What are the challenges of studying in the UK as an Indian? You must have heard about the challenges when you move to the UK. But, what are the challenges of studying in the UK for Indians? Oftentimes, when you look for challenges in the UK, you would not get information specifically catered to Indians. So, here, we explore all the challenges that Indians have to face when they study in the UK. You might or might not face the same challenges depending on who you are, or the kind of personality you have.
The Difference in Education System
Like it or not, the way we approach higher education in India is pretty basic when it comes to the way we do it in the UK. Our system is built around the ideology that theoretical knowledge trumps practicality. As a result, when it comes to independent research, we fail pathetically. We are driven by a system that often asks us to read, re-read, and learn content to vomit it out on a piece of paper. You know this.
In the UK, that system is completely different. They focus on an independent-research as much as the Indian system focuses on the theoretical knowledge. This means that you are spending more time at the library, laboratory, going to various events, seminars, talks, participating in discussions. And, at the end, all the knowledge that you gain from doing all this, you are expected to consolidate on your own. The role of the professor is that of a guide, someone who simply pushes you towards consolidating information, looking at the same thing from a thousand other perspectives. They will not help you in writing your essay. They will not tell you what to write in your essay. They will not write your essay. However, they will provide complete and unconditional guidance in everything.
But, you have to do everything by your own self. This means that you should have an intrinsic motivation to study and conduct research. This is something that we are not taught in our universities in India. This will be a huge challenge if you are someone who has only managed to score good scores using guide-books and bribing your teacher to write your essay. This alone is one of the big challenges of studying in the UK.
I found an appropriate article from another student who faced the same difficulties transitioning from an Indian education system to the UK’s. You can find that article here.
Trust me pal, I have been there. This is another one of the biggest challenges of studying in the UK. If you are used to any of the Indian food that we so passionately savour in our home country, you are in for a complete shock. As the amount of carbs and fats that we consume, people in the west, especially some Europeans, do not.
Although in the UK I have noticed that there is an Indian restaurant on every other street, but they are all Anglicised. It means that the curries are not as spicy, the masalas used are not as rich, and the food is not as authentic. What you will get is probably 50% of what you are used to eating. And even the portions are not too big, unless you go for a buffet.
The reason why I am saying that this is a challenge is because when your taste buds are not being catered, you will not get the feeling that you are satisfied with your food. And not being satisfied with food would mean lesser concentration spans when it comes to studying, much less focus on the research and an overall drop in academic performance.
The only way you can overcome this is by having an idea of a diet that you are used to. Unless you have been cooking your own food, you are not aware of what you eat, why you eat and how much you eat. And, with that lack of knowledge if you come to the UK, you are still going to feel hungry after you have eaten. I am not saying that you should come with a complete diet plan of what you will eat each day and for each meal. But, you must know what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to eat when you stressed, what are your cheat meals and how to cook them.
You might need to work. Now, the question is where should you work? Should you be working at the university? Look, working while studying is something that several Asians do to make up for the high costs of living. And if you are used to living a luxurious lifestyle in India, then, for you, this is a challenge in the UK.
However, working part-time is a whole new world altogether, unless you are really conscious about where you work. For instance, working at the university, whether it is assisting the professor, or doing some regular odd jobs, or even becoming a student ambassador, will actually help you to manage your time for your studies very well. When you are working at the university, everyone knows that you are a student. In that case everyone will actually accept when you say that you have course-work.
If, however, you are working at a non-academic place, then you need to be very careful about the kind of people you are working with. They will simply treat you like another worker, not a student who is working just to sustain themselves.
Regardless, working part-time is one of the biggest challenges of studying in the UK for Indians. Farooq Chisty has captured this in his article on the online article-writing website, Medium. You can find that article here.
Friends and Family
Perhaps you can tell that this is another one of the challenges of studying in the UK? Unless you are going to the UK with a friend, or you know someone there, this is going to be a huge problem. Just because our families are structured in such a way that even until we turn 30 sometimes, we are living with our families, we get used to all the attention, all the love that we get that our body simply rejects loneliness.
Add to that the unpredictable, and oftentimes, cold weather. I remember that I would not see the Sun for days together during winters. Or, on some days, it would just be so grey and dull. Not having a friend in that kind of weather, doing everything by yourself, staying away from home and friends is a monumental task. Trust me, sometimes loneliness can hurt you to the bone.
I do not mean to say that it is all so gloomy and sad. All I am saying is that you are going to have trouble, unless you go out, make friends, and spend valuable time with them. Friends are a necessity in the UK, especially in big cities like London.
How would weather figure in a list of challenges of studying in the UK? I only realised this almost an year later. No matter how hard you try to not let it affect you, the weather plays a significant role when it comes to determining your mental and emotional state. This is especially the case because we as Indians are not used to too cold temperatures, unless we live high up in North India.
So, when it gets cold, and when there is no sun, we feel the pinch. Lack of sunlight means more moodiness, less energy to do things and an overall lethargy. Sometimes, I didn’t see the Sun in the UK for weeks. And, like it or not, it is a big factor affecting your overall health as well. It is a big challenge in the UK.
These were the main problems that I personally faced while moving to the UK. But these were not the only challenges that I faced. For more such challenges, read on!
Conforming to the new culture
This is something you must have heard about from people who already been abroad on vacation. Whenever you are moving abroad to a new country, especially in the West, you are going to face what many people call the “Cultural Shock”. It means that you are going to run into a culture where everything is unfamiliar.
Western culture is more relaxed, people do not think of things that we Indians crazily obsess about, and the people are more open-minded. Moreover, the more socially diverse city you live in, the more communities you will find there. And like it or not, people like to stay tucked away in their own little communities. This is less of a case with students as there are thousands of students like you from all over the world. Moreover, if you live in a student accommodation, you will get to experience the benefits of the social diversity.
However, there would be those cases where someone might say something that is offensive. If someone does that to you, respond with a witty remark. And, move on.
Building a Home
This is one of the challenges that you will face prior to moving to a new country. In most cases, you will need to sort out your place of stay when you are moving to another country. I have written a detailed article about the different types of accommodation in the UK, benefits and challenges of living in each. I have also prepared a guide that helps you choose the best accommodation for you. You can find that here.
Again, if you are living alone for the first time then this is going to be a big challenge in the UK, for you.
Understanding the Laws
If you are moving out of your country for the first time and plan to settle in wherever you are going, then my advice is do not be adventurous in the first few days. Since you are not extremely familiar with the laws, you should try and do some Google searches about them. Understanding these laws and abiding by them is extremely crucial if you want to lead a happy life. But, you will still not get all the information on Google right-away, especially when it comes to understanding the laws.
Looking out for the no-go areas
This is in conjugation with the previous challenge. When you are in a new country, in a new city, do not go out venturing into the wild. There are some areas that you should red-flag for yourself because they might be a no-go zone for you. You are in a new city, and especially if you are alone there, you don’t know what goes down on that particular street. So, unless you have some backup, do not go out adventuring. If you do, it could potentially lead you to harm.
Adjusting with the people you are living with
If you are moving in a shared accommodation you are going share common spaces with other people. They can be from all over the world. Now, here is the tricky part. Since you are living with them, these people are the only ones who you can rely on when you are in trouble, say your bag gets stolen or something then these people can be asked for help.
But, at the same time, you will not be able to trust them because you hardly know them. Not because they are not worth gaining that trust but because you don’t know what they might be up to. Obviously, there are checks in place that ensures that no accommodation hires the bad/wrong people, but you never know for real. This is a challenge in the UK.
Going Back Home
Now this is also something that not everyone will find a challenge. While I was in the UK, I had friends from India who had been back home several times during their stay for even an year. But I could not, even when my grandfather died, because of financial reasons. This is a huge challenge, at-least it seems like.
For me, I have always considered going home a recovery period. Its like that short break between boxing rounds. The moment you sit down on the chair in your home, you know you are getting the attention from your family, everyone is attending to you, listening to your problems. However, if you do not have the chance to go back home then chances are that you have going to last 10 rounds without taking a break. As challenging and adventurous it may seem, this is one of the biggest challenges I faced.
Trust me, this is another one of the biggest challenges of studying in the UK. If you are curious to know the struggles that I faced while living away from my family for the first time in the UK, watch the video below.
Adjusting to the new life
Do you think you are really flexible? Do you think you can adapt to all the new situations that you are subjected to? Think again. Everything that you know, everything that you have known your entire life will be brought into question. You will have to unlearn, relearn and learn things.
When I moved to London, I realised at several instances that there were several places where I had to let go of who I was in order to progress to who I wanted to become. It is a very thin line. But you need to be aware of it. Sometimes, you need to have this layer over yourself which acts as a protective shield, this persona that helps you blend in with everyone. I needed one, because I was an introvert. You might or might not need one depending on what your personality is.
So, what do you think? Moving to the UK from India as student (for that matter from anywhere in South Asia) is incredibly difficult, right? Are there not several challenges of living in the UK for Indians?
Well, it has its highs and lows that you will have to keep in mind. But, don’t worry. You must not forget that the purpose of this website is to help you find the solutions to these as well as many more challenges that you might or might not face.
I am currently preparing a PDF guide that comprehensively details all the solutions for these challenges. Don’t worry. Studying in the UK might seem tough, but it is fun and definitely a learning experience.
I have captured my own experience living in the UK for about 1.5 years. It covers the struggles and challenges that I faced. To read about my experience, click here.