What I wish I knew before studying abroad

Rumaysa from Pakistan smiling in front of Durham campus

Rumaysa from Pakistan studied the International Foundation Year in Business, Economics, Accounting and Finance before progressing to study BA (Hons) Business and Management at the University. Before she graduates this year, she writes a letter to her seventeen year old self.

Dear 17 year-old self,

There were certain things I wish I had known at your age, but unfortunately, I didn’t. Here I am passing on everything I have learnt since then, so be prepared!

Going abroad for university, especially so far away from home, isn’t an easy step to take, which is why you should choose wisely. When I made the decision to come to Durham I was clueless, I’d done no research, did not know what to expect in terms of the city, the people or the general environment. I left the decision to my parents (which turned out to be a good thing in retrospect), but it is extremely important to know what kind of a place you’re going to end up in, rather than stepping into the unknown. You need to familiarise yourself with the campus, research enough to see if the city is a good fit for you depending on what kind of a life you’re used to, and most importantly see how good the university is for your course.

Graduate students smiling at camera

Being at university has taught me one thing: you don’t have to live up to the typical student stereotype! Life at university doesn’t always have to be fast-paced, do what you are comfortable with. Some people make friends the day they come to university, but don’t worry, things take time and you will almost always find someone who is the perfect fit for you. One crucial fact I have learnt throughout my three years at university is, do not leave things last minute. Coursework might seem easy, but without realising it, it all piles up and the next thing you know you are binge-watching your lectures the day before your exam! Just putting a few hours in everyday can prepare you so much better than you think.

Being a student also means living on a budget, which most of us are unprepared for, since we’ve lived at home most our lives. This certainly does not mean we should miss out on experiencing different things and making memories which will last forever. Learning how to cook before you come to university certainly helps in saving a lot, which then you can spend on taking a trip with your friends or just doing different activities you would not usually indulge in.

Student posing on bridge

Leaving your home to be independent in a different country can be quite a scary experience, but it helps you grow as a person. You need to learn to prioritise what makes you happy and to get through the good and bad times with a positive mindset, because there is one thing I know for certain: there are always better things to come in the future. Joining societies and sports clubs you are interested in will make your experience much better than you anticipated and is great for your mental health.

My final piece of advice would be, don’t worry too much about the future; live in the moment and the rest will fall into place. Learn to value the small things in life, whatever makes you happy. Choosing Durham University was one of the best decisions I made, mostly because it has taught me so much and helped me grow. And now, I am passing on all I have learnt, to you.

Watch our interview with Rumaysa here.

Interested in applying for Durham University International Study Centre?