Whichever corner of the world they come from, the UK can seem a significantly different place for most international students. Jessica Giovanni, from Indonesia, shares the differences she found and the changes she’s made to her life since moving here in 2013.
1. The Weather. Yup, this is the most obvious difference. I felt this 18 months ago when I first arrived at Birmingham International Airport, and still do. Coming from a tropical country that has high humidity and summer weather all year long, the UK’s weather was a shock. It is cold, windy and the air is dry – when it’s not raining! You can’t really rely on the weather forecast, because it is simply unpredictable. But I guess one year is long enough for me to acclimatize to the UK weather because when I did go back home last summer, I could hardly sleep the first night because it felt too hot – even with the air conditioning on!
2. The definition of “morning”. Back home, I used to wake up as early as 5am during school days and stay completely awake until around 9pm. At 6am you could see that people had started their daily activities: cleaning the front drive, making breakfast, leaving for work etc. The roads are filled with vehicles too. I remember my mom saying “Jessica, get dressed quickly. It’s 6:20am already, you’re late!” Here at Coventry, I need to find some extra effort and determination just to get to a 9am class. It feels way too early! Waking up at 5am seems to be impossible now, but I think I like it this way.
3. Opening hours: I was surprised when I first found out that most shops and cafés close by 5pm, and nearly everything is completely closed on Sundays. Back home 8pm is usually the earliest time that I go out for dinner or to the mall with friends. The food trucks are everywhere on the street, even at midnight. There are still many things to do at 12am. Maybe I am meant to rest more here, now that I’m a student? How ironic!
4. Feet VS cars: Living in the UK, or specifically Coventry, has made me use my feet much more frequently than back home. I walk almost everywhere in the city whereas people in Indonesia use cars or motorcycles to travel. Besides the fact that we are probably lazy people, walking in Indonesia is just too inconvenient. Places are far apart and the air is not as clean as here. Coming to the UK is like a lung detoxification programme for Indonesians!
5. Selfies: One thing I discovered about people in the UK is that taking selfies is not such a big thing here. Back home, taking really, really pointless selfies is in every Indonesian teenagers blood. We take lots and they must have captions over them to describe the situation, e.g. “I’m in a boring long queue!”. However, proof of the queue is not shown, it’s covered by the close up of the unrelated smiling (not-bored) face!
6. Christmas and Easter celebrations.
Back home, Christmas and Easter are religious occasions only celebrated by Christians. Here in the UK, everyone celebrates Christmas and Easter. They are seen as a time to get together with their family and friends. Moving to the UK has changed the way I celebrate Christmas and Easter, in a positive way. As it is an occasion for everyone, I celebrated my last two Christmases with more friends, and thankfully with more gifts (best bit) than ever. In the UK, Easter is also another time of the year when we exchange gifts, usually chocolate eggs, and get fat together! Lots of fun!
Moving to and studying in the UK is one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made. It has changed the way I see things, the way I organise myself, how I interact with people and so much more. I may have only been here for less than two years, but I have already gained so many new friends and experiences. This has made me the person I am today. I am truly glad that the way of life is so different here, it is a huge part of my learning experience and I know it will develop me further as an individual.