What are the top three recommended activities, outside of study, for newly arrived international students to engage in?

Arriving in a new country can be daunting, with the challenge of settling into a new culture, developing new study skills and approaches, as well as finding new activities and challenges to keep you happy and make you feel you belong.  Across the Midlands International Group, we asked for the top responses to what the best activities are for newly arrive international students to engage in

 Kathryn Doerr (Nottingham Trent University)

  • Joining a university society can be a really good way of meeting people, making friends outside of your course and developing skills (including English language skills).  It also looks good on your CV.

  • It’s also important you look into the support offered by your institution for international students; for example at NTU we have international support advisers and a ‘Global Lounge’ which hosts cultural events and promotes internationalisation.
  • Finally, it’s good to gain some kind of work experience while you study – either through volunteering or a part-time job.  It can really help when it comes to looking for placements/graduate roles.  Speak to your university’s Careers Service if you aren’t sure how to go about this.

Sally Cleere (De Montfort University)

From my experience, international students who get the most out of studying in the UK are those that really get involved in university life outside of their studies and expand their social groups.  Most universities offer a wide range of activities to get involved in so you will have plenty to choose from to find something that you enjoy.

  • Volunteering – Most universities and Student Unions will have volunteer programmes and signing up to be a volunteer can be a great way to find out about your local community, improve your language skills and gain valuable experience to add to your CV all whilst making a difference.

  • Students’ Union Societies – joining a student society is a great way to have fun and meet a wide range of people to expand your social circle. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s probably a society dedicated to it!  It’s also an opportunity to develop your leadership skills by joining the organising committee.  At the start of term, head to the Freshers’ Fair to sign up.
  • Visit your Careers Service – Many international students want to get some UK work experience but understanding the UK application process can feel a bit daunting. Your careers service will be able to support you all the way through university – from getting started with how to write a UK CV and where to find part-time jobs, right through to your graduate job search.  They also run careers fairs where you can network with employers and workshops to develop your career management skills.

Christian Jameson-Warren (Loughborough University)

  • Get involved in an activity (e.g. voluntary work, fundraising) for a cause you are passionate about. Not only can it be rewarding, but doing something you care about will make it easier to speak to new people and improve your language and confidence skills easier. Plus it does look good on a CV.
  • Join a society. If there’s one directly to your job goal (e.g. politics, finance) it would add value as shows your passion and may provide opportunities to network and learn, but if not getting involved in something you’re interested in is still great. Feedback from recruiters is that students who do not get involved in activities outside of their studies don’t stand out, even if they have studied in a different countries. Joining a society is an easier way to both get into UK culture and get involved in activities you can put on your CV.
  • Any sort of work experience adds value, and getting involved in the activities above can help make it easier to achieve this.

Luciana Akemi Awasa (University College Birmingham)

  • Looking for work or voluntary experience will not only help you to develop relevant skills but it will also give you a great opportunity to talk to local people and develop your language skills. This will boost your confidence in speaking English and it will allow you to immerse yourself in a different culture.
  • Explore your options by talking to a Careers Advisor who can help you to reflect upon what you want and can do after your studies. The career services will also help you with your CV, cover letters and job applications in the UK. They might offer mock interviews which will make you feel more confident and prepared especially in the context of a different country and language.
  • By joining a Guild of Students’ society you can meet new people and share the experience of living and studying in a new country. It will also enable you to learn and understand new cultures. Do not miss the chance of taking part in events and activities that can help you to develop transferable skills (e.g., team-working, leadership, etc).

At Coventry University we would advise international students to quickly gain experience or get involved in projects where they can demonstrate how they are adapting to life, study and work cultures in the UK.   We have a UK Work Experience team set up to explore gaining paid experience and support local businesses in delivering collaborative projects.  Students can gain evidence and a reference for using their skills.

The Student Union is an important body at most universities.  Within Coventry Students Union we have a Sabbatical Officer for international students, exploring the support needed and helping students set up projects.  The Student Societies also help students explore other cultures through society activities and this is supported by the university Culturae Mundi project, where students run culture themed events.

Enterprise is another way in which these students can further develop valuable skills, which can then be later taken into UK or overseas businesses.  A number of our students go on to secure a visa to stay and develop their business within the UK.  Our Enterprise Hub supports students to develop their own ideas. They can also be active within the social enterprises set up through the university.

Chris Steventon (Careers Consultant- Coventry University) – Blog author.