Studying abroad when English is your second language

06 July 2021

A Falmouth University student sitting on a cliff top overlooking a beach and sea
Student And Sea Student Life 1 1
Type: Text
Category: Culture, Studying

Coming to another country as an international student can be exciting but daunting at the same time. It's a new country, a new language, a new reality, and that sometimes can instigate some overthinking, some fears, or some lack of confidence.

For me, what made me feel the most vulnerable was the language. I remember leaving Portugal, arriving in the UK, and starting to overthink about the language.

"Will people understand me?"

For moments it seemed that I forgot even how to speak the basics. I had an episode when arriving at the campus for the first time - while I was getting my accommodation keys, someone asked me a simple question like: Did you bring a car with you? And I froze for some solid seconds. I couldn't even say yes or no. My mind was all over the place at that moment, hahaha, and it was such an easy answer. 

At the beginning of my first year, I didn't feel really comfortable talking to people or asking them to repeat something, because I was always so afraid of judgment. However, as time passed by I started to notice how friendly and understandable people were. A great example of this is the lecturers. They were super nice and always tried to understand me. They never minded repeating some stuff when asked to.

The university also has different things that can help you, if you struggle with English, or even if you just want to be more confident about it. They have English classes that are free and open to everyone. I joined 1 or 2 lessons but unfortunately didn't join more because I wasn't really good at organizing my schedule. I do regret not joining more of them.

The ASK team... are my saviours when it comes to essay writing.

Adding to that, there is the ASK team, which are my saviours when it comes to essay writing. Every time I have to write my essay, I book 1 to 1 tutorials with them, where they help me go through my essay and find the gaps and places where I can improve. They also were a huge help regarding citing/referencing and how to do it, since it can seem so confusing for someone that is not used to doing it through the Harvard standards. 

Knowing that the university had these support options really made me feel more welcomed and secure about myself.

Once I was telling a friend from my course how stressed I was about doing this presentation and my fear that people wouldn't understand it or make fun of me, and then she said, “You definitely shouldn't feel that way, you need to remember that it's amazing that you can speak two languages. Why would anyone make fun of you?

Because you're in a different country speaking a second language? I wish I could speak another language as well as you.”

That conversation really made me re-think most of my insecurities about the language and see how understanding people are.

I think that is pretty cool advice and that's what I would tell anyone that English is their second language and is insecure about it. Always put it in perspective and remember that it's your second language and that you are allowed to make mistakes! Don't be too harsh on yourself. There is a lot of support from the university and from my experience, most of the people are understandable and friendly.

I am sure you'll have a great time down here in Falmouth. I wish you the best of luck with this new chapter.

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