Advice from a once International Student who is now a Lecturer to International Students

by Dr Itoro Ekpo

After my first degree in Nigeria, my next step was to proceed with a Master’s degree and UK was my first and only choice. Before coming to the UK, the only country I had visited was South Africa. Although that is an African country, I still had the culture shock, for example, their cars are right-hand drive, and the weather was very cold. Let’s proceed to me arriving the UK for my Masters; the first thing that greeted me was the cold weather in October and the confusion on how to cross the road. Regarding the weather, South Africa was a learning ground for me. First advice for students, come prepared with winter wears because the weather will be cold for those starting in September or January.

Dr Itoro Ekpo –

In my first class, I addressed my lecturer as Sir, and he told me to call him Nick. I was shocked by that because back home you are not allowed to call your lecturer by name. Now as a lecturer in a UK University, I understand when student address me as Ma or anything else because I was once in their shoes. I encourage them to address me by my first name. Some students tend to adjust immediately, while some can’t just accept it. The second advice for the students is it is okay to call your lecturers/tutor/teacher by their first name and you will not be penalised. For academics, don’t be fussy about how you are addressed as the international students are from different environments, give them time and grace.

I resumed late for my MSc programme; hence, I needed all the support to be able to submit my first formative assessment but what did I do? I went to my colleagues for help, although my lecturers had told me to contact them for support since they were aware that I resumed late. I submitted my first assessment, and the feedback made me realise that my writing style needed to change, I needed to be critical and avoid copy and paste. I realised that I had a long way to go as I was use to producing what I was taught word for word and give back what I read from a textbook or article word for word without paraphrasing. The third advice for students is never copy and paste as you will be penalised, you need to paraphrase your work to avoid plagiarism. Now as a lecturer, I encourage students from the first class to start the practice of paraphrasing because they can easily plagiarise their assessment.

One of the comments on my first feedback was to ask for support from the tutor. While I was trying to figure out how I was going to approach my tutors for support I was surprised when one of them requested to see me after the class and mentioned that he had still not received my support session request. This made me realise that the necessary support is there, but I just needed to ask and that my tutors are approachable. The fourth advice is, always ask for help and do not leave it to the last minute (submission deadline)

All work and no play makes Itoro a dull girl. I signed up for school trips and networking events on campus to widen my network and make friends with people from other cultures. As a lecturer, I noticed that international students tend to walk and work with colleagues from the same country. Final advice is get out of your comfort zone and make friends with people from other countries. The new friend may be the person that will take your project/ work/ business to the next level. Expand your circle but ensure to do that wisely.

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