I had never lived in the UK or studied in English before starting my Biomedical Sciences degree at York. Although I have been learning English for 8 years, during my very first days here I realised it is not as easy to switch my life to a different language as I thought it would be. After discussing this with my friends, I realised that this is a common problem for international students. So here I would like to share tips, based on my own experience, which are helping me to overcome language barriers in my studies and everyday life.
Take part in living room conversations
I know how comfortable it can be sometimes, just to listen to your flatmates’ conversation without taking part in it. It might be difficult to express yourself exactly how you would in your mother tongue. Thus, it is essential to put in effort and stay engaged. You will get on with your flatmates and gain confidence in sharing your thoughts and ideas about sports, art, and politics in English.
Switch your life to English
Set all your devices in English, watch movies, and YouTube, and listen to music in English as well. While researching new material, try not to Google it in your first language, but in English instead. This will make your brain get adjusted to a new way of consuming information better. Hence, you will also be able to reproduce it more efficiently, which will be helpful in exams and further studies.
Grammarly and Thesaurus come in handy when writing essays, lab reports, and making presentations. Grammarly helps to improve writing skills by adding missing commas, and correcting spelling and grammar mistakes. If you do not want to buy a subscription, there is a free version available. Meanwhile, Thesaurus is free. This platform diversifies your writing, you can find synonyms and antonyms for most words. These two will help to improve your academic performance and make your work more interesting to read. So, register and enjoy.
Another app I want to recommend – is Quizlet. It is great to study for exams and learn new terminology in English. You create flashcards and then go over them via tests generated by Quizlet. Also, no internet access is needed to use it for revision, which makes it even more convenient.
Join study groups
In October, I signed up for a study group within the Department of Biology, and since then I have had a couple of meetings with my group-mates. Discussing problematic points or explaining them to colleagues can contribute to the clarity of thoughts and ideas presented in English.
Gain knowledge outside of your degree
Joining societies and devoting your time to activities that are not related to your degree could be helpful. Talking about music, geography, literature and many other things will enrich your vocabulary quickly, and you will feel confident in any environment.
Here at York, we have over 200 societies ranging from the Archaeology Society to the Album Society. There’s something for everyone! I would suggest having a look. And, of course, you could get a nice bonus when meeting interesting people that share your thoughts and ideas.
I hope these tips will be useful. It is important to keep in mind that you are not alone in this journey, and everyone is here to support you. With that, I wish you luck in your endeavours here!
Read more about international students’ experiences at York