International student Oliva moved to Aberdeen to study a master’s at RGU. She shares how she took advantage of the support at RGU to adapt to her new environment, and how the university’s support services helped her academically and personally.
Moving abroad to study at RGU
Hi! I’m Oliva Sanchez, originally from Mexico City and currently living in Aberdeen. I did my undergraduate degree back in Mexico in Biotechnology Engineering a few years ago and worked for 6 years in the chemical industry. I decided to further develop my career by pursuing a postgraduate degree abroad because I always wanted to study in another country.
Finding the programme for a master’s degree in Public Health and Health Promotion at RGU excited me. I would finally be able to follow my dream of being a public health practitioner at a great university. I researched Aberdeen City, and although it seems small (at least compared to Mexico City), I was eager to embrace this beautiful city’s international student life.
Leaving home and quitting my job was a hard decision but one I don’t regret. Hard decisions usually take you towards your best days, and this one sure did. If I’m honest, I bought my plane ticket two weeks before coming to Aberdeen and prepared my one-year suitcase two days before my flight!
Adapting to a new culture and education system
It was hard to adapt during my first weeks here because, coming from a different country, I had a bit of a culture shock. The food, the people, the buildings, the weather, everything was so different, and I didn’t know anyone yet. I started my course in January, when most students were already mid-course, making it a bit more challenging. Still, as I mentioned, this city is full of international students. It was just a matter of time before I met all these great people!
At first, I also struggled because I did my undergraduate degree so long ago. I wasn’t used to reading and studying, doing exams and homework. I had to completely readapt to school life. My friends back home had told me the education system in Mexico is very different from the UK. Still, it wasn’t until I experienced it that I understood what they meant.
Doing a postgraduate degree at RGU requires a lot of self-study, as opposed to Mexico, where most of the studying is done during class, with the downside that you have to attend more lectures. As time went by, I got used to that way of studying, with the support at RGU.
Obtaining a wide range of support at RGU
RGU has many ways of supporting its students. Firstly, I’m sure I would’ve struggled more without the help of Study Skills. The team offers free academic resources that helped me regain confidence in writing essays. I had the chance to improve my English language skills and study efficiently.
I also asked for advice on how I could make new friends after missing the Refreshers Fayre due to health-related issues. Lastly, I enrolled in the Student Buddy Scheme and met this great PhD Law student whom I talked with each week while settling in. She told me so much about the university and the city, the kind of advice you don’t get on websites, which I appreciated.
Even before starting my course, the ResLife team helped me while looking for accommodation. They advised me on how to detect scams, shared web pages I could browse through, and gave me information on student accommodation in general. Now I live with an awesome roommate and can get to RGU by taking the bus just one block from home!
And then, when classes started, I met international students from various backgrounds. I felt fortunate to be part of a big student cohort that shared the same interest in health as I did. I also met this Brazilian classmate who is now my best friend in Aberdeen.
Reflecting on my experience
I have used all the resources RGU has to offer, and I’m happy I did because universities and the education system back in my country didn’t provide that. The way RGU thinks of you as a person who may need academic and personal support is excellent. I am very thankful for the support I received at RGU, and that everyone is polite and helpful when you have questions or concerns.
Of course, I miss Mexican food and sometimes the weather, although I’m starting to grow fond of rainy and cloudy days where I can get a cup of hot chocolate with my friends. However, I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful city, get to the beach after a 30-minute walk, run in a park, and be just a bus stop away from fantastic castles or hiking spots.
The cultural shock I experienced when I first got to Aberdeen lasted for a few months. Still, the experience of studying abroad and meeting all these great people from other countries made it easier. Today I am proud to call Aberdeen my home.