International student ambassador Olivia Yuan Tian is originally from China. Here, she offers her advice to international students who are starting, or thinking about studying at Coventry University. In this guest blog, Olivia shares her advice to new international students on how to get the best out of an English lecture. She covers everything from how to prepare for a lecture to conquering language barriers, creating a study-life balance and perfecting exam revision…
For the Chinese students about to start studying abroad, the mood is undoubtedly an excited one. We can begin to look forward to freedom, without the control of parents. However, throughout our childhood, Chinese parents have always said:
No pain, no gain!”
“If you cannot get a degree, you cannot find a job. Your life is going to be ruined.”
Some of you may feel pressured to do well because of this. You may be worried about how to study in the UK or how to handle exams. Even if your IELTS scores or language scores have reached the requirements of the university, you may still feel unconfident in an English-speaking environment. You might find yourself worrying that you cannot keep up with the progress of the course. At first, I definitely struggled to study. But I have now learned some important skills to improve the process of studying and revising. The key thing is to make a resolution to study hard and identify a learning method that works best for you.
Before the lecture: preparation is very important!
You may have heard this many times, and although it sounds simple, it is very difficult to achieve. I am ashamed to say that I have often ignored this advice, generally because I wanted to watch one more episode of my favourite TV show! Whilst I understand how easy it is not to prepare, I also recognise how scary it is to enter the lecture room unprepared! You’ll love the amazing feeling you get when you know you have prepared – it is definitely worth it!
Most courses at British universities are divided into lectures and seminars. The former is a formal lecture, whereas the seminars provide time to discuss and debate. Any problems that students may have in understanding a particular lecture can be addressed in these seminars, allowing students to ensure that they fully understand the subject. You can often find the PowerPoint on ‘Moodle’ before the lecture. This is when you should not be lazy; download it and print it out.
The first thing you need to do is to check that you understand all of the words used, then identify the points of the lecture and highlight anything that you do not understand. Based on this, you’ll know which parts of the lecture are most important to you, and what you need to be asking during the seminar. Keep the PowerPoints, as they are good review material before exams. I believe many students like me have the same experience: you do not have time to look-up unfamiliar English terms during the lecture, and then more and more new words show up during the session. In this case, our thinking speed cannot always keep up with the speed of the professors’ explanation. But as long I have prepared, I have a much better chance of understanding the lecture.
During the lecture: make notes and do not be shy to ask questions.
Properly preparing will mean that you are more confident in the lecture theatre. You can bring the print out to the lecture, so you do not need to worry about writing down all of the content. Highlight the main points as they are discussed and the areas where you need to find more information to help you fully understand. Some students are too shy to ask questions during the lecture. Don’t worry. The professors are very nice and willing to answer questions. If you feel really embarrassed to ask in front of other students, make sure you mark the question on your notes and ask the professor after the lecture.
After the lecture: make use of all the learning resources at the University.
Library resources should be fully utilised, whether you are writing a paper or holding group discussions. It’s important that you get into the routine of reading the PowerPoint again after the session, and then reviewing your own notes before going to the library to look for relevant information. There is a reading list in each module’s handbook. I know a lot of international students may worry when someone mentions reading, especially English books.
My reading tips:
Start at the introduction, then read the titles of each chapter and then jump to the conclusion. You can probably work out the context of the entire article this way. Then, as long as you prepared well before the lecture, you will be able to clearly identify the areas you need to read about, and can list which chapters you want to read – rather than having to read the whole book. This way you do not need to worry about struggling to find relevant information for your final essay.
It’s not just about studying:
In addition to studying in the UK, I also suggest that you experience some other activities, such as volunteer work or getting a part-time job. This is a very good opportunity to make friends with local people and get to know more about British culture. Your life in the UK is not just about studying, go out and explore! Accumulate new life skills and work experiences. If you want to find a job here when you finish your study, having work experience on your job application is much more important than you thought. It will make you stand out from other candidates, especially having done voluntary or charity work.
I would like to emphasise that we are very fortunate to come to England; to experience the different customs first hand and have better language-learning environment than those living at home. Make good use of this opportunity, become friends with both international and native speakers to better understand the British way of life and their multi-thinking mode. You’ll learn to make reasonable adjustments to your study techniques, and how to balance study with socialising. This means that you can have a fun life here and at the same time get a good degree! I hope you enjoy your life in the UK!
This post was written by international blogger Olivia studying Childhood and Youth Studies. Olivia has kindly provided the following translation of her blog post: