A force for good: the UK’s international student community

Blog for students
15 February 2023
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This is a guest blog from Charlie Ogilvie, Senior Content Manager, Study UK, part of the GREAT Campaign for Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

When you come to the UK to study as an international student, you make a bold choice. You come here knowing that beyond the usual challenges of moving abroad, you are investing financially, socially and emotionally in your education. 

A UK education offers so much.

From world-leading teaching by experts in their fields at some of the world’s top universities, to an amazing student experience where you can make friends for life and memories that will last a lifetime. A UK education can make you among the most employable in a highly competitive global market.

Studying in the UK offers you the chance to learn about other cultures by becoming part of an international community. You will get to travel around your city and the rest of the UK and learn about the four nations – England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – by experiencing them. During your course, you will have a chance to reconsider everything you already know, step outside of your comfort zone and engage with people who have completely different views from your own. While being supported by teachers who challenge you to think critically and believe there’s no such thing as a ‘silly’ question. 

Shilpa, from India, left her home in rural India for the first time when she was 25. She had always wanted to "be someone" and to "do something more" with her life. To her, studying in the UK was an opportunity to get a world-class education in a specialist subject – hydrology and water management. And to upskill herself to

make a difference in developing countries worldwide through her career. 

She was ready.

She was offered a full scholarship to study at Newcastle University. But then her father tragically and unexpectedly passed away. When she found out, "everything just dimmed", she said. "The fact I was going to study in the UK became a light for my entire family". 

For Shilpa, beyond her initial motivations – studying in the UK was no longer just about doing  a course or getting a prestigious qualification. She had already known that she wanted to "be someone" and "do something more" with her life. So, when her father passed away, it was no longer about building a better future for herself, but for her whole family. Despite her overwhelming grief, she decided to continue with her studies in the UK. She stuck with her decision, packed her bags, and got on the plane.

As an international student coming to the UK, you, like Shilpa, bring so much with you.

Talent. Ambition. And high expectations. 

The UK welcomes international students. Thank you for making our universities vibrant and cosmopolitan places. You bring diverse perspectives and expertise from your own countries which enhance the learning environment on campus. You become a vital part of the UK academic community. The networks and connections you establish in the UK support invaluable long-term global, cultural, academic and business links – whether you choose to stay, travel home or move anywhere else in the world. 

Now, back to Shilpa. Despite the challenges her grief brought her, one year after leaving home for the first time, she became closer to "being someone" and "doing something more". 

Though she struggled to get to grips with writing essays and meeting deadlines in the first term, she asked for and found the support she needed to succeed. She sat down with her lecturers to understand where she could improve and asked her coursemates to read through her work before submitting it. 

She put herself out there and made close friends with her coursemates and housemates with whom she could share everything – from laughter to drawing sessions to what was on her mind and in her heart. And on her birthday, the first birthday without her father, and so far from home, she cooked up a feast for her friends and celebrated it properly with cake and presents.

Pictured above: Shilpa's artwork from drawing sessions with her friends.

She’s now entered the world of work in the UK, working in the field she trained in, helping her to build a better future. Although everything had dimmed one year prior – her education was and will continue to be a light for her whole family.

I hope you can make the most of your experience here in the UK, no matter what you go through. Thank you for being here. For bringing your whole selves. 

And, whatever you go on to do next – whether taking on an important role in the political, economic, scientific or cultural life here, in your home country, or elsewhere, we invite you to be a life-long ambassador for a UK education and the UK in general. 

Charlie Ogilvie is a Senior Content Manager at Study UK, part of the GREAT Campaign for Great Britain and Northern Ireland.