Shenol Chakar, University of Reading
I’m from Bulgaria and this is my first year and my degree is BA Economics. When I was 7 years old, I went to a middle school in my hometown. I did study a lot and got good marks, but speaking serious experience-wise, it was nothing special. At 13, I sat an entry exam and went to a high school – the English Language School of Plovdiv. I acquired some real experience and study skills there. I do think to a large part I owe it to my well-qualified teachers that I got good results in my final high school exams. It was approximately at that time I chose the University of Reading in England as my firm choice, because I was convinced this institution is going to really contribute to my personal and career development. So far, it has even exceeded my expectations of high quality and good organization.
I would like to point out financial difficulties as the first problem students from abroad run into. In some countries outside the EU and others inside the EU but not using the Euro yet (like mine), currency rates are considerably lower than the English one. In other words, the Pound is far more expensive than some other currencies. The complications this brings are obvious. In my opinion, introducing additional discounts for international students could go a long way. As far as I’m concerned, I probably won’t find myself in financial difficulty soon, but I can’t discount this possibility in the future.
Second, let’s have a look at possibilities for development. Having in mind that the University of Reading accepts students from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, not all of them are perfectly prepared to cope with English way of life, nor know the language perfectly. Therefore may I suggest introduction of, let’s say “Get started with English life” advice workshops, where our questions about dealing with everyday issues could be answered; and “Improve your English” workshops to eliminate any possibility of language limiting the potential of any otherwise capable student. As far as I’m concerned, I’d definitely find some language workshops useful.
Third, studying in a foreign country can be a challenge as well, which can be partly overcome by reading books in order to acquire vital study skills and advanced knowledge. Thing is, there are not enough copies of books in the library so students have really gotten used to clicking the “Place Hold” button on Blackboard, which is not really a good enough option when you urgently need a book. If you luckily do manage to get the needed book, you are only allowed to have it for yourself for maximum of a few days, which also doesn’t put you at ease if you need it for a longer time, doing lengthy coursework being a classic example. I’m experiencing this third problem right now and would really like it if libraries increased the number of available books, especially the ones most sought after.
There were, of course, things I really liked at campus and they definitely make the life of an international student easier – things like the really nice and helpful staff members, opportunities for personal and career development, study advice centers, rich social life. And many thanks to the Reading University Students’ Union, which organizes some very enjoyable activities and does its best to help us students out.