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International Banking

International Banking

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Life at a British university

Three international students share their experiences and explain the benefits of studying in the UK.

Every September hundreds of thousands of students around the world board a flight bound for the British Isles. Attracted by the world-class rankings of UK universities, many will spend an unforgettable exchange year at a British college. Other students will stay longer, completing their undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

In 2013/14, the UK was home to 435,000 international students – a 3% rise on the previous academic year. The population of Chinese students makes up the biggest portion, which at 87,595 has grown by 60% since 20101. British universities are also popular with international students from South Africa, 18% of whom make the UK their study destination of choice2.

A varied range of academic disciplines draws international students to Britain: languages, veterinarian services, art and design, architecture and dentistry to name a few3. Business and administrative studies is the most popular choice amongst Non-EU students and is a major draw for those from China and Australasia4. While students from the United Arab Emirates are more likely to study medicine5.

We’ve spoken to three overseas students to find out about their experience of life at a British university.

Jenny Ji, 27, Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, China

One year into my business translation degree at Sun-Yet San University in China, I felt I needed the sort of practical language experience you only get by living overseas. I went to a careers fair, saw a presentation by Exeter University and signed up for a BA in Accounting and Finance.

The university puts on orientation programmes to help you settle in, and living in halls of residence meant I quickly made friends from all over the world.

The teaching style is very different here. There’s a big emphasis on group work and independent learning and research. This helped grow my confidence and develop my social and language skills. One of my favourite aspects of British culture is the tendency for big groups to end up in pubs together, sitting around, chatting and getting to know one another. In China you mainly socialise with just a few close friends; it was a surprise to end the week sharing a drink with my entire class!

After graduating, I did an MA at London School of Economics. The student demographic there was much more international, and I discovered so much about many different cultures. I’m now doing an MBA at London Business School.

My studies have given me exposure to great companies: I’ve interned at Vodafone and completed a graduate programme at KPMG. I feel confident I can walk into any organisation and understand something about how it operates.

Mark Hosking, 29, Durban, South Africa

In 2014 I left my job in Johannesburg to study at the London Business School. The class of 400 MBA students is made up of 90 nationalities. To be part of such a global group in an amazingly international city was hugely attractive. The school, and UK education generally, is highly regarded back home but also across the globe.

I had a friend who was a month or two ahead of me in moving to the UK, so it was great to have someone to talk to about the quirks of life in Britain. My feet and legs hurt constantly for the first fortnight: there is much more walking in London than we’re used to at home! There was also great support from the school and my new classmates, many of whom were also new to the country.

Coming from South Africa I’d worried about the grey and cold but British weather is much better than I’d expected. Living spaces tend to be smaller but Richmond Park has been a lifesaver on those occasions I’ve longed to see the horizon. The other big difference is pub culture: back home you generally invite people over for dinner or drinks. In London you almost always meet in a bar.

The chance to travel so easily is awesome – I’ve been to France, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and Scotland. And there is so much to do in London itself. I’m still amazed when I walk by iconic, centuries-old landmarks. After graduation, I hope to stay in London and start a career in marketing.

Daizi Long, 25, Enshi City in Hubei Province, China

My Chinese university operated an exchange programme with London South Bank. I signed up for one year and ended up staying five! Most Chinese students in the UK study business; unusually, I was the first Chinese student ever on my theatre practice course.

I struggled at first with the language and felt overwhelmed by all the new experiences. But the international office provided support, and as my course progressed it became much more practical, providing opportunities to interact with my British classmates and make friends. My tutors helped too; they organised an internship at a London theatre to give me hands-on experience.

After classes and study there was a lot of free time to enjoy London life. I loved musicals like The Lion King, The Phantom of The Opera and Mamma Mia. I enjoyed walking along the Thames and travelling around the UK. Back in China I couldn’t even cook for myself. The UK made me more independent. I thought nothing of booking a ticket and going off to Liverpool, Brighton or Scotland with friends or even alone.

After graduation I stayed on for a Masters in Journalism. By that point London felt like a second home. I’d say to anyone considering the move: London is a global city full of friendly people. Talk to people as much as you can and don’t worry about making language mistakes. Cherish the opportunity to explore British culture and all that London has to offer. 
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Discover Barclays products

We can help you save and pay for your children’s education while they’re in the UK.

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Want to know more about how we can support you in the UK?

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Find out how you and your family can benefit from our international banking and savings accounts.

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