Blog post

Memoirs of an International Uni Student

Student Sam moved from Zimbabwe to study at the University of Derby. Here, he shares his journey of settling in, making friends and becoming more self-aware.

By Sam Chikowore - 14 February 2019

Coming to the University of Derby has proven to be a roller coaster of experiences. It all starts with the arrival of your offer letter, suddenly you can relate to how those kids in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory felt when they received their golden tickets to get into the factory. It all seems surreal: you are finally going to university, one of the major steps towards becoming an independent adult.

When you arrive, you finally believe you haven't been dreaming with your eyes open, this is all reality. The first week of my university experience is one that has been ingrained into my memory with all sights, sounds and smells still very palpable.

Getting started

Upon my arrival at the University of Derby, I was directed to the Student Centre in the Atrium where staff greeted me with a warm smile and asked what I needed help with. I next visited the International Student Centre, where I met another friendly and welcoming group of people. I just needed to complete all the relevant formalities such as presenting my letters of acceptance and my passport and visa details, and after that I was all clear and ready to be enrolled. I should personally mention and thank all the members of the International Student Centre for being so friendly and going the extra mile in making sure that the transition for international students is much easier to handle.

People, places and pizza

The honeymoon phase enjoyed by all students subsequent to their arrival to university, colloquially known as 'Freshers' is an array of activities, experiences and new faces. The Freshers' Fair is a buzz of activity - there's literally anything and everything to sign up to, various societies from medieval re-enactment to Quidditch, and everything else in between. Every third person you meet is seemingly offering you free pizza, it's a buzz of excitement in the spacious but slightly overcrowded University Atrium. After being spoilt for choice by the wide variety of appealing societies, I decided to join the Christian Union, the Leadership International and I subscribed to the University gym, which has superb equipment.

Meeting new people in halls and on my course was also a daunting experience as I arrived a week later and had missed the induction week. I thought friendships had already been solidified and I'd be coming in as an outsider. That certainly wasn't the case, everyone was friendly and forthcoming and on the second night as a university student I was on my inaugural night out as a university student with a group of friends.

The learning begins

With all the fun, there must eventually come a time when settling down is inevitable and your course begins. Learning at the University is taken very seriously, with very knowledgeable and dedicated lecturers leading the lectures and seminars. The University if Derby is very advanced in terms of e-learning, with resources that aid your studies being available at the click of a button. Lectures are recorded and can be accessed online for future reference in case you missed something, which by the way is not an excuse to skive them!

The University library is fully equipped to cater to every course and level of study. The library also offered a 24-hour service during the final weeks of term, to give students the chance to put in extra graft to meet course deadlines and study for exams. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the glorious Unibus also ran for 24-hours during the late-night library period.

I have enjoyed all the course-based trips that I have been on, my favourite being that of a day trip to Castleton. This provided an amazing experience for me to take in all the beautiful scenery that Derbyshire has to offer, as well as getting to see places that surround Derby for the very first time.

Becoming more myself

I believe coming to the University of Derby has changed me for the better as a person. I feel a higher sense of responsibility for my life and my actions. Tasks such as making sure laundry is done or doing the weekly shop have really made me more self-aware that I now have to stand on my own two feet as a person, and acknowledge the greater sense of independence that has been ushered into my life. The fact that the University is a place that is always buzzing with activity has made me push myself more out of my comfort zone and put myself out there so to speak, whether in being part of society events or just interacting with various people that lead to experiencing different cultures and their perspective on life. Moving away for university has made me value my family back home more. Being an international student, and being so far away from home, you realise the love and value you hold towards your family. I have also found that my culinary skills have vastly improved and become very innovative, as is true with the saying necessity is the mother of invention.

Moving here has truly been a life changing experience for me. As I was admitted under the Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship, it has made me value and cherish the opportunities that have been presented to me in life, and for that I am forever grateful. I've also been exposed to a variety of different cultures through meeting students from other countries. I must mention that Derby is a melting pot of culture and the locals are very receptive and welcoming to people from all walks of life. Living here as an international student in Derby has made the transition from living in Zimbabwe to moving to England very manageable as I have experienced nothing but warm hospitality so far. It has been a journey of learning different ways of life and practices that collate to make up humanity, but still maintain personal individuality. That for me has been a truly phenomenal and eye-opening experience.

About the author

Sam standing next to a mountain wearing a red anorak.

Sam Chikowore
Business Management and Geology student at the University of Derby

Business Management and Geology student at the University of Derby. I also work part-time as a Marketing Representative for the University.