Student ambassadors' tips for starting your studies virtually

17 December 2020
Three students walk across campus together

Starting your studies may be an intimidating time, especially if you are studying online for the first time. Our student ambassadors, Tricia, Sara and Alanoud, have worked together to bring you a list of tips designed to help you get through the first few weeks of your International Study Centre experience. Read their recommendations here:

Being International Foundation Year students at the Cardiff University International Study Centre starting our first year of studies online, we would say it was a little overwhelming to manage at the beginning, with the time difference and new kinds of work we had to do.

Here, we have written some tips for international students, inspired by what we have learnt over the course of our first semester:

1. Get the proper equipment for online studies

Make sure you have a computer/laptop with stable internet access that supports Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate. A webcam and microphone is needed as well, and this is really important when you have breakout groups during lessons (if your laptop has a built-in camera and microphone, you do not need to purchase those additionally). Some teachers may want to see your face or hear you answer questions verbally, so be prepared!

2. Make an effort to join group chats

Once you have started your programme and settled in more, you can start exchanging numbers with classmates and begin interacting with them. You can create your own group chats, keep in touch and share your experiences studying the same programme. For example, we have a class Whatsapp group chat! Sometimes having classmates who you can share your challenges with, like homework and assignments, can help make some things easier. In our own experience, having a group chat helped us make friends and enjoy online studying a lot. Don't stress too much if you don't like socialising in this way with classmates – you can keep it simple and have casual relationships with classmates too.

3. Stick to your study schedule

Don’t worry about creating the perfect study schedule – it does not exist! Here are our suggestions for an effective timeplan for studying:

  • Ensure you know your class times in your local time zone, as the International Study Centre timetable is based on UK time.
  • Try out the first week of class before planning your schedule, to see how you adapt and work at different times of the day.
  • Gradually builf your schedule around the time you are comfortable doing work, as well as your lesson time and assignments deadlines.

4. Always ask questions

Being a first year student can be daunting, especially when you’re studying virtually. There are so many uncertainties and questions. Our tip: do not be afraid of asking questions. The Centre’s welfare officers are really friendly, and you can always drop an email to the relevant staff member to get your questions answered.

5. Try to participate in class

It’s best not go to class simply just to stare at the screen and hear your lecturer talk. During seminars, the lecturer will ask questions so always be prepared to answer, either in the chat or verbally on the call. You can also use this opportunity to ask any questions you have regarding the subject being taught if you are confused, and your classmates or lecturer will help you with it. In our seminars, we are often be placed in groups to discuss – that is the time where we get to hear or see our classmates! One fun thing our class did was use backgrounds for our Zoom meetings – lessons are never boring this way.

One final message we would like to tell you is: don’t worry, just go with the flow. You will slowly get used to the format of online lessons and using English on a daily basis. What is important is that you enjoy your time and participate in the different activities run by the Centre. Remember, university is not all about work, so have fun!