Vision’s International Survival Guide: ‘Students in the UK drink a lot…’

What is hard to remember, and even harder to apply when studying abroad is actually, the single greatest piece of advice anyone can give you. You are not here to create a miniature model of your home country. You are here to explore, to experiment, to learn. You should restrain the running comparison in your head to always end with the re-establishment of what you think you already know; we do everything right at home. Because, no matter where you’re from, you are wrong.

The easiest way to fall into the trap of the vicious circle of patriotic reassurance is by choosing your friends based on cultural likeness. I’m Greek, and being Greek means I know how to party, to have fun and even sometimes to contemplate life, often to the point of ridiculous pretentiousness. I also know that other Greek people are very apt in doing these things as well. Naturally, my first few months of uni I hung out with the people I thought were like me the most. The “Greek people” as my flatmates always called us. It was whilst on a PEP trip to Amsterdam when my worst fear came to life. Having no choice but to interact with non-Greeks, I was forced to realise that they were every bit as intelligent, funny and entertaining as I could’ve wished. And I am happy to admit that my life has been enriched by their presence. The English have taught me a politeness unheard of in the Mediterranean. The French have acquainted me with the secrets of gourmet cuisine. The Indians have showed me the importance of a balanced life. I could go on for pages, but you get the point.

Since we are on the subject of people, you mustn’t neglect the ones you’ve left behind. It is easy to miss a Skype call or two, and easier to feel content with the life you’re building for yourself in uni. But, if not for anything else but to avoid awkward encounters when returning home, you should try to keep in touch. This doesn’t mean calling them every day; a facebook chat now and then will suffice. I personally find that exchanging long inbox messages every week or so is the best way to be up to speed with how my friends are growing and living. As far as parents are concerned, if they’re anything like mine they will be very worried. I mean, VERY worried. Their baby has, after all, moved a couple timezones away. A feeling that is likely to result in incessant and untimely calling. So, get ahead of them. Ring them up every now and then if you have 5mins to yourself and you’ll see that they’ll stop calling you.

Possibly the most fun thing you’ll have to get used to in York is the drinking. Being an English city, and one of the North especially, people drink a lot. I have been known to down the occasional Jaggerbomb(s) but I’m not the biggest drinker on the block. Don’t feel pressured to drink more than you want. After all, it doesn’t matter how much fun you have if you can’t remember it. If you’re from a country where alcohol is ingrained in culture you’ll have no problem in finding the drunkedness sweet spot. If not, you’ll have to find it through trial and error. Although shots and hurling is a more accurate description of said process. At the same time, don’t be judgemental. Drinking isn’t a sign of weakness or frivolousness it’s just a way of having fun and you’ll find a way to make it work for you in time.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much of your home you take with you or how engulfed by the UK lifestyle you get. What’s important is for you to find a place where you’re comfortable outside of your comfort zone.