I’m an international student in Birmingham, these are my five biggest culture shocks

Move to the UK they said, it will be fun they said

As an international student, Birmingham university life feels like a sudden jump scare followed by a comedic stumble into a series of errors. “Move to the UK,” they said, “It will be fun,” they said, yet little did I know  I was signing up for plenty of rain. Being an international student at university is hard enough when you’re far from home, missing home-cooked meals and always hating the weather, but Selly Oak offers a different type of experience altogether, even for the home student. From the interesting smells when you walk down each street, or the random mornings where you wake up with no power and  every house alarm in the area is going off – it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. With such massive culture shocks to the whole UK experience, here are five things that every UoB international student can relate to.

1. Pubs? What even is that

It’s like a magical realm where people gather to socialize, imbibe questionable concoctions, and cheer on their favorite sports teams. Think of it as a restaurant with a personality disorder—here, we call them pubs, which are a more welcoming to annoying uni students who get too drunk too many times a week and yell at a TV screen. It’s a far cry from the civilized world of “sitting down restaurants”, and despite its perplexing charm, I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. Ah, the joys of the general uni experience!

2. Walking everywhere?

It’s like unintentional cardio, but with a side of exploration. Personally, I’ve logged more miles on foot in the last year and a half than I ever thought possible. Uber? expensive. Bus? A gamble. Train? Occasionally, when I’m feeling adventurous. But walking? That’s where the real action is. It’s an extreme sport disguised as a daily commute that everyone participates in, willingly or not, from home to uni or anywhere else.

3. Always the weather

Ahh, the eternal weather obsession, an English past time as old as time itself. The weather is the great balancer of conversation topics, come rain or shine, gloom or doom. Not to mention the wind, that cunning enemy out to destroy our perfectly styled hairstyles. Every day is a new adventure, it’s like playing the game “guess the weather today”, which most likely will change half way through the day. So even if it might be sunny and bright, when 2pm hits, it’s back to it’s usual moods.

4. Queues on queues

Brace yourself for the art of queuing, a skill that’s practically a degree in itself. The resilience of university students to wait in queues, especially if it’s for a nights out or free meal, continues to amaze me. One must become an expert at both complaining about the slow pace of the line and standing in line in order to be considered a true student.


5. Sports nights

Do I even need to explain? It’s the highlight of most student’s week. Sports night is the occasion when regrets are made and legends are born, thanks to the outrageous costumes and unrestrained partying. The wonderful things about being a student are that every night is an exciting new experience and every hangover is a badge of honour.

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