How to handle culture shock as an International Student in Aberdeen

RGU welcomes students from 153 countries, so if you feel a bit lost after moving from your home country to Aberdeen, you’re probably not the only one! Experiencing culture shock is perfectly normal but there are some things you can do to settle in and make sure you have the best time possible at university. International student Unwana share her top tips to handle culture shock.

My culture shock experience

As an international student, it can be daunting moving to a new country, especially when the culture is completely different from what you’re used to.

I moved from Nigeria to Scotland in November 2021 to study for a Master’s in Architecture. It was a bit difficult to connect with the environment as the world was still recovering from the pandemic. Some classes were remote, making it hard to build a relationship with my course mates.

This was also my first time experiencing Scottish culture. It was hard for me to blend in because as an introvert, I got used to people starting conversations with me, but that was not the case in Scotland. It went on for a few weeks until I got tired of the silence.

I reminded myself that I’m in a new environment and things are done differently here. The truth is, you never really enjoy a place to the fullest if you don’t understand its culture. So, I kept an open mind about it. I started observing things, listened to the things people loved to talk about and got ideas on how to handle certain issues. I must say, it was a bit challenging before I could get the hang of it.

If you are an international student struggling to handle this new environment, here is what I would suggest:

1. Keep an open mind

It is a new phase and you want to make the most out of it. You intend to build new connections and jump at good opportunities. Do not try to push your opinions on people. This is not only place-specific, it’s respecting people and their perception of things. Learn to live and let live; that way you will attract more friends.

2. Learn and abide by the government laws

Obviously, being aware of the laws and respecting them is essential to settle in a new country. You can learn UK laws by visiting the government website or using the Ask RGU option on MYRGU to ask questions.

One of the laws to keep in mind while you’re studying here is giving priority for vulnerable individuals everywhere you go. When you get on the bus, look out for the priority seats. These seats are meant for the disabled, pregnant and elderly, and are tagged accordingly. The same thing applies to car parks and building entrances.

3. Ask questions as often as you need to

One benefit you get to enjoy at RGU is getting swift responses to your questions. If you are confused about anything, you can use Ask RGU to ask questions, get help and obtain advice. You can also reach out to other students, school staff, or go to the Student Help Point.

4. Be intentional

Social life in the UK is quite different from other countries. This means that you have to be intentional about it. Your course mates won’t learn to know you if you don’t give them the opportunity to. So, walk up to them and engage in a conversation. It does not have to be a long one; just something to give an open platform for potential friendship.

I remember how awkward it felt to talk to my course mates at first. I thought they would not like me because I was a transfer student in my course who didn’t know anyone. But I kept talking to them. I would ask different people questions every day no matter how irrelevant the questions sounded. In a few weeks, I felt more included.

5. Join clubs or find people who come from your home country

There are many student clubs, societies, and networks for you to join at RGU. Find one that you’re interested in and give it a go! Alternatively, you could make friends with people who come from similar environments, or share a similar culture. That would help make you feel at home.


Joining a society is a great way to meet new friends at uni 🙌🏼 Which one would you want to join? Find out more about life at RGU at Open Day on 19 November 💜 #rgu #aberdeen #openday #societies

♬ original sound – Robert Gordon University

6. Read your emails

This is one way to get the most out of RGU. You get notifications about career events, announcements, or scheduled changes in any area of the university. Every Monday, you receive a newsletter called The Bulletin which keeps you up-to-date with all things RGU.

7. Attend events organised by RGU

RGU organises different events, from career fairs to fun gatherings such as the RGU Vision Song Contest. You can seize this opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds. The first international friend I made was during an Open Day for prospective undergraduate students. She was from India and it was refreshing to ask about her culture and having her be excited to answer my questions.

8. Most of all, have fun

As much as you came to university to study, you need to have fun too. Do not forget, you need a little fun to look after your mental health. Organise hangouts with friends, go sightseeing, or go to the cinema once in a while. It will help you balance your study life.

Starting university in a new environment can be overwhelming, but you could try these few tips. I hope they help you or give you a clue on how to handle this new chapter of your life.


Related blogs

How to make Aberdeen your home away from home as an international student

How support at RGU helped me settle in after moving from Mexico

International students: Things to sort out after arriving in the UK

2 responses to “How to handle culture shock as an International Student in Aberdeen”

  1. Hi. I was in RGU 2014/2015. I went for my MSc Management. It was quite exciting and challenging. Because of age factor, l was loved and cared by many students and resource persons. I never kept my quite and cool. I had a nice study environment and l made an a distinction grade. Thanks to my lecturers and the RGU serine environment. Socially l miss a lot because the course work and the Turnitin made life difficult for me. I never had the expected cultural shock, not a bit. Aberdeen was just cool and friendly as well. Love it all! Bye.

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