Vidhi Anand, Fashion and Textiles Design MA

As a newcomer or so called “freshee” as the people out here like to term it, you are always worried about how you would possibly fit in such a big place in a completely new environment, especially when it is the first time you are moving away from your close and dear ones. I had the same feeling when I moved out of India to come to England to pursue my Master’s degree.

The first few days are of course a bit hectic until you settle down. Luckily, the accommodation staff guided me with all the safety measures and helped me to be secure in every possible way. Plus, I am living in a student accommodation so I didn’t feel uncomfortable or hesitate to interact with other fellow students as I felt they are same as me, living here all alone, all by themselves and in no time I felt at ease with the surroundings.

The best part about Birmingham is that there are so many international students. In fact, the UK is such a multi-cultural nation that it automatically inspires you and helps to build confidence in you. Interacting with people from all around the world, sharing your past work, experiences and culture is very inspiring and and this helps you grow as an individual in every aspect.

My first few days at Birmingham City University were very exciting, thanks to the infrastructure, big space, beautiful surrounding, creative, artistic interiors and above all the location is in central Birmingham right next to the city centre, which is quite a popular tourist destination in terms of shopping and finding great eating joints. Because of a huge population of Asians, it was very easy for me to locate best grocery stores around the university and near my accommodation. The bus fares are affordable, of course not as cheap as in India, but a student can manage the rates. If you have too much to travel and explore then I recommend you take the student bus card, which gives good discount rates to students and then you don’t need to pay every time you get in.

As an Indian, I love spicy food and it is hard to find that authentic flavour in restaurants out here, so I like to cook everyday. I could have never imagined how many Asian stores are located in this place, almost at every corner! The place where I stay is quite close to the beautiful Cannon Hill Park, possibly one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen. I like to jog in the mornings and there is another park close to Cannon Hill called Calthorpe Park. Right opposite Calthorpe, you can see at least three to four Asian grocery stores, which sell groceries at affordable prices. From meat to daily household stuff, you will find everything here.

If you like to travel and explore I would highly recommend going to places like Solihull, Spark Hill, Leicester and Soho Road. You can travel by bus or train, whatever suits you and your budget. Out there, you will be able to find tonnes of Asian grocery stores, restaurants, shops and boutiques. From cheap utensils to fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, spices and other household stuff at good prices, some you can bargain (depending on your Desi bargain power) I always get away with good prices. Other places like city centre that is called the Heart of Birmingham have lots of options available. If you walk around you will be able to find Asian shops that sell cheap Asian stuff or you can always go to Tesco, Marks and Spencer or Asda. They are quite popular grocery stores in Britain. Yes, you do get variety of food out there even Asian and most of the grocery stores in England do home delivery. If you are ever having a lazy day just order online or call them and they will deliver at your door step. In addition, if you are living in a student accommodation you will keep getting pamphlets of affordable home delivery food chains and some even give student discount.

Yes, there are places which give student discounts. Some might just ask for your student ID and some might ask for your NUS card. It will depend where and what are you going to buy. The benefits of the NUS card is that whenever you are going to shop at big brands you can show your NUS card and get at least 15 to 20 per cent discount off the bill, every time. You can even get a student rail card made that will give you a good 20-25 per cent discount off every train ticket you buy anywhere in England.

As an art student another thing that draws my attention towards this city are the amazing galleries, museums and public libraries, which are extremely helpful for students like us. And if you ever get late as sometimes you often tend to forget the time while your out at such places, you can always call a cab, they are absolutely safe. You can ask people from your university for best cab companies or people in your accommodation or just search online and usually they provide you with full cab information including the driver’s details on request. You can always find a traveler’s guide anywhere when you visit this city. Moreover, there are always the university staff, your teachers, professors and tutors who will always be there to guide you and ensure you are safe.

The resources that are provided in our university are worth praising, especially the number of machines from sewing to printing and dyeing. The workshop has ample amount of space to work in and we are provided with tons of muslin and paper rolls and there are computers to work in every floor. You can get paper print outs either from the library or from the printers allotted on each floor at reasonable prices. Also, there is a good stationery shop at the design floor to buy those last minute products that we often require while working on our garment toiles.

The staff are extremely helpful and supportive of your work. Regular tutorials, progress review sessions and group critic rounds massively help in improving our work, plus highly renowned guest lecturers and previous successful students (who come as lecturers and showcase their work) help us to grow and get inspired to work with more dedication.

As a young student, you do need to take several precautions while you get out at any time of the day or night. Safety is necessary! Sometimes when we are relaxed and enjoying our day we often do not keep a track on time or sometimes take our safety too lightly. As much as love, respect, great humour, support and useful learning experience the people in this city gave me, you cannot always be faced with good people in the world. No matter which place, which corner you go to you might be exposed to bad situations as well.

One night, I was faced with an unpleasant situation that was quite expected at such an hour. I was shaken and taken aback I did not know what to do. Luckily, I was blessed to have good friends and their accommodation fellow students who helped me. I informed the police about this incident and in no time, they asked to meet me immediately. This is one commendable thing about the law in this country. They take their duty so seriously and are always ready to help and support the public at any time! A few days later, I went to the university to inform my professors and they were extremely supportive and asked me if I was fine and needed any help.

My journey so far have had some mishaps. I met a few disturbing inhabitants but I will never let it overshadow all the great times I have experienced and all the great people I met in this city. Birmingham has let me grow as a student and prepared me to face the world in the toughest of situations. I do realise I have become stronger as an individual than I used to be, this experience has made me independent and I do not rely on anybody anymore. It has made me quite mature, I will always be grateful to this country for letting me have this amazing journey, this lifetime opportunity and I would definitely be taking a lot of good and warm memories back home.

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