International Students in the UK

Dzung Thuy Nguyen - Lancaster

Dzung, originally from Vietnam, is 23 and studies Human Resources and Consulting at Lancaster University. Dzung says that she has learnt a huge amount from her experience in the UK, despite being out of her comfort zone from time to time. 

Why did you choose to study in the UK?

I've always wanted to live abroad, broaden my world vision and explore other countries whilst young. The question for me then was just where to study abroad. At high school I got involved in several art and cultural events and English courses held by the British Council in Hanoi. These gave me a strong feeling for Britain, with its world-class education system, and a tolerant and diverse society. I felt that UK study would provide a firm foundation for my career, and is the only place to really learn English.

How did you find the application process?

The course application was relatively straightforward and efficient. For non-EU students like me, the visa application can be slightly more problematic.

Was it easy to find useful information about the UK?

The British Council is a great source of information. The more research I did prior to arrival, the better equipped I felt. Study abroad agencies also helped a lot in preparing paperwork and visa applications.

Was there any information that you couldn’t find?

Part-time job vacancies in the local area. But as soon as I arrived at the university, I made use of their careers and employability services to help me find work experience.

How do the fees compare to your home country?

I’d only pay about £30 per term in a public university at home. The higher cost of education in the UK has substantially motivated me to work harder, to take advantage of every opportunity, and actively search for extra funding. I was fortunate enough to secure a scholarship from Lancaster University Management School three years in a row.

How are you finding the experience of living and studying in the UK?

I have enjoyed every minute of my experience in the UK so far because I have learnt so much. My academic journey has provided me with a variety of teamwork, presentation, and critical thinking skills besides a strong theoretical foundation, topped up by real-life consultancy projects within the industry.

The opportunities to get involved in non-academic aspects of university life are huge if one wants to grasp them. I have been able to improve my leadership, teamwork, and communication skills via various volunteering projects.

Anything you’re finding difficult?

Finding a job is increasingly more difficult than I imagined it would be when I first arrived. One of the reasons I chose the UK was the career prospects for international students thanks to the Post-study work visa. Unfortunately the Home Office closed it when I was in my second year. I have found it difficult maintaining a balance of short-term goals such as full-time study, extra-curricular activities and social life with long-term goals such as a full-time job after graduation. The 2–3 months I am allowed to remain in the UK after graduation are not necessarily long enough to secure a job offer that matches the requirements of the Home Office.

Initially I found it difficult to make friends with British students, being someone who doesn’t enjoy the stereotypical student life. However, I joined several societies and clubs to meet like-minded people and to try something new. The more I got involved, the more friends I made.

What do you plan to do after your course?

I would like to stay in the UK or relocate back to Asia, but having said that, it will likely depend on career opportunities.

Do you feel that studying in the UK will help you to achieve your ambitions?

Yes, it has contributed remarkably to my personal and professional development which is, in my opinion, what one needs to focus on in order to achieve ambitions. My self-confidence has been boosted in a big way.

Having said that, studying abroad is definitely not all moonlight and roses. Homesickness, culture shock, social awkwardness, and language barriers are just a few of the issues in studying abroad. But if one is fully aware, open-minded, tolerant, flexible, and adaptable, it will be an experience not to be missed. As with everything in life, you have to learn from not only the good but also the bad and the ugly.

Therefore, I really hope that more and more Vietnamese students will also have the chance to get out of their comfort zone and see the world from different perspectives.