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THE UK: Destination Guides

The daunting decision to study abroad

Alejandra Diaz gives you a unique insight into her journey as an international student in the UK. She chats everything from money matters to learning a new language.

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Deciding to study abroad is a big step. Making the choice to leave behind a familiar environment, including family and friends isn’t always easy to do. However, it is equal parts daunting and exciting, with many new exhilarating experiences in store. Not knowing what to expect can be part of the fear or anxiety that holds you back. We chatted to Alejandra Diaz, to get her take on making the move from Colombia to the UK, covering everything from adjusting to a new culture to money matters. 



Why and when did you decide to study abroad?

I had just finished my undergraduate university degree and was 20 years old when I made the move to London from Colombia by applying to study in the UK. I wanted to experience a new culture as well as interact with people from different parts of the world. It wasn’t easy because I knew learning a new language would be tough and I was a bit worried about the practical side too, such as money and accommodation. It wasn’t always easy, but it was the right choice, because I gained so much both personally and professionally. 




How did you cope financially? 

I don’t come from a very wealthy background and I was worried about getting into debt. I was also anxious about not putting any financial pressure on my parents. I had some money saved up, but also researched and investigated organizations that offer funding, financial advice and student discounts. This really helped me out and allowed me to find my feet. 



How did you find and organise accommodation?

For the first few weeks in London I had accommodation arranged by the English school I was attending. It was a great experience meeting some fellow students and getting food cooked for us every day. Soon afterwards though I needed to find my own accommodation. I had to do my research and be quite discerning. Doing online research allows you to get an idea of general costs and rental prices in certain areas. Make sure you use a reputable company or agency to secure your accommodation. Don’t send money or cheques in advance to anyone and know your rights. You don’t have be afraid, just be careful. That way you won’t get scammed. It’s always useful to chat to classmates and even your university to get the best advice and information. 



How did you deal with learning a new language?

Prior to leaving Colombia I had discussed things with my best friend and she encouraged me to increase my English language level as much as possible. I knew that proficiency in English was going to be critical for both my studies and living in a new environment. Explore all avenues to improve your knowledge, such as listening to radio, watching television and reading the newspaper. You might not understand everything at first, but it’s good practice and you’ll be surprised how some of the terms stay with you. It’s great for your vocabulary. 


How would you sum up your experience?

Overall I have to confess that it was the highlight of my life and I am very happy I managed to gather the courage to pack my bags and leave the comfort of home in order to achieve a new personal experience. I don’t regret it at all. 

Study in the UK


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