough market (Three Crown Square, a 2 minute walk from the tube station: London Bridge borough fruit- northern/jubilee line) which, by the way if you haven’t been to – make your way down there this weekend! Get some fresh fruit and vegetables there if you prefer going to a market (although it’s definitely more pricey than going to a farmer’s market), taste some freshly made burgers or oysters for just under 10 pounds too! If you love cheese, then forget Sainsbury’s or Aldi, try some soft or hard cheese right there in the pop up market stall and buy them – you won’t regret it! If you, like me, can’t eat until at least 2 hours after you’ve woken up – grab a cheeky pastry from any of the many pastry stalls to choose from, which seem to always be owned by Frenchman, and forget about a strict or healthy diet and ENJOY that pastry.

borough market

So go on, go treat yourself this weekend – it’ll end your hard-working week perfectly, and therapeutically get you ready to begin another busy week at King’s.

Quick Q&A with recent graduate – part 2

Author: Julie

julie

Applying to university

  1. What was the most difficult thing for you when you applied to university?

The personal statement was the most difficult thing for me because I only got one chance to impress 5 different admissions teams at 5 different universities. King’s has a pretty good video explaining how you could write a good statement here. In addition, UCAS guidance is interesting as well.

My tip for writing a personal statement is simple – draft it, write it, read it, and write it again. I must have drafted my statement multiple times before I was happy with it! As English is not my mother tongue, I also asked my teachers to proofread my essay and improve it based on their feedback.

Additionally, make sure you do not write more than allowed – UCAS would automatically cut your statement at 4,000 characters.

Also, it is worth start drafting the statement early, perhaps in the summer before your final year of school, so that you are not rushed during the year.

  • How did you go about choosing your 5 UCAS choices? 

The biggest factor for me was the academic programme and how flexible I could be with my career choice (see above). I also looked at university rankings.

The problem with university rankings is that they use different criteria, which makes massive different in rankings of different universities. My advice – no ranking is better than another. You should take them with a grain of salt. If you could visit the university, great! If you can’t, try to get in touch with the marketing team or an alumni and ask them for more information. King’s regularly visits different countries throughout the year as well.

Going to King’s College London

  1. What was your biggest challenge when you first joined King’s?

I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand the English accent and people wouldn’t understand my confusing European / American / Vietnamese accent. Thankfully I was proven wrong.

One of the first things I realised was that there was a lot of independent study which was very different from how I used to study in high school. I only went to lectures* and tutorials** for about 12 hours a week in my first year (this got progressively larger as I moved forward in my degree however). The rest of the time was doing compulsory readings and preparing for tutorials. My lecturers and tutors had office hours where students could come in and ask questions.

lecturer

*Lectures – you sit together with every student in your course. I was overwhelmed in my first lecture because my cohort had over 200 students! Lectures are usually 2 hours with a break in between. The lecturers speak and you take notes.

**Tutorials – you are assigned into tutorials of 20-30 students. I was often given a reading or a worksheet to do. You are expected to participate in tutorials. I have realised that international students often do not speak much in tutorials. It could be a bit awkward and embarrassing initially, but it got much better. And it feels really good when the lecturer / tutor knows your name as well!

My experience at Stamford Street Apartments

Author: Boey

Aside from the actual campus itself, probably the most vital element of a student’s university experience is his accommodation. Choosing one would require some substantial research on the student’s part, as there are numerous factors to consider, including its proximity to your campus, the room size and perhaps most importantly, the price you’ll have to fork out for it. Fortunately for first year King’s students, there’s an array of residence halls which have their own plus points and individual charm. The application procedures have been overhauled since my year (I feel positively ancient saying that), so I’ll just skip over that and instead share my residential experience with you.

I was fortunate enough to have been offered a room at Stamford Street Apartments, the closest King’s residence to both the Waterloo and Strand campus. Living in such close proximity of my campus meant that I could literally roll out of my bed into my lecture theatre (albeit not in my pyjamas as I doubt my lecturers would have approved of that). Probably the best perk about this is that if I had ever forgotten to take my safety goggles or assignments, all I had to do was walk 3 minutes back to grab them and still be on time. There are numerous facilities within walking distance as well, including restaurants, a gym and grocery stores.

stamford-street-room

In terms of the room itself, there’s more than sufficient space for all of your belongings – that’s if you’re not a hoarder– and there’s even a wet room and toilet attached to it. Gone are the days when you have to compete with your housemates for your precious shower time. There’s a huge study table illuminated with a lamp, but I personally preferred to revise in the Waterloo library as I was easily distracted by my bed, which I swear was pleading for me to lie on it every 30 seconds. Besides, the library is open 24/7, so if you ever feel the urge to study at 3am, there won’t be anyone stopping you.  Each flat consists of 5-8 students. I stayed with a diverse group of students who came from varying backgrounds and cultures, and this proved to be an eye-opening experience especially since I had somewhat lived within a bubble previously. The occupants share a common kitchen, equipped with a fridge, oven and stoves. There’s a frequent cleaning service which will take care of the trash in the kitchen, but don’t expect anyone to clean your greasy dishes for you! There’s also a self-service laundrette strategically located at the corner of the building where you can wash, dry and iron your clothes. It utilises a card payment system, so don’t ever worry about not having enough coins for the machines.

Security at the residence is pretty tight, and there are officers manning the reception all day. If you find yourself having to make a complaint about your room or flatmates (God forbid that happens), just head down to the reception or give them a call. They’ll even receive the parcels and envelopes directed to you and will notify you promptly to collect them. If you intend to have guests staying over, just notify the receptionists beforehand and you might even get a complementary mattress! The King’s Wi-Fi network is available on all campuses and halls of residences, so you’ll always stay connected to the Internet. There’s also a common room where orientation events and fun parties are held throughout the year. Tenants are free to use it for group discussions as well.                                                                                                                              A piece of advice when planning your budget – there may be more than 4 weeks in month, so calculate your rent accordingly. An annual term should start in September and end in June, and you’re more than welcomed to leave your belongings here during the holidays.

I would highly recommend staying at a King’s residence in your first year, as dealing with landlords and bills is not exactly the easiest thing to do when you’re still new to the city. However, regardless of which halls you’re allocated to, you can rest assured that you’ll meet amazing new friends and perhaps even forge friendships that will last beyond your university days.

Internship at King’s – Undergraduate Fellowship Research Program

Author: Maria

Usually during the Summer I would be laying by the pool side, or the beach, sipping a really cold drink and just relaxing. However, as amazing as it sounds, I would always be bored by the second week of summer and would always end up trying to find a job, internship, you name it. But it would always be difficult because I never had any work experience. This year however, my luck changed.

King’s offers the Undergraduate Fellowship Research Program, having heard amazing things about it on my first year of University, I decided to try it out this year. Therefore, I applied for the War Studies one on how weapons of mass destruction shape international politics. No longer was I sipping a few cocktails, or getting a tan, instead I am coming into office or working at the library and looking into files, congress hearings, classified documents and researching something that I have come to really be passionate about. Some might think ‘I would not trade those summer nights for this’, but trust me, if you really choose your work well, it actually pays off. It is also not like you will not have summer, I will still have a month to relax, but now I actually know I will be really enjoying those weeks.

My reason for applying for this internship was because first, I had applied to all corporate institutions without really wanting to join any of them. They don’t really suit my personality, and I was doing it more because I wanted to get an experience rather than actually thinking why I really wanted to work for it. Clearly, I was not motivated to work in a bank or anything like that. The undergraduate fellowship instead offered me exactly what I wanted: a subject I was interested about and also the ability to really understand what it is like to go into academia. It has not only taught me how to do better researches, but also it gave me an opportunity to foster relationships with academics, to learn more about approaching research projects and essay writing. I have become more familiar with that world. Yes, there is also a side of me that would not mind doing academia and that is also why I tried it out to see if I like it, but also, even if academia is not your ‘thing’, the program will empower you with so many skills that are and will be essential for your personal, academic, and professional life.

Do not worry, I am not trying to make you sign up for this program! King’s also is able to offer you any kind of opportunities during summer, whether it is an internship with them, or somewhere else. King’s is amazing at guiding students to the places they want to go. If you want to do a summer school, or an internship abroad, King’s can make those things come true for you. If you want to stay in London and just work casually or find an internship somewhere else, King’s careers will also help you achieve that. They offer advice on how to make your CV better, how to write cover letters and they even prepare you for the interview. Seriously, one of the best things about King’s is that they empower you to get into the ‘real world’ with the essential skills. They have the services to help you face what sometimes can be quite scary especially as a student going into your first job. Using these services has been one of the best things that I have been able to experience at King’s. And well, if you have it for free, why not enjoy it constantly?

How to spend summer as an international student

Author: LeeAnn

As an international student, I want to live my summer to the fullest in London and Europe because I know that I won’t be living here much longer. Being a master’s student, I don’t exactly have time off because my dissertation is due in August, however that does not mean I can’t enjoy the British summer!

LeenAnn - summer as an international student 1

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you can do so much as long as you plan your time well. For example, in early June I was able to take a holiday to Denmark. I stayed with a close friend who was born and raised in Aalborg and had the opportunity to explore a large part of the beautiful country. I planned this trip in between finishing lab work and beginning the writing process for my dissertation. This trip was very important to me, not only because I was able to spend time with an old friend, but also because it gave me the mental clarity I needed to get back to work. It is quite difficult to see all of my friends back home and around the world and enjoying beach days when I’m stuck in the library writing all day and my trip to Denmark allowed me to have some fun away from school.

LeeAnn - summer as an international student 2

 Another fun thing London offers during the summer is British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park. This is a music festival that goes on mostly during the weekend for a few weeks during the summer. I went to see Florence and the Machine and had a lovely time. The outdoor setting really allowed me to enjoy summer during the show and the long days British summer offers makes for a perfect day to be outside.

LeeAnn - summer as an international student 3

Lastly, I highly recommend exploring the city. London has so many markets, many of which are outdoors. Shoreditch and Camden are great places to start if you are in the mood for exploring markets because both have cool vibes and offer something for everyone. You can also walk along the river in Camden and check out some street art while walking to Primrose Hill to watch the sunset. However, you shouldn’t feel stuck in zones 1 and 2 because there are tons of parks and adventures to be had in outer London. Fortunately, London has a great transportation system and you can get to many of these places that truly let you escape London life for a bit in about one hour. Crystal Palace Park is one place I really enjoyed and I have a plan to visit another park that is off the beaten path this weekend. Basically, the adventures to be had during the summer are endless. Take advantage of any free time you have, especially if it’s sunny in London!