International Student of the Year award winner
Akanimo Odon, winner of the International Student of the Year Award, talks about his time in the UK as a postgraduate student
Following his graduation with a Masters in Environmental Rehabilitation from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, 26-year-old Nigerian student Akanimo Odon is now studying for his PhD at Lancaster University. Here, Akan gives us his personal view of life as an international student in the UK:
"Before I came to study in the UK I wasn't a hundred per cent sure what to expect. I thought there was a chance that I'd struggle to settle down after arriving from Nigeria, but that just hasn't been the case. I've been made to feel so welcome and I think it's great that people in the UK are respected for who they are, rather than where they're from.
One of the big differences I noticed straight away was that there's much less hustle and bustle here than at home.
In the UK the whole infrastructure is in place - everything is orderly - and it allows you to concentrate on your studies. If you need help with anything, it's always clear who you need to speak to and there's always someone willing to point you in the right direction. Everything's well organised and it's great to have that support in place.
There's definitely a difference in the way that subjects are taught too. I'm studying a science, but instead of my course being purely theoretical, I'm expected to put everything I learn into practice. It can be quite daunting when you first realise that you're going to have to get used to working in laboratories and operating machinery that you've never even seen before, but it's amazing how quickly you get used to it all. Learning in an environment like this does help you to visualize the various theories you're studying, and the fact that I've now got all this practical experience will definitely help me when I come to do further research or get a job.
The other main difference I've found while studying in the UK is that I'm much more independent here. At home I would depend on my teachers to come to a lecture and provide all of the notes, but here there's much more discussion, much more reading on my own, and I am making all my own course notes.
Learning like this helps you get to grips with independent study - something you need to be able to cope with if you are going to do further research.
I think universities in the UK give you all the guidance you need, but at the end of the day, you have much more freedom to explore your subject for yourself.
From my point of view, the other main benefit to studying in the UK is that I think my future is much more secure. In Nigeria, there's a gap between the universities and industry but here, a company can sponsor you while you're studying. To know that once you graduate you should be able to get a job boosts your confidence and it definitely helped me to focus on my studies.
It's amazing how many different opportunities are open to me here in Lancaster. Even though I'm a scientist I've still been able to take a creative writing course, work as a carer in a residential home, join societies, set up an international service through my church and play football and tennis.
Studying, working, writing, clubs, societies, sports… I just wish there were a few extra hours in the day so that I could squeeze in even more!"