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A Rude Awakening: An International Students' Experience while Studying in the UK

Ernest is a business enthusiast with a particular interest in finance and marketing. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG). He holds a BSc Administration degree in Marketing from the University of Ghana and is currently pursuing an MSc in International Corporate Finance from the University of Salford in the UK.

Why did you choose to pursue your Master’s degree in the UK?

I chose the UK because of familiarity, cost and the duration of the program.

When you say familiarity, can you please elaborate further?

Well, I had visited the UK a couple of times in the past, and also had some family members living there.

What influenced your decision to pursue University of Salford?

I initially shortlisted a number of schools in Ireland, UK, and Canada, but decided to take a leap of faith and only apply to University of Salford mainly because of the cost and availability of the program.

Did you have any expectations about studying in the UK prior to leaving Ghana?

I expected to have top notch facilities and a much smoother transition process, especially with regards to housing.

Were your expectations met?

My expectations were not exactly met because I struggled with finding permanent housing. I was moving from place to place and living with complete strangers, which was not the best of experiences.

Where did your expectations come from?

My expectations came from my own perception of the UK. I always knew it was a great country, and so, I expected to have a great experience.

Does the University of Salford provide housing services for graduate students?

They do, but living on-campus tends to be much more expensive than renting your own place, hence, the reason I did not subscribe to their services.

Did you have any struggles adjusting as a foreign student in the UK?

As a foreign student, I definitely had some struggles adjusting, including housing which I already made mention of. The culture in the UK is very different. There is no sense of community, the food, and the individualistic nature of the people were some of the things I struggled with. To make it worse, RACISM was another experience I struggled with.

You initially stated you had some familiarity in the UK prior to beginning studies. What then accounted for the struggles you talk about, which I will say, caught you by surprise?

Previously, I would visit the UK for only a short period of time. i.e. not more than weeks. I’ve come to realize that visiting the UK and studying in the UK are completely 2 different experiences. Visiting the UK does not really give you the actual experience of what it means to live life there. It’s a totally different experience! My program was just for a year, but I ended up staying for only 8 months. Staying in the UK for 8 months continuously opened my eyes to their rigidity, individualistic nature, the hustle and bustle, and taking up financial responsibilities like paying rent every month, as well as encountering transportation issues which I never faced in the past.

What, if any, are some of the fun things you liked about studying in the UK?

Just being in the different classes with people from different nationalities and countries like Jordan and Cyprus was really an amazing experience. Also, visiting attraction sites like Old Trafford, Manchester United Stadium, London, Westminster, and Buckingham Palace greatly enhanced my experience.

Why did you leave the UK before completing your program?

I left the UK primarily because of accommodation and stress issues.

Do you have plans of returning back to the UK to complete your studies?

I plan to get back when my stress issues are resolved. I deferred the program to continue at a later time and will hopefully make preparations on returning when this current pandemic i.e. COVID-19 is out of the way.

What will you say was the difference between the classroom culture at the University of Ghana and the University of Salford?

In Salford, classroom attendance is checked, whereas in Legon, at least in my department, attendance is checked for the fun of it. Also, the lecturers are more friendly at Salford compared to their counterparts in Legon.

What one thing did you wish you had known prior to studying in the UK?

I missed out on orientation, and so, I was unaware of certain key policies like the weekly attendance report which needs to be sent to the Home Office. Although I attended all classes, failure to submit these weekly reports led me to face a tribunal, which almost cost me my legal presence in the UK.

What advice would you give to someone interested in studying the UK?

First thing, be prepared for racism! Most white people I encountered don’t highly regard people from African countries. Secondly, secure your accommodation before arriving! Thirdly, be prepared for the hustle and bustle of UK life. They take their TIME very seriously! Fourthly, be mentally prepared for the loneliness and the individualistic nature of the people. Fifthly, be mindful of who you associate yourself with. Not everyone smiling at/with you has your best interest! And last but not least, do not waste your time at the expense of your assignments.

Based on this interview, it is our hope that you are able to understand the serious effects of misguided perceptions and plan to prepare adequately and brace yourself before setting off on your study abroad adventure! We wish Ernest the very best of successes in life!

If you are a past/current international student and would like to share your experience, please reach out to us at


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