6. BEING A TOURIST: OBSERVING THE LOCALE
Hopefully, when you make your move to the UK, you’ve timed it so that you’ve given your itinerary some space for some exploring before the school year starts. Moving is stressful, and it’s important that you give yourself a nice break by going out and beginning your immersion within the British culture with some sightseeing. Check out your neighborhood, have some walks in the local park/s, drop by the restaurants and little cafes in the area, and people-watch. Be a tourist and take some pictures; let yourself be fascinated by the cultural differences.
7. VISITING YOUR CAMPUS
While you’re busy touring some of the UK’s famous spots and such, don’t forget to also check your university’s campus in advance! It’ll make a big difference once your first day starts, since you won’t be wandering around completely lost because you’re trying to find the rooms your lectures are supposed to be in. It’ll become a familiar environment soon enough as the year goes on, but giving yourself a boost before the term starts doesn’t hurt.
8. GETTING BACK INTO THE SCHOOL GROOVE
One of the most notable differences that Filipino students will find with UK universities versus Philippine universities are the term times. Here in Europe, the university school year begins in September and ends in June, while ours begins in June and ends in April. This usually means that shifting from the educational system in the Philippines to the one in the UK results in you having about a five month break before school starts. It’s a much longer time than what you’d normally be used to, and if you thought going back to school after two months of summer break was difficult enough, this will be a whole new challenge.
But fear not! The first week in university is meant to be the adjustment period. If you use your time management skills wisely, you can stay socially active (because it’s Freshers’ Week too! Don’t be afraid to have some fun!) while also making sure your academics are in order. Do you have the books you need to study? Have you prepared your note-taking essentials? Have you familiarised yourself with your class schedule? Make a list and try to have them all ticked off within the first two days—it’ll make the week much more enjoyable once you don’t have such small stresses hanging over your head.
9. MAKING FRIENDS
Depending on who you are and how you interact with people, this could be much easier said than done. One thing you can keep in mind to calm your nerves—the ones you can get from being alone in a university full of people you don’t know—is that you’re far from the only one feeling that way. There’ll be people just as nervous as you are, and you’re bound to have coursemates you have enough in common with to get a conversation going. Small talk and first conversations are usually awkward, but remember that it also almost always gets better from there.
London is a pulse that I’ve never felt before, and to be able to live within it has done amazing things for both my global awareness, and my self-awareness.
If you’ll be living on-campus, get to know your dorm mates! Or, if you want to socialise even more beyond that, your university should also have a plethora of societies for you to try out and join. First session icebreakers are a great way in getting to know others who are not only outside your course, but who also share at least one interest with you since you’ve all applied to join the same society.
10. KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH HOME
And finally, something you should never forget throughout all of this is to take care of your mental and emotional health. Homesickness is a very real thing that’s more common, and a bit harder to shrug off, than you think. Most universities in the UK have a support center for international students, along with counseling services for students who are having trouble dealing with internal issues.
The time difference between the UK and the Philippines will make you eight hours behind, and this does make staying in constant contact with friends and family back home a little difficult. However, it isn’t impossible, and there are many social media apps available for free (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, etc.) that are there to help you stay connected. Homesickness is not something to be ashamed of—it can happen, and if it does, it doesn’t mean you’re weak. Missing the familiar is natural, especially when you’re by yourself in such an unfamiliar place, without the support you’re so used to having within reach. Schedule weekly or monthly Skype/FaceTime calls with your loved ones back home to help remind yourself that physical distance doesn’t mean the end of relationships. In fact, I’ve personally found that it can make them stronger.
What it's been like for me so far?
Everyone’s experience with the process of moving from the Philippines to the UK to be a student is bound to be different, including mine. However, there are also bound to be similarities, and everything I listed above are steps that I thought could hopefully be helpful to at least one other person besides myself. I have to admit that I’ve fallen quite in love with this city and its culture, and most especially how it’s embraced other cultures as part of its own. After almost three years of living here, I’ve found myself quite settled into the British life, with new habits and routines, and a good support group within a circle of friends I made in my first year at university.
I want to be able to give back to the world what’s been given to me, and try and foster the potential in the budding authors of our country, who all have stories to tell.
The arts community in the UK is much more alive and rolling than even I had expected, and it’s definitely something that I hope to help push the Filipino arts community towards. There are opportunities that have been presented to me here that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten if I’d stayed in Manila, and each one has made me grateful that I decided to come here. London is a pulse that I’ve never felt before, and to be able to live within it has done amazing things for both my global awareness, and my self-awareness.
It is also here that I learned how to network, because being away from the safety net of my best friends back home meant I had step out of my own comfort zone and boost my social skills to be able to make new friends. I’ve met some of my favourite celebrities, and also gotten to know people working within the international creative industry, because so many of them live in, or flock to, this country for work. Being an aspiring creative is hard because of how tough the industry can be for those trying to break into it, but the exposure I’ve had to professional creatives while living here has only fuelled my passion further. I’m driven more than ever not just to keep on trying, but to keep trying harder.
I also feel that in terms of my national identity, I’ve never felt more proud and aware of being a Filipino than when I was first surrounded by people who weren’t from my country. Being exposed to so many different cultures and religions has given me a much more open mindset and perspective, and academia aside, the knowledge I’ve learned about what makes us all different and what makes us all the same, has been very valuable. It will remain so probably for the rest of my life.
What am I taking and where do I go from here?
Like I’d mentioned at the beginning of this blog, my choice of study here in the UK is Creative Writing. It wasn’t a situational decision that I’d taken just because the opportunity presented itself, because even if I’d stayed in the Philippines, it still would have been my course of choice. Writing is what I want to do in life, and so it’s what I’ve chosen to pursue as a degree to help myself become better at it.
Studying Creative Writing at Brunel has been such a gift because of how much I’ve been enjoying myself. Like any other student, I do go through the usual stresses that come with balancing school work and extracurriculars, along with the hectic frenzy that’s chasing coursework deadlines. However, I also know it could be a lot worse. Why? Well, to quote a famous saying by Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
So much of my work doesn’t feel like work purely because I’d be doing it for pleasure anyway. First year especially was full of ‘pinch me, I must be dreaming!’ moments because it was difficult to wrap my head around the fact that I was writing stories as part of the curriculum. Before university, I’d spent almost the entirety of my schooling growing up being told off for losing focus in class, usually because I was chasing an idea for a story or character and scribbling away in my notebook. Now, I have lecturers who are working authors themselves, giving my coursemates and I insights into the writing industry, and teaching us how to keep chasing an idea until we’ve wrung everything we can out of it. My writing has never been more inspired and challenged, and I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be producing the kind of works I do now if I hadn’t come here to study.
As for after university… well. The future’s always a little more ambiguous when you’re gunning for a creative career. I’m hoping to be able to find a job in the film industry, because screenwriting is what I really want to pursue while I write novels on the side. However, I’m also keeping my eyes peeled for jobs in the publishing industry, because what I’ve learned about it so far has had me incredibly interested. Media and advertising are also places I’m keen on exploring, since so much of that content are being produced by creatives like me.
But ultimately, at some point in my life (preferably after I’ve established the career I want), I’d like to be able to return home and teach Creative Writing myself. I want to be able to give back to the world what’s been given to me, and try and foster the potential in the budding authors of our country, who all have stories to tell. I want to be able to use what I’ve learned from my professors and pass it on, and it’s in this way that I hope I’ll be able to help the arts community in the Philippines.
I’ve got a lot of big dreams, just like anyone else, and I want to achieve mine to make all those who have supported me very proud. Most of all though, I want to succeed so that I can get to a place wherein I can inspire others to try and do the same. My story’s still only beginning.