The struggles of life as an international student at university

“What’s with your accent?”

In my previous article I mentioned that I went to an American international school in Shanghai, China. From a very young age I was taught how to write and speak with the letters of the alphabet and the strokes of Chinese characters, I had friends that came from different countries and we spoke to each other in English, at home I speak Cantonese with my parents and when I’m out in Shanghai I speak Mandarin to communicate with the public.

Life in Bristol university, has been very different from back home. Now that I’ve graduated from high school (college), I’ve realised that there are a few things that often most of us international students tend to experience.

There’s an inevitable international school bubble

When you’re at university, finding out that someone was also in an international school (that might have competed against your school before) often creates an instant connection with that person. You might end up finding out that you had mutual friends that went to another international school. It may have seemed really weird at first, but then you realized that your part of that bubble because of the school you went to.

Everyone thinks we have a weird accent

Whenever I first meet someone, people would always pick up on the fact that I am Asian, and I have an American accent. You know, when your teachers and your friends all have American accents, ending up with an American accent was basically meant to be.

We have more than one “home” (but what is home exactly?)

International students often move around and relocate. It is easy to say that we all have more than one home that holds sentimental value to us. I have two places that I consider home: Shanghai and Hong Kong. I grew up in Shanghai, and made lots and lots of friends there. Even though I had only lived in Hong Kong for two months, my extended family is there.  It’s very easy to say that Bristol is slowly becoming a third home for me.


Time differences are a pain

While my family is back in Asia, my friends are all scattered around the world for university (mostly US). Having to stay up/wake up earlier to talk to them through Facetime and Skype is sometimes distressing, but the effort to do so makes our friendship a lot closer and makes us more excited to see each other physically when we’re back home.

You start to miss your cat – who is sleeping on your bed wondering when you’ll come back

The long plane rides are awful

It’s hard to have sympathy for students complaining about their train/coach ride from Bristol to their homes that cost them £30 and take two hours.

Whether we are going home for Christmas or summer, having to take a coach to London Heathrow Airport (cause the smaller airports around the UK aren’t international) is a must. Then having to wait in the airport for over six hours before hopping on a minimum ten hour flight feels life-draining. But being able to reunite with all your friends and family makes it all worth it.

oh god save me now

We each bond over the pain and stress we had over IB

CAS, HL, SL, WL, IOP, IOC, TOK, EE, IA and BS, it’s like we have our own language.

Having to take the IB diploma (not certificate) to make yourself suitable for applying to UK universities proved to be a laughable topic to talk about between us international kids. There’s so much more that the IB asks for outside of heavy course aiming to help us develop “the intellectual, personal, emotional, and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalising world” makes us bond over how horribly stressful it was during the last two years of our high school lives.