My name is Katrin and I’ve just recently moved back to Estonia after having studied in the UK for 4 years. I started in 2014 from Portsmouth, where I studied International Relations and Languages. The reason I picked Portsmouth University was quite random, it wasn’t on my initial list, but one of my best friends decided to apply, so I thought why not. It later also came out that they would take me in based on my average grade, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about my exam results – the best news I could get at the time. I wanted to reduce the stress of the application process as much as possible, so my decision was made.
The moving process was quite stressful as we didn’t get into student halls and had to find private accommodation last minute and had to do a house viewing through FaceTime. Surprise-surprise, the house looked much better on video than in real life. It would take up too much space, if I listed all the things that were wrong with that house. To sum it up I’ll just say it was an interesting experience. However, it marked the beginning of our journey and became the first home for our diverse and dysfunctional family (we moved in with two other people we never met before). We got used to the new life pretty fast, met new people and discovered more places around the city than we probably would have if we lived in student halls in the city centre. Our old little housie on Heidelberg Road will always be remembered.
I think one of the weirdest things for me in the beginning was my timetable. Compared to the tight schedule I had in Estonia, I was suddenly faced with a couple of lectures or seminars a day and a ridiculous amount of free time that I was, obviously, expected to use wisely. The university programmes in the UK are largely based on independent study and effective time-management which is quite unusual for someone who has just graduated from an Estonian school having experienced 12 years of intense studies and constant supervision. It was difficult to effectively manage all that free time to start with, but it didn’t take long to get used to it. The Estonian education system had taught us to be responsible and hard-working compared to the majority of other students, so we adapted to the system quite well. There were obviously occasions when assignments were left until the last minute, but sleepless nights spent in the library are an inseparable aspect of a true student experience! Regardless, all the work got done in time. 🙂
In second year, I got a job at a student nightclub. That’s when the life really started. All of my craziest parties happened in second year which I, by the way, managed to finish with really high grades. I never joined any clubs or societies, but my part-time job replaced one. As it was a student club, I inevitably took part in most of the events in addition to staff parties and socials which my work place was very good at organising. One advice I would give to anyone who goes to university in the UK – get a part-time job in a student-oriented place, such as a nightclub, as you will always be up-to-date with all the events and it has its massive perks… I hardly ever had to pay for anything.
A lot of people say that third year is the hardest as most of your final result depends on it. Partly true, but for me third year mostly just flew by. The workload, even with the dissertation constantly hanging over my head, was manageable and my timetable was also very friendly. I managed to keep my job and sometimes even work 5 days a week, go out clubbing and go on several trips and holidays. It did get stressful at times, especially towards the end of the year when it was time to make decisions regarding my future. I wasn’t ready to start an adult life so I decided to do a Master’s…
After having spent three years in Portsmouth, I needed something new and different, hence, the decision to move to Birmingham where I studied International Relations and Diplomacy at the University of Birmingham. If I compare the two university experiences, they were completely different. Portsmouth is quite a small place and its life mostly revolves around the University. At the same time, Birmingham is the second biggest city in England and has a lot more to offer. During the first 3 years, my life was built around the student experience and social events. It was fun but at the same time quite tiring. Therefore, when I moved to Birmingham I chose to lead a more grown-up life. I lived in the city centre and it took me an hour to walk to the university campus. So, rather than getting involved in the university life, I decided to explore my options outside of uni. Although, I didn’t spend much time on campus, the University itself was very nice, it was a combination of new and historical buildings, they had just built a new library and were constantly improving the area. I had good experiences with my lecturers at both universities. Most of them were very professional, attentive and to my positive surprise, impartial. Conflicting ideas are an inseparable aspect of international relations, but luckily different opinions were treated in a very equal manner in both of my universities. I could freely express and discuss my rather straightforward views and ideas without being judged or criticised for it, which was great!
Also, living and studying in the UK presented me with an opportunity to visit several interesting and beautiful places. I took regular trips to London and had a chance to go to Cambridge, Cheltenham, Southampton, Bournemouth, some smaller towns and villages and to the Ascot races.
Overall, when I think back to my entire university career, I had a great experience. Studying and working in a different society definitely made me more independent and confident. It was very stressful at times and I was ready to quit every now and then, when homesickness kicked in especially hard, but I’m glad that I stayed and finished what I had started. I now have a piece of paper proving that I’m highly educated but most importantly, I have gained an amazing and valuable life experience that will stay with me forever
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PS! Email me, if you need help with picking out the right university for you in England: firstname.lastname@example.org