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Being The Only International Student

Alya Omar Student Life

I don’t think English Literature (or most Art-related subjects) are top choices for most Asian students. Where I’m from, at least. So, when the time came for me to start the new semester, I did feel a little anxious.

March -08-16_Only -Int -Student _In Page 350I suppose I felt anxious about my choice not only because I was an international student, but also because I was an Asian (I had a friend who studied up in Glasgow back then who was in a similar situation as myself). I was literally transitioning from classrooms filled mostly with people like myself to ones where I stand out like a sore thumb. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling, but it’s one of those things where you just know you’re the odd one out, and yes, it can get nerve-wrecking.

I did have classmates, but I’d usually only talk to them in the class when I needed to. You know, that kind of ‘friendship’. Once lessons were over, I’d skedaddle as fast as I possible could, if I could help it. I did make a ‘proper’ friend or two in my first year, but that sort of went away by the end of the second year (it’s a long story). I know, it sounds like a sad lonely tale, but honestly, it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. I had friends outside the course anyway, so it’s not a complete sob story!

As the years progressed, and by eventually becoming more confident in myself, I’d like to think that I’ve managed to overcome that barrier of anxiety. I realized that I didn’t have to feel like it was a bad thing that I was the only International student there. Besides, everyone seemed friendly enough, so there wasn’t any reason for me to feel as terrified as I did back then. Nowadays, I feel more comfortable conversing with my classmates, and I’ve even started to willingly hang out with some of them outside class.

So, what does it feel like being the only international student in my course? Well, I would say it isn’t that bad! It can lead to interesting conversations among my peers, such as telling them more about my hometown (I’ve even managed to introduce one of them to Malaysian cuisine!). Luckily enough, I’ve met another Malaysian a year under me (by complete coincidence!) who’s taking English Literature and Language, so it feels kinda cool knowing there’s another Malaysian on the same boat as myself. I’ve also learned to be more open with my classmates, and I’m enjoying my interactions with them.

If I had to give some advice, I guess it would be not to sweat the small stuff. Sure, it can feel a little nerve-wrecking, but it pays to remember that the main goal is working hard for your degree.  And remember: if you ever think that the isolating feeling is getting the better of you, don’t hesitate to consult your guidance tutor, or the counselling service!

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