Case study

Finding
my space
to grow

Moving away from home for the first time can be a challenge. That first day at university can be a bit overwhelming. You’re in new surroundings, you don’t know anybody. You might be feeling the pin-pricks of tears. You try to hold them back.

Now imagine home is 7,000 miles away.

Meet Sam Chikowore. He’s come all the way from Zimbabwe to study Business Management and Geology. That’s a long way outside his comfort zone.

Sam Chikowore tells his student story

View Sam's story video transcript

The worst/best day

Sam’s first day was his worst day.

“Going back to my room on the first day after my parents had gone and realising I was alone,” he explains, “I felt sad and nervous, and kind of lonely. It’s a weird feeling to have.”

But it was also his best day.

“That’s when Sam came to my door and introduced himself.” Another Sam, one of Sam’s neighbours in halls – they bonded over their shared name. “He was the first person I talked to. He’s been a great help. He’s shown me around and helped me feel more settled. Now he’s one of my closest friends.”

Looking back, Sam would happily relive the emotional rollercoaster of that first day again. “The mix of emotions, the nervousness, the excitement, the thrill of being in an entirely new place with new people,” he said. “It felt like something special, you don’t know what to expect. I was starting my own life as an adult.”

A student sitting on the hillside at Thorpe Cloude, Derbyshire
Sam walking on Thorpe Cloud in Dovedale

Growing in confidence

It didn’t take Sam long to get into the swing of things here in Derby. But it did take a determined effort. “I’ve always been a shy person,” he says, “so I really had to challenge myself to push myself to come out of my comfort zone and start interacting with people.”

And his effort has paid off, though he gives some of the credit to our city and its people. He explains: “The people of Derby are very friendly – the hospitality of the local people has been great. Derby is really quite a good place to start off, not too big, not too overwhelming.

“I’m already starting to feel more confident. I’m definitely more outgoing. I find myself trying to talk to new people, which is something I would never have done in the past. I was surprised by how willing people are to talk to you if you engage with them. You can be surprised how a simple ‘hi’ can translate into a friendship.

“University is really a place to find yourself, and start over in a sense. I’ve learned that you never know how good you are at something until you try it for the first time. Life in general is all about trial and error.”

A student takes in the view at Thorpe Cloud, Derbyshire

A long way from home

Sam is not the first Chikowore to study in Derby. His aunt completed a masters here and she recommended us to Sam. “She really enjoyed it here,” he says.

Sam then found out more about us at one of our Meet Us In Your Country events in Zimbabwe. But, he says: “I got most of my information from the University of Derby website. That's how I found out about the Joint Honours scheme and I liked the idea of being able to study two subjects at the same time."

And we were so impressed by Sam that we awarded him our Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship, paying his first year of tuition fees. It took him a bit by surprise. "When I got the email, I thought: What? Me? I thought it was a prank at first. I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe it for two days."

Sam also says that, since he arrived in Derby, our International Student Centre has been a great help. He says: “They help you integrate into student life, giving you pointers on setting up your bank account, when to go to lectures, providing you with maps etc.

“I feel like I've settled in pretty well. I'm still adjusting to the cold weather obviously but I'm starting to find my space here, starting to grow into it. It has been challenging moving away from friends and family but you have to put yourself out there and embrace the experience.”

‘We believe in you’

Our Joint Honours scheme was particularly attractive to Sam because it allowed him to study Business Management and Geology – with Geological Society accreditation.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I had an offer,” he says. “My family were really happy for me. Now Derby’s got a place in my heart. I feel like it’s a place that’s given me a chance and like they’ve said ‘we believe in you’.

“Now I think I believe in myself a lot more. When you start and you get introduced to this whole new world of learning and deadlines, ways of handing in work, you just think ‘Oh wow, we’re going to fail at this’ but it’s surprising how much you adapt and get in tune with the system.”

And he says his tutors have helped him to adapt to the pressures of university life. In fact, he is surprised at how relaxed it is. “It’s not really intense or in your face, it just sort of flows,” he says. “When you think of university, you think of constant pressure and deadlines, but it feels more manageable than I expected it to be.

“You get support from your personal tutors, who are pushing you to help you achieve but who also appreciate that you are under pressure. Communication from lecturers is clear and easy to access. As a Joint Honours student, it's great having lecturers from two different disciplines because you get two perspectives.”

Melissa, Joint Honours student

Combine two subjects

If you love more than one subject or want a broader degree, Joint Honours could be for you.

View Joint Honours optionsView Joint Honours options

We’re ‘dynamite’

Sam is from a mining background and he is thinking about getting a job in the mining industry when he graduates.

“Coming to Derby will definitely be a career boost, with the Geological Society accreditation, and I’ve noticed Derby is climbing up the league tables,” he says. “I think employers seeing Derby on my CV will raise eyebrows in a positive way and make them want to employ me.

“When people think of Derby, they think of a small city, they might think that the University is small. But dynamite comes in small packages.

“Derby’s a really good place to study, I’ve had nothing but good experiences here. If you’re looking for a really relaxed, but vibrant university, you should come here. Be prepared to pack some really warm clothes as well!”

A student doing archery

Scholarships and discounts for international students

We have a range of scholarships and discounts available to students from outside the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA).

Find out more about scholarships for international studentsFind out more about scholarships for international students