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Adapting to a new country and a new way of learning

International student Tiffany Zhang talks about her experiences of moving to Bath, meeting other Chinese students, and adapting to online lectures.

Tiffany posing in front of a creativity mural.
'I feel more confident about myself and I have learnt to adapt to new norms, which is an important life skill!'

Tiffany is a student on the BSc (hons) Management course at Bath.

Arriving at Bath

What I love about Bath is the fact that we are a campus university and we have a very tight community. It is so normal to run into an acquaintance anywhere on campus and it really helps you to socialise and make more friends. Everyone you encounter on campus is usually a staff member or a student, so it is much safer than a city university and gives you a greater sense of belonging.

The University provided a free coach service from the airport for international students which I found very touching and comforting. I really appreciated this service so I worked in the welcome arrival team as an ambassador this year to welcome and help new students from overseas.

There are also free 'International Cafés' every week hosted by the Students' Union to provide an opportunity for international students to make friends and talk to others. It helped me a lot as a first-year student as I was very shy to approach people and 'break the ice', but volunteers in the cafe are extremely nice and welcoming and helped me to open up to making new friends and sharing my story.

Finding my place

The culture shock was quite intense as it's my first time living and learning in the UK. Things like drinking, the casualness of romantic relationships, and the 'distance' British people prefer to keep between each other were surprising.

I was really struggling to fit in at the beginning because of some self-consciousness but things got much better after getting to know others during cheerleading training and chats with members of the Christian Union at the Chaplaincy.

I found out that people are actually really kind and easy-going, drinking is not the only path for making friends, and university life is more than just going out! Some people share the same values as I do, and we had lovely conversations cooking and studying together. I am so much more open and outgoing now compared with when I first arrived in the UK. I feel more confident about myself and I have learnt to adapt to new norms and new cultures which is an important life skill!

In March 2020, all teaching at Bath was moved online to protect students from COVID-19.

Online learning

The online sessions are actually more entertaining and interactive than I thought they would be. We can always post messages on the chat section of Zoom and each lecturer will check on the chat section after finishing every slide to make sure our questions get answered before we move on to the next topic.

The two-hour lectures have been split into two one-hour sessions to make sure that we don’t stay in front of a screen for too long. I can see the purpose of these new rules and really appreciate the effort of our university and professors.

For sure, online learning is definitely safer through this global pandemic! I find it more efficient as well, because many lecturers pre-record the lectures and upload them before the sessions, and the session will be an interactive period where students can ask questions freely, or request to go through some exercise together (very important for doing finance questions!).

Sometimes the lecturer would reteach the concepts that many struggle with to make sure that everything is being made clear. This has aided my learning a lot so far, I have always felt insecure about the relatively low contact hours in university compared to high school where we had eight hours of classes every day, with classes five days a week, and we could pop into the teacher’s office anytime if we had queries. The increasing communication of online learning has made my studies more interactive and efficient!

I had been very concerned about my quality of learning working from home as I am not a ‘home-learning person’, but the University has re-opened the Library and provided various learning spaces that we can book across campus, with very cohesive safety and hygiene measures and I feel very safe learning on campus! At the same time, the highly interactive sessions online have also aided me to focus even when learning at home!