Aberdeen, also known as the oil and gas city of Europe is home to many prominent universities like the University of Aberdeen, and RGU (Robert Gordon University) amongst others which attract thousands of International Students.
An International Student from Nigeria shares his study experience so far and this is what he has to say about studying in Aberdeen.
What are your names?
Ajinatswen Agbu Dawuda
What is your country of origin?
Why did you choose Aberdeen, Scotland as your study destination?
I got a scholarship
What exactly do you study there and why did you choose that course?
Electrical Engineering (Renewable Energy). I chose the course because of my background and work experience back home. Also because of my future plans.
What do you enjoy most about studying in this country?
It is my relationship with my supervisors that I enjoy most. I can contact them freely at any time through email and they are always accessible. I also have the liberty to re-schedule meetings whenever such meetings are not convenient as initially scheduled.
What do you hate most about studying in Aberdeen?
The structure of Ph.D. research here is stressful, especially at the University I attend. You are left to yourself from start to finish, with your supervisors only guiding you but not necessarily making inputs and helping solve some academic challenges when they arise. Well, that may be common with all PhD students globally but in other places, PhD students start by taking courses in classes before research unlike here where from day 1 it is research.
How much does it cost to study your course in Aberdeen?
I am on a fully funded scholarship but I understand that my tuition is £20,000 per session but those that will come from next session (2023/24) will pay £24,860 (Engineering Research).
Do International Students require insurance while studying there?
Students require Health Insurance and they pay that during the Visa application process. It is paid even before the visa is issued.
As a student, how do you meet up with your living expenses?
My scholarship covers my basic living expenses. International students can study and work (up to 20 hours during term time and full-time off term time).
How are study materials like textbooks, handouts, and information resources obtained? Or how are study materials accessed?
I access my study materials through the University library and from journals that University has subscribed to, giving us free access. However, there are a few instances where I have to pay for some study materials by myself.
How do International Students send or receive money? Are any limitations imposed?
There are different means by which international students can send or receive money. Personally, I have used “Lemonade” and “Ohentpay”. I also have a Dollar Account in my country with a Debit card, so sometimes money can be deposited in the account back home for me to use here (using my debit card).
Can you describe what accommodation is like for students? or what are the possible kinds of accommodation arrangements available to students to minimize cost?
Student accommodations are available in different forms – by University or privately. Then there are private flats that students can also lease. I lived in one of the privately owned student accommodations (Farmers Hall Lodge) for 5 months before leaving for a private flat. Usually, the University-owned accommodations are more expensive and less conducive but the difficulty of leasing a private flat (where guarantors and deposits are required) makes some students just settle for the university-owned accommodations – usually very easy to lease. A site that is helpful for student accommodation now is Spare Room where students can arrange to share flats.
Are there any negatives or things you wish you had known before going to study there? What is life generally like?
Personally, I made a lot of inquiries before coming to Aberdeen but there are still some “negatives” that if I was aware of maybe I would have changed my mind about coming to Aberdeen – the stress at the University of Aberdeen and the limited jobs in the city compared to other places in England. But as a child of God, I see things differently, that is my consolation.
What was your experience with culture shock in this country and how did you navigate it?
Well, I did my Master’s in Japan and was there for 3 years. That was my first experience with culture shock and when I finally came out of it, I was prepared for life with people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Therefore, the culture shock here did not really get to me. I was just surprised at how students call their lecturers by their first names freely, this is still strange to me and I don’t think I will do that.
What is it like studying here post-pandemic? How has this affected you as an international student? And also what has generally changed for international students?
I was not here pre-pandemic so I may not be able to say much. I heard from those that were here before the pandemic that they now have more liberty – they can study from home and attend meetings virtually.
STUDYING IN ABERDEEN – DOCUMENT PROCESSING
Can you describe what the visa application process was like from your home country?
Mine was handled by my Sponsor, I was only given the form to complete and attach the necessary documents and then go for biometrics.
After admission, how long does it take to obtain a visa and what are the things to be noted?
After admission, the University needs to see that you can pay your fees by asking that the student makes a deposit of tuition fees (or show proof of scholarship) then they can issue the CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) that will be used for Visa application. I don’t know if the process is different for undergraduate students.
What is the duration of your student visa and how often do you need to get it renewed?
My visa was issued based on my course duration – 3 years. I will only ask for a renewal if I can’t graduate within 3 years and the renewal will be based on the extension of my studies that the University will grant me.
What happens to a student if their visa isn’t renewed?
They will be asked to leave the UK by the home office (with a particular deadline)
What are the consequences of overstaying your student visa?
Deportation, subsequent denial of visa by the UK and even other countries.
STUDYING IN ABERDEEN – LIFESTYLE
What kind of places do you think foreign students should avoid to guarantee their safety?
Well, I don’t know much about places that are unsafe here as my triangle most times is University-home-church besides shopping and work.
How do you commute to school and could you describe the transportation system and what are the best ways to commute?
I walk to the University. Students can use buses or bicycles.
What is the cost of living there compared to your home country and what are the things you consider cheap or expensive? Eg Food etc
The cost of living here is way higher than that of my home country. For example, my rent for one month here can pay for an equivalent space in my country for one year. Food is also more expensive here compared to my country.
What are the requirements for opening an account and why is it important to have a bank account?
My University gives a letter of introduction to banks for account opening purposes. That makes it so easy for us. It is very important to have a bank account because most transactions are cashless (by bank transfers or cards). Also when one starts working, payments are made only through bank accounts. Bank statements are also used sometimes for checks by potential employers.
What important things must international students remember when choosing a service provider eg Telecom, Energy, etc?
I think the cost and efficiency of the service providers. It is very important to make inquiries from people who have lived here for a while to help make informed decisions.
What are the local students like? In your opinion, is it easy to make friends with the locals?
At the PhD level, I can say it is easy and not easy. It depends on your personality and what you want. Most times we are busy and have no time to really make friends especially if we have friends in other places – like church, fellow countrymen, etc
Now that you are already here, what are your thoughts about studying here?
I am taking it as it is, doing my best to maximize it, and focusing on the positives.
What advice can you give to a prospective International Student who desires to come here for studies? what must they know before deciding to embark on this journey?
They should be aware of the accommodation process and secure a place before leaving their country. They should not think there are jobs readily available for them when they come so they should come financially prepared as if they will be here for 6 months before they start working. They should also not think studying and living here is easy, so they need to mentally prepare themselves to be diligent here and also prepare to prioritize studies over looking for money (working).
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