Don’t get me started on being an international student

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Image courtesy of Berenika Balcer

I’m from completely unoriginal Poland. The reasons why I study at Lancaster could be fascinating, but they aren’t. My first choice asked me to retake IELTS so they would maybe consider my application. I don’t spend money on “maybe”, so here I am. But I don’t regret it at all.

On one of my first days in Lancaster I asked my flatmate where and how I could buy a bus ticket. “Bus ticket” was one of the basic words I learnt in kindergarten. But he asked: “what is it?” That was the moment I decided I would go home sooner than I thought.

Being an international student can seem interesting. It’s quite badass, like having a superpower because you have ambition enough to study in a foreign place and enough strength to stay and deal with the British. No offence.

You’re going to face a lot of awkward moments, but you can always say the magic words “I’m not from here” and instead converse about your worldly adventures. But that’s providing you can stutter “I’m not from here” in English. And what is more difficult is being able to understand the whole palette of bizarre accents. I have a friend who I met during Freshers’ Week and only started understanding after five months. Until then I was mostly smiling and nodding, hoping he didn’t ask me a question.

Having international friends is fun. Studying abroad is fun. Studying abroad while you’re already abroad is probably funnier. But all of us know the cost of fun, especially when you count it in pounds. While back home they think you’re rich like Oprah, you know that given the state of your bank account you belong in Benefits Street. Your relationship with pounds is painful. Even with only five left in your wallet, you know you’re going to spend them on the entrance to Dalton Rooms (don’t judge me, you’ve been there too).

As an international student, the airport becomes your second home and you’re overly familiar with their Wi-Fi. I came here with huge and heavy bags. Going back home for the summer, I had to pay thirty pounds for excess luggage (I love you too, Ryanair).

My flight back home takes only a few hours, so it’s not a big deal, but not being able to go home anytime I want, as – to clarify – I’m not as rich as Oprah, can be hard. You miss your dog. And parents maybe. The closer it is to Christmas, the more you want to go home. And then there’s a miserable someone else who will tell you they haven’t been home for three weeks.

But time flies so fast that you must remember not to waste it. Having international friends is exciting, and not building a wall of national pride around you is recommended: be flexible when it comes to meeting new people. Just try not to throw a map into anyone’s face when they show for the millionth time their complete lack of geographical knowledge. Poland does border Germany.