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Wednesday 21 January 2015

A view of Solent from an international student

Around 20% of all students in UK higher education come from other countries, with many of those choosing to study at Southampton Solent University. As the New Year begins, we thought it would be a good idea to collate some of these stories to share over the next few months, many of which are a source of inspiration and encouragement.

So what’s life really like for international students?

Naif Yanbuawi is now in his third year of his Business Management course, currently wrestling with project management and Prince2, but looking forward to graduating with an honours degree in the summer of 2015.

Naif Yanbuawi is a third year Business Management student from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Born in the second biggest city in Saudi Arabia, Naif spent his formative years in Jeddah on the Red Sea coast going to school in 45 degree heat. He began learning English at 9 years old.  However, the English that he had learned at school needed improving, and although he had spent several years studying the language at school, he still found himself unable to communicate it well.

So, in his last year of secondary school, Naif made the life changing decision to come to the UK in order to improve his English. It was a family friend who recommended he come to Southampton, where he could attend a local English language school (Lewis School) with the long term view of enrolling on a business course here at Solent University.

And so it was that Naif, accompanied by his friend (now a masters graduate from Southampton Solent University) arrived on English soil for the first time on a wet and blustery day in 2010.

Equipped with the crucial vocabulary of ‘yes’, ‘no’ and not a lot else, Naif still managed to make it clear to the accommodation office that sharing a house with a dog was unacceptable. Having successfully negotiating this cultural faux pas, Naif found himself safely ensconced with a more suitable host family who were to present him, on his 18th birthday, with his first experience of  both English family life and snow.

2010 proved to be one of the coldest winters on record.

A year of anxious Skyping back home, and a couple of host families later, Naif finally moved with a friend to Woolston to live with another host, Mike. In his late 70’s, Mike proved to be a mine of information.  He listened to Naif’s presentations, offered advice on his essay structure and always ensured that Naif practiced his English speaking skills with animated discussions concerning the respective merits of Southampton FC and FC Barcelona long in to the evening.

Memorising five to ten pieces of vocabulary per day, he passed his IELTS 5.5 course with flying colours, which paved the way for a Foundation course in Business Management at Solent University. It was, he reflects now, a “most beautiful year!”

Not knowing how to structure an essay,  he initially found the course very stressful. Teaching in Saudi Arabia is much more teacher-led whereas the emphasis on self study, group work and conducting research at Solent presented themselves as a steep mountain to climb at first.

He frequented our Learning Skills office to grapple with the now familiar skills of referencing, research and essay writing, and slowly but surely these skills began to develop. By the end of the foundation course he had a firm grasp on the principles of learning and academic skills, and was able to embark on his degree course with confidence:

“Everything that we covered in the foundation course came up again in my first, second and third years”.

And so, Naif now finds himself on the cusp of becoming an Honours graduate! With the stress of final dissertation and examinations finally over in the summer, it will be time to relax: spending some time on the Red Sea coast, enjoying the cool ocean breezes and reuniting with family and friends…right?

Well with the words “Don’t come back until you have a Masters!” ringing in his ears, we think relaxation might be unlikely.