How to prepare for student life in the UK

Pearson Languages
a man with a backpack stood in a street with shops

Deciding to study in the UK is a big step. Moving to a country with different food, language, culture and weather can make you nervous. It is completely normal to experience this.

You may feel overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of these things compared to what you are used to. Studying abroad can be a very rewarding experience once you get used to your new situation. 

So how can you conquer your fears? Here are some tips to prepare for life as an international student studying in the UK.

Research student life in the UK 

Even though you're in the United Kingdom to study, you need to balance studying with a social life. Otherwise you risk boredom or worse, burnout. Luckily, students all over the world love to socialize, and British students are no exception.   

The most well-known time to join student life in the UK is at Freshers Week. This is when new students are welcomed to the university with various social events. There's a fair where university clubs and societies try to get new members. There are clubs for many interests, hobbies and sports, so it's an excellent way to meet people who share your interests. There are some pretty unusual clubs too. At Cambridge, for example, there's a secretive group that climbs university buildings in the middle of the night

Freshers Week is also a great opportunity to talk to everyone you can. Whether it's in the queue to get your student card or to your neighbor in your first lecture, everybody is in the same situation as you - they know nobody and are trying to figure out who to be friends with. During Freshers Week, you can make good friends and converse with other students. It's all about meeting new people.

Get to know the faculty and staff 

On your course website you'll be able to have a look at the academic staff and Ph.D. candidate profiles. Learn about their research interests and read a few abstracts of their past publications to get an idea of their work. This will help you understand their main focus during teaching and give you ideas for independent study projects.

You can get to know the academic staff by signing up for online events before term starts. You'll hear them talking about the course and what you'll learn on it. Think about the questions you might ask. Before the event you should read your course syllabus. While you read, consider the reasons for choosing or arranging certain topics in a specific order. If you have any questions, make a note of them. 

You might even be able to watch past lectures or sign up for events that they are participating in. That way you'll have some familiar faces around the department when you arrive at your university.

Find out about the student union 

Student unions are a big part of UK universities. Every university has a union that you can join. Sometimes there are a few different student unions, so you can choose the one you think would suit you best. Student unions are on-campus buildings where students can attend events, eat, study and socialize with others.

But as well as organizing clubs, societies and social events, they can also help with any problems you might have. Every union has a welfare officer, typically a recent graduate elected to assist current students with personal issues they may encounter.   

An international students' officer will be available to assist with any issues overseas students may encounter. This officer will have personal experience as an international student, making them well equipped to provide support. Knowing there are people to listen and help with your problems can be comforting, even if you don't need their assistance.

Learn about the local social scene

University life is more than just what's happening on campus. You can investigate a whole world outside your institution. In addition to nightlife, dining and cultural events, there are also sports clubs, outdoor activities and community volunteering.  

Reach Volunteering has many volunteer opportunities. It's a good way to use your skills to help others. Meeting locals and making friends is important while studying in the UK. It helps build a strong network. The more you see of life in the UK, the more you'll get used to it and feel at ease.

If you're worried about your level of English - don't be. People in the UK are very tolerant of how their language is used. It's a truly global language, so there's no right or wrong accent.

If you join the local community, expect to pick up a slight accent from the place you study. It shows that you have become a part of the community.

Follow your university on social media  

Social media is a key part of all our lives, and this also goes for university life. Schools use social media accounts to share positive information about their staff and students. They also post pictures from the campus.

Occasionally, a student takes over their account, giving them a chance to show what it's like to study there.  

Student-run sites and social accounts also give an insider perspective on student life. Sites like The Tab cover news relevant to students, and have sections that cover news at specific universities. The Student Room is also a place where current and former students discuss all aspects of student life in the UK, from exams to the TV shows students like to watch.

Pay attention to the English language test 

You'll have to pass an English test for your visa to study in the UK. Treat it as a chance to learn. Focus on the test content, as it reflects the daily tasks of the UK and student life.  

For example, the speaking component of the PTE Academic test, which can be used for UK visas and to access 99% of British universities, tests your ability to summarise an academic lecture. You may have to summarize a lecture for a friend who couldn't attend, not just for your classes. 

Every task on the test has a real-world application, so if you can pass the test, you can be confident that you stand a good chance of making the most of life in the UK. 

Remember, although you can do as much research as you like, there's only so much you can learn online. To truly understand a place, you must be there and learn from the firsthand experience it offers. Be ready to be surprised and take advantage of things you never thought would happen. You only get to be an undergraduate once, so make the most of every opportunity.

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    Ways to express admiration in English

    By Pearson Languages

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    February is commonly associated with Valentine's Day, which is a day to express love and affection to your significant other. However, it's also important to express admiration for others in a platonic, non-romantic way.

    Language serves as the gateway to genuine communication, and one of the most delightful methods of connection is through expressions of admiration. As you practice and immerse yourself in the depths of the English language, you'll likely want to learn ways to convey heartfelt praise, elevating your ability to articulate and forge meaningful connections.

    In today's post, we explore a range of examples to enhance your language proficiency and elevate your conversational English.

    What is the definition of admiration?

    Originating from the Latin word admirari (meaning 'to wonder at'), admiration is the act of expressing sincere approval or deep appreciation towards someone or something, typically as a heartfelt form of praise or recognition for their achievements, qualities, or contributions. It is a sentiment that stems from feeling a genuine admiration for the impact and inspiration someone or something brings to our lives.

    Admiration is an emotion everyone can relate to, and the English language offers a beautiful range of words and expressions to convey it in the most subtle and nuanced ways.

    Whether you're dealing with a complex business transaction or simply enjoying a personal moment of connection, the richness of your words can reflect the depth of your feelings and make them even more meaningful.

    Examples of English compliments

    Let's look at some English phrases you can use to express admiration. There are different types for varying situations and people.

    Straightforward compliments

    To truly convey admiration in English, it's crucial to practice and become familiar with positive affirmations. The following phrases not only highlight the specific reason for your awe but also reflect a deeper, personal connection:

    • Your hard work is truly inspiring.
    • I'm in awe of your creativity.
    • You have an uncanny ability to make things happen.
    • Your perseverance is admirable.
    • Your kindness never goes unnoticed.

    Each of these phrases praises the character traits of the person you are addressing. They showcase attention to detail, appreciation for special skills, and the more intangible qualities, such as character and kindness, that are just as noteworthy.

    Tailored and specific accolades

    A compliment can carry more weight when it is clearly tailored to the individual. Phrases that are specific to a person's achievements and skills add a layer of thoughtfulness that is hard to ignore. Consider these examples of more personalized compliments:

    • The way you handled that difficult situation was masterful.
    • Your presentation was not only informative but also deeply insightful.
    • Your dedication to this project is truly top-notch.
    • I love how you always find a unique perspective.
    • Your attention to detail really sets you apart.

    These phrases go beyond generic niceties and serve to validate specific moments or attributes that set the person apart in a distinctive way.

    Building rapport with positive language

    Admiration doesn't always have to be solely based on achievements or success; it can also be directed toward someone's personality and interests.

    Sometimes, an outward expression of approval, high praise or agreement can forge a sense of commonality and mutual respect. Here are phrases that can help you beam with appreciation:

    • Your choice in music is impeccable.
    • I absolutely adore your sense of style.
    • The way you talk about your family is truly heartwarming.
    • Your passion for this topic is evident and contagious.
    • Your love of life is refreshing and infectious.

    Using these statements, you can create a warm and complimentary atmosphere, helping foster positive connections with others.

    Affectionate expressions for familiar friends

    When it comes to speaking (or writing) to someone you're close with, phrases of praise and admiration can touch on personal attributes and speak of shared experiences, creating an even stronger bond. These expressions should carry the warmth and familiarity that come with a close relationship:

    • Your sense of humor always lifts my spirits.
    • The wisdom you've shared has shaped and helped my own life so much.
    • You approach life's challenges with such grace; it's a privilege to know you.
    • The comfort and joy you bring as a friend cannot be overstated.
    • Your insights always provide a refreshing new angle, revealing things I had not thought about.

    These phrases are centered on intimate understanding and personal connections, deeply resonating with a shared history and mutual appreciation. They carry a more emotive meaning and weight, often used to reinforce the closeness and appreciation that develops through years of friendship or kinship. Therefore, you should use them with care and thought.

    The appropriateness of compliments

    The art of complimenting is nuanced; learning and gauging the appropriateness of a compliment is essential. Certain contexts or relationships might warrant a more conservative or formal approach. Professional settings, for example, often require focusing on achievements and abilities as opposed to personal compliments, which may be mistaken for overfamiliarity or unprofessional behavior.

    Consider culture and personal preferences

    Similarly, cultural sensitivities must be considered; a warm expression of admiration in one culture may be perceived as too forward or personal in another.

    Always ensure that compliments and praises are given in a manner that resonates with respect for the individual's privacy and comfort levels. By being mindful of your surroundings and the nature of your relationship with the person, your words of praise and admiration can be both fitting and heartfelt.

    Play it safe

    Usually, a good overall rule of thumb is the less you know someone, the less personal your compliments should be; if you're unsure, play it safe, or don't use one until you've gauged the situation appropriately.

    A note on delivery

    While these expressions are powerful in their own right, the delivery is key to ensuring the recipient truly feels your admiration. Context, tone of voice, and body language play a significant role in how your words are received. Be genuine, and let your admiration flow naturally. Avoid overuse of flattery, which can come across as insincere.

    Conclusion

    Whether you're networking, meeting with friends/loved ones, or simply conversing with a colleague, mastering the use of admiration and praise in the English language can open doors to deeper relationships and shared connections.

    Integrating these phrases into your lexicon can not only make your expressions more vibrant but can also help you cultivate a spirit of positivity, confidence and appreciation in your daily interactions. So make sure to incorporate examples like these into your own vocabulary; you never know whose day you might make with your compliments.

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    Why learning a language is better than using machine translation

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    As technology and AI translation tools continue to advance, it's becoming increasingly tempting to rely on them for language-related tasks. However, this can potentially undermine motivation to learn a new language when technology seems to offer a shortcut. While machine translation can be helpful, it also has its limitations. 

    Learning a language goes beyond just communication; it opens the door to different cultures, mindsets, and perspectives of the world. Machine translation, despite its efficiency, cannot replicate the cultural immersion that comes with learning a language. Spoken language nuances, idiomatic expressions, cultural references, and implicit rules that are second nature to native speakers are often lost in translation. Let's delve deeper into why learning a language is better than solely relying on machine translation.

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    Overcoming language learning plateaus: Strategies and solutions

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 6.5 minutes

    Are you stumped by stubborn language learning barriers or plateaus? Everyone has those moments when it feels like they're not making any progress or are completely stuck in their studies. Let's dive into some of these challenges and explore ways to overcome them.

    Common language learning hurdles

    Plateaus in language learning often occur after initial periods of rapid progress and can be attributed to various reasons. For one, learners may have reached a comfort zone where basic communication is possible, reducing the urgency to improve further. Additionally, the complexity of advanced language structures can be overwhelming, leading to a stagnation in learning.

    The lack of measurable progress can also be demotivating, causing learners to lose interest and reduce their efforts. Moreover, insufficient exposure to the language in a natural setting can limit the ability to practice and reinforce new skills. To overcome these plateaus, it's crucial to set new goals, seek out challenging and immersive experiences, and employ diverse language learning resources and strategies that keep the language learning process engaging and dynamic.

    How can I overcome my language learning slump?

    Hitting a language learning plateau is like running into an invisible wall — your progress seems to halt and the motivation to push forward begins to wane. Here are some ways to overcome this common obstacle and get back on the road to fluency:

    • Reassess your goals: Take a step back and reassess your language learning objectives. Are they still relevant and challenging enough? Setting new, clear and achievable goals can provide a renewed sense of direction and purpose.
    • Change your routine: If your current study routine feels monotonous, shake things up. Try new learning materials, switch to a different language learning app, or alter the time of day you study. A fresh approach can reignite your interest.
    • Incorporate the language into daily life: Find ways to make the language a natural part of your day. Label objects around your home, think or speak to yourself in the language, or change the language settings on your phone and social media.
    • Seek out real conversations: Engaging in conversations with native speakers can provide a reality check on your progress and expose you to the natural flow of the language.

    Techniques to help motivate your language learning

    One effective technique to break through a language learning plateau is the use of Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). We've spoken about SRS before in our blog post' language learning techniques for beginners,' but be assured it is an incredibly useful technique that can't be recommended enough, especially for keeping out of a slump. This cognitive science technique involves reviewing information at increasing intervals to exploit the psychological spacing effect. As you learn new vocabulary, words or grammar rules, an SRS schedules these items for review at optimal times before you're likely to forget them.

    Here's how you can implement SRS into your language learning vocabulary practice routine:

    • Start with a flashcard app: Use an app like Anki, which is designed with SRS algorithms to help you review vocabulary and phrases at strategic intervals.

    • Create personalized content: Make your own flashcards with sentences and vocabulary that are relevant to your life. This personal connection can make the material more memorable.

    • Gradual difficulty increase: As you become more familiar with the content, increase the complexity of your flashcards. Add phrases or idioms instead of single words to challenge your comprehension.

    • Regular reviews: Be consistent with your reviews, even if it's just a few minutes each day. This regular exposure reinforces your memory and helps solidify the language in your mind.

    • Adjust according to performance: If you find certain items difficult to remember, adjust the intervals to review them more frequently. Conversely, items that you find easy can be reviewed less often.

    By incorporating SRS into your study routine, you can ensure a steady progression in your language learning journey, even when you hit a plateau. This method not only helps in retaining information but also in moving from passive recognition and pronunciation to active recall, a key step in achieving fluency.

    Boosting confidence and motivation in language learning

    Mastering vocabulary and grammar is crucial, yet overcoming the inevitable learning slumps and plateaus is equally vital to your language learning process. Motivation is a critical factor that can drive you past these plateaus, enhancing your learning journey and helping you reach your language learning aspirations. Regular speaking practice not only maintains motivation but also improves overall speaking and listening skills. These are often the first to suffer during a slump, thereby contributing to a resurgence in language skills.

    A strong correlation exists between self-confidence, motivation and language learning. Here are some key points to consider:

    • Self-confidence has been found to be associated with English achievement, speaking ability and self-efficacy.

    • High motivation in self-confident language learners also leads to purposefulness in language learning.

    • This purposefulness can result in better communication with native speakers.

    Embracing mistakes as learning opportunities

    Do you fear making mistakes when you're learning a new language? Sometimes, the fear can be its own obstacle to your learning. By embracing mistakes as learning opportunities, you can enhance your language skills by identifying areas that need improvement and boost your confidence through developing resilience against the fear of making errors. 

    Overcome the worry of language errors, avoid the trap of measuring yourself against others and engage in positive self-dialogue in the language you're learning to make slip-ups feel like a normal part of the learning curve. Tackling this apprehension is a pivotal stride on the path to language mastery.

    Recognizing when to take a break from language learning

    Sometimes, despite our best intentions, life throws us curveballs that can disrupt our study routines and make it hard to concentrate on language learning. Whether it's a demanding job, family responsibilities, health issues, or simply the need for a mental break, it's important to recognize when to step back and recharge.

    Taking a break can be beneficial for your language learning process. It allows your brain to rest and process the information it has absorbed. This can lead to better retention and a refreshed perspective when you return to your studies. It's crucial to listen to your body and mind and not to view breaks as setbacks but as a necessary part of a sustainable learning journey.

    Remember, it's about balance. While consistency is key to language acquisition, overworking yourself can lead to burnout. A well-timed break can reignite your passion for the language and enhance your ability to focus. So, when life gets in the way, don't be too hard on yourself. Embrace the pause, take care of what's important and know that the language will be there when you're ready to return.

    How can I keep my concentration while studying a language?

    Quite often, when you meet obstacles, you might get frustrated and your concentration suffers. Maintaining concentration while studying a foreign language can be challenging but is critical for effective learning. Here are some strategies to help you stay focused:

    • Create a distraction-free environment: Find a quiet space where interruptions are minimal. Turn off notifications on your devices and consider using apps that block distracting websites during your study time.

    • Set specific study times: Schedule dedicated time slots for language study. Having a routine can help your mind get into the habit of focusing during these periods.

    • Break down study sessions: Instead of long, drawn-out study sessions, break your learning into shorter, more manageable segments. This technique, known as the Pomodoro Technique, involves studying for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break.

    • Stay hydrated and well-rested: Drink plenty of water and ensure you're well-rested. Your cognitive functions, including concentration, are significantly better when you're hydrated and have had enough sleep.

    How can I fit studying a language into my very busy routine?

    Fitting language study into a hectic schedule can seem daunting, but it's entirely possible with some clever time management and the right strategies. Here are some tips to help you weave language learning into your busy life:

    • Utilize microlearning: Break your study into bite-sized chunks. Even 5 to 10 minutes of focused study can be effective, especially when done consistently.

    • Use technology: Use language learning apps that allow you to study on the go, like during your commute or while waiting in line.

    • Combine activities: Listen to language podcasts or audio lessons while exercising or doing household chores.

    • Stay organized: Plan your week in advance and identify pockets of time that can be dedicated to language learning.

    • Prioritize learning: Make language study a non-negotiable part of your day, similar to how you would prioritize eating or sleeping.

    • Seek out passive learning opportunities: Surround yourself with the language by changing the language settings on your devices or watching shows in the target language with subtitles.

    Remember, consistency is more important than the length of your study sessions. Integrating language learning into your daily routine allows you to progress without overwhelming your schedule.

    Summary

    Overcoming plateaus is crucial for progressing in fluency and keeping motivation high. Re-evaluating goals, diversifying study routines, integrating the language into everyday life, and engaging in conversations with native speakers are all effective strategies for pushing past these stagnant periods. Employing techniques like Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS) can greatly enhance vocabulary retention and be an aid in overcoming learning obstacles.

    Building confidence and staying motivated are pivotal for success in language learning, with self-confidence having a strong correlation to language proficiency. Viewing mistakes as chances for growth fosters continuous improvement and builds resilience. It's also important to acknowledge when a break is needed, as it can actually improve retention and provide a fresh outlook when studies resume. A balanced approach to language learning that includes regular practice and the ability to adjust to life's interruptions is advocated for sustained achievement and pleasure in learning a new language.

    For more tips and guidance, check out our blog where we cover a variety of topics, including posts that offer language hints and tips.