Guide for first year Greek students in the UK

by Ioanna Constantinou

Editor's note

Several thousands of Greek students attend various university and college courses abroad and every year many join those who get university places outside Cyprus and Greece. This short guide is intended to raise the awareness of young students as  to what they should expect and what  they should do or not do during their early days of arrival in the UK or in other major cities abroad.  Ioanna Constantinou wrote this valuable guide based on her own experiences and those around her in London but no doubt it will be useful for students elsewhere. It provides, I believe,  valuable first hand information which may be of use to many young people planning to study abroad.

The Nostos Editor.

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The Guide

Step 1: Make yourself comfortable

It may not seem like it, but this is the beginning of the best 3 years of your life (or 4 if you are one of the lucky ones). When I first arrived in England I thought that I was doomed. English weather is not exactly famous for its sunshine or warmth; and neither are the English people. Everything seemed so dark and depressing. I was counting the days one by one until the Christmas holidays and I was constantly making phone calls to every single name that existed in my phone book. No use, take my word on that. The only result was the longest phone bill that was ever sent by the one2one company, and the reduction of my fatherís hair to zero. Thus the only comfort left was the pictures of all the people I knew that were hanging from the wall above my bed. Believe me you donít need to run to a shrink when you start talking to them as if they were real. And NO, you donít need a psychiatrist even when you start talking to yourself in the shower. Itís just that you need to meet some people and then you will realise that everyone is in the same gutter.

Step 2: Meet as many new people as possible

Donít be surprised if by the middle of your second year you canít remember the names of half of your new best friends, but believe me, knowing as many people as possible allows you to choose those that suit you best and those that will become your true friends for the rest of your life. Being surrounded by people that are going through the same phase as you are, keeps you busy and makes you feel better about yourself: you are NOT the only one who feels ready to cry every time you receive a call from home.

Step 3: Go to ALL the parties you are invited to (and to the ones that youíre not)

It gives you the chance to wear the new clothes you bought as soon as you arrived in the country and -trust me- this is a positively mood-changer. (NOTE: this applies to guys too!) This will get you noticed by the opposite sex and Ėwho knows- you may not feel so lonely any more!

Step 4: Memorise this- First year doesnít count for your degree!

Okay thatís not entirely true but generally as long as you attend your lectures on a regular basis (which does not mean once a month!!!!!) youíll be fine. Hence, concentrate on adjusting yourself to your new environment, which will help you concentrate on your degree in the following years.

Step 5: Donít be a snob!

Non-Greeks have the disadvantage of not being Greek, but, if you get to know them you may soon realise that other cultures are quite OK and you may even learn something as well. The best part is that you may have free accommodation around the world for your summer holidays; or, you may even learn how to dance the samba! What is more important to realise as soon as possible, is that bitchy gossip is unavoidable when people form cliques and nobody can escape it no matter what. So stay calm, ignore it, and avoid them (the all-Greek type of cliques). After all you want to meet new things and get yourself into new adventures.

Step 6: Be open-minded

Do not judge anything negatively or positively without being sure that you know it first. If you donít know it, try it or meet it Ėcautiously of course- and then draw your conclusions. After all, the strongest advantage of being alone abroad is that you have the chance to refute all the taboos that we inherit from the previous generations or from the society we were brought into. And the truth Ėbitter as it might be- is that our little society is not the most liberated of them all. So give a break to new things and new people and you will realise that by the end of this experience, whatever you end up believing in, and whatever your moral values have turned out to be, they will be stronger than anything youíve known before; and thatís because you will have found them on your own and they will have derived from your own personal experiences.

Step 7: Enjoy yourselves

London at this time is the place where everything new initiates from; either this is music, fashion, art, cultureÖThis is your only chance to visit venues, clubs, museums, galleries that are unique in their kind. And even if you donít live there, take the weekend off and visit it. Itís just a few hours (and a few pounds) away from anywhere. Make yourself a favour and have a good time.

PS.: Overdraft

Most probably, by the end of your studies, overdraft will have become an extension of your student account; but, be cautious with it because there will arrive that cursed day when your parents will have to find out. Hence, do not underestimate your motherís trahanas and give it a place in your hand-back for those days when your account has surpassed all limits and the bank is ready to confiscate your stereo with the next bounced check from Pizza-Hut.

Ioanna Constantinou