I can still remember when I hugged my daughter goodbye, trying my best to hold back the tears in the airport, as I sent her off to her first year of university life. Although this is not my daughter’s first time studying abroad, due to travel restrictions and quarantine policies, we both knew goodbye this time wasn’t said with a light of heart as we would have to wait for almost a year before we could see each other again.
Staying safe in the UK
I kept reminding my daughter to wear masks and avoid going to overcrowded spaces. Apart from the virus itself, I also worried about her mood and potential homesickness. Although I wanted to hear from my daughter at all times, I didn’t call my daughter very often. I always left her to call me on her initiative. I knew I needed to provide her with space to have fun with friends and focus on her studies and in return, I found that she was more willing to share her everyday life with me if I gave her space.
When she told me she had the most enjoyable Freshers' Week and referred to her accommodation as her 'new home', I felt reassured. A new environment might be overwhelming, and as overseas parents, we need to provide reassurance that we will always be there for them if they encounter any barrier in life. Children tend to hide the negatives from their parents and as parents, I feel it is essential to let them know we wholeheartedly make them a priority and will provide them sensible pieces of advice at any time.
What to pack
International students have a set baggage capacity limiting what they can bring onto the plane, so we need to make sure they only bring the necessities. For my daughter, this included warm clothes, a laptop, stationery, chargers and adapters for electronics, cosmetics, face coverings, and any necessary medications. Using the checklist provided by the University was a helpful guideline to follow as it’s very thorough!
Before departure, make sure you have double checked the travel documents including passport, biometric residence permit (BRP), proof of vaccination, etc. Also, prepare some cash and a usable sim card or enable international roaming service for contacting when they have arrived in the UK.
Preparation for independent living
Basic cooking and laundry skills are needed. I sometimes had to remind my daughter to tidy up the room, and make her bed every day as I know the habits of my child; she always likes to leave her room in a mess. Funny as it was, one time, my daughter asked me why there was so much dust in the room even though she had been constantly cleaning it. I answered, 'that’s because you never did your own cleaning at home'.
Managing money wisely
It’s essential for university students to be aware of finance management. I suggested my daughter keep rough records of her daily expenses so she has an idea of budgeting.
In terms of bank cards, I provided her with a secondary account that is linked to my credit card in China. This way I could learn from the credit card records what she has bought and where she might have been. I do not mean to check up on her, but this is an agreement between us so that I have an idea of her safety without asking her. She also set up a UK bank account for herself as this makes it easier to transfer money among friends.
Soon after my daughter arrived in Bath, she filled up her time, taking trips into the city centre, buying groceries with friends, cooking with flatmates, and she even had several travels to other parts of the country.
In the eyes of parents, our children are always children, but when they are on their own, they become much more independent and powerful than you would expect. I am very proud of her.