Natalie Chan is a final year Music Business student at Birmingham City University. She talks about coming from Hong Kong, to a small village in Dorset to a significantly bigger city, Birmingham. Natalie-Chan-blog

Before I start, let me just tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up in Hong Kong with my parents, I moved to a boarding school located in Sherborne, Dorset in the UK when I was 15 to study for my GCSEs. That was my first big move in life and to a country which speaks complete different language and have contrasting culture. 2 years ago, I was very privileged to be offered a place at Birmingham City University. This was the second big move in life, I moved from a very protective, strict and disciplined boarding school environment and living in a small village to the wonderful second biggest city Birmingham and experienced the madness of student accommodation.

How does it feel moving from a small village to a big city and student accommodation?

Not going to lie, it’s very overwhelming at first. During the first week of my arrival, I felt that there’s something happening 24/7 and I never got to have a break, you may also feel that sometimes you just really wanted a quiet moment after a whole day of socialising but you’re afraid to miss out on the fun if you stayed in and everyone else went out.

My advice would be ease into it, strive a balance between adjusting yourself and making new friends. You should obviously be bold, jump out of your comfort zone and try something new but make sure you’re not pressured to do anything you don’t feel like doing.

I didn’t know a single person in Birmingham when I first came, hence I was very desperate to make new friends, but I would advise you to take your time, give everybody a chance, try and say hello to everyone in your accommodation if you get a chance to meet them or have seen them around. The reason being that during Welcome week, everyone appears to be the same from my experience, everyone appears to be super excited, wanting to go out to the Welcome Week evening entertainments every night. The real personality starts appearing after you’ve settled in, that’s when you start to find people you genuinely get along with and have similar interests.

Here’s a tip from me, don’t be afraid to take the first step. One thing I’ve realised from my first week is that I’ve met a friend that I got along with very well, had a nice long conversation in a flat party, exchanged numbers and social media but never saw them again because we are in different blocks and are doing different courses. If I’d take the first step to maintain the friendship to ask hang out and get to know each other a bit more under a sober environment, maybe I would have made another lifelong friend. Even if they say no, don’t worry as you’ve got nothing to lose.

 How does it feel to move to a different country?

If you’re moving from a different country, here’s a few tips from my experience.

  • Don’t compare, there’s always going to be something that’s different from your home country such as food, keep on thinking about the good things at home that may not be offered here probably isn’t the best way forward, treat this as a brand new page of your journey.
  • Bear in mind that you might not be here forever, so make the most out of it whilst you can and don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before.

 How to hang out with someone from a different background / culture? 

Whether it’s you moving to the UK or having someone from other countries in your flat, here’s some tips.

  • Respect each other, they might have been educated differently and have different beliefs. For example, there are students from a religious background that doesn’t drink alcohol but most students that grew up in the UK are very used to the beer culture here. Don’t judge because there’s nothing wrong that either side and it doesn’t mean they are not friendly people or they don’t have self-control.
  • Whenever you’re hanging out with a group, try to avoid talking in your own language that some people may not understand.
  • They might have different catering habits and ingredients from their own country which smell differently, again it’s trying not to judge even you find that a bit surprising.  
  • We obviously have slightly different background but everyone’s here for the same reason – to go to University, so they might not be as different to you as you think.

 How to save money and maintain good relationships with flatmates?

As I travelled from Hong Kong to Birmingham when I first moved, there’s only so many things I can fit in my suitcase which didn’t include any Kitchen essentials such as frying pans and pots, I thought of buying them when I get here but then my flatmates all brought loads, I paid them some money and decided to share with them – sorted for the year.

If you realise that you click very well and got along very well with your flatmates, congratulations! However, unfortunately we are all different people so that’s not always the case. Some people might just prefer to stay in their room rather than socialising in the kitchen. However, it’s important to respect that not everyone’s like that and there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to socialise, hence that’s why I said earlier try and meet people from the whole building rather than just people in your flat.

Kitchen rotas are there for a reason, if it’s your turn to do the bin bags or whatever it is, stick to it, however obviously if you’re not feeling very well or are super exhausted after a deadline, drop a message to your flat chat and most people are usually happy to help out, don’t just not say anything and not do it.

Sometimes you run out of milk for a cup of tea and you’re too lazy to pop to the shop, so you used your flatmates (I’ve done that so many times!) but it’s just polite to tell them and let them know they can do the same.

Respect that fact that some people may not enjoy having too much noise in the Kitchen for pre drinks all the time. In your ‘going out’ group of friends, try and find a flat that everyone likes going out and listening to music and pre drink there. If you absolutely have to do a flat party in your flat and not all your flatmates want to be involved, make sure you clear up and maybe offer some chocolate to them the next day to make up for it.

Don’t underestimate little things like these, because it says about your personality and treat others how you would like to be treated.

 There are so many different societies in Welcome Fair, what should I do?

It could be a bit nerve racking if none of your flat mates want to accompany you to the Give It A Go session, but you’ve got nothing to lose by going by yourself! Don’t be shy.

One good thing about societies or sports teams is that they meet on a regular basis, so you will see the people you’ve met regularly and can start building up a friendship, rather than meeting someone in a flat party and never seeing them again.

If you’re unsure of what do join or which society would suit you, speak to the Welcome team members or student staff who work at the Students Union as they might have a better insight and give you an idea of what’s it like.

Check out our website for more information about Welcome Week, and to read more about our student experiences. 

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