Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Creating a Welcoming Environment: How to Make an International Flatmate Feel at Home at University

University life often brings together students from various parts of the world. Data shows that, during the 2021/22 academic year, there were about 680,000 international students attending a university course in the UK.

With so many bright minds flying over to our country each year, you’re likely to share your student flat in Leeds, Bristol, or Newcastle with an international flatmate at some point. And welcoming them to their new home away from home is not only an act of kindness but also a precious opportunity to appreciate different cultures and enrich everyone’s university experience.

Abodus Student Living, an expert in providing homely student accommodation, shares tips on how to make international flatmates feel at home in a foreign environment.

Prepare meals together

One of the tastier benefits of sharing an apartment with a flatmate from abroad is that you can experiment in the kitchen.

Aaron Kirkwood, Interim Head of Sales & Marketing at Abodus Student Living, said: “Cooking traditional dishes from each other’s country can be a delicious way to bond over good, wholesome food.

“If you have a Chinese flatmate, you could tuck into some freshly-made dumplings together. Or if your housemate is from Italy, you could ask them to show you how to prepare an authentic carbonara.

“Showing an interest in international recipes and sharing meals with your new international friends can work wonders on their wellbeing. In fact, social eating can help beat feelings of loneliness and isolation, which are not that uncommon when moving to a new country for the first time.

“Likewise, you may want to consider putting on your own apron and chef’s hat. Dishing up a meal for your flatmates will make them feel welcomed and appreciated, and they are bound to be very grateful for it.

“Be mindful, however, of their dietary preferences or restrictions. For example, some people may have cultural dietary requirements, so be sure to stick to them to enjoy a happy meal together!”

Celebrate cultural festivals

As well as connecting over yummy dishes, another trick to make your international flatmates feel at home is to celebrate their own cultural holidays.

When moving to a foreign country, students may miss out on traditional festivities that are a special recurrence in their place of origin. And while they may not show it, they might feel sad about not being able to experience those unique moments with family and friends back home.

So, if you are aware of any cultural festival coming up, think about organising your own celebrations.

Whether it is the Brazilian Carnival or the end of Ramadan, making an effort to remember your flatmates’ cultural holidays will surely bring a smile to their faces. You can dress up in colourful clothes, set up a little banquet in your living room, or boogie to some traditional and folklore music.

This is the perfect way to learn more about different cultures and traditions while also creating fun and unforgettable memories.

Explore the local area

Once you’ve settled into your new accommodation, it is always a good idea to spend some time exploring the city and local area. Visit the attractions, parks, pubs, neighbourhoods, and venues – and don’t forget to ask your international housemate to tag along, too!

Moving to a new location is an exciting experience, but it can also be a bit daunting when you first arrive, and even more so if it is in a completely different country.

So, this is a great opportunity to discover the local community with your new pal and find out what the town has to offer. As you navigate its streets and locals, you can point out supermarkets and popular restaurants to your international mate, making it easier for them to know what’s where.

What’s more, you might want to organise a day trip to the countryside together. If your housemate has never been to the UK before, they might ignore the sandy beaches and rolling hills that make our country so beautiful and fascinating.

Share study tips

Education systems across the world operate in their own unique ways. From seminars and lectures to exams and grades, there may be a number of aspects that differ from other universities around the globe.

To help your international flatmate ease into university life and hit the ground running with their academic duties, think about providing them with study tips and sharing useful resources. For example, if their first exam is a written assignment, you may want to recommend a handy guide or talk them through what makes a good essay in the eyes of a British teacher.

You could also offer to check their drafts and highlight any obvious mistakes. Remember that, in most cases, English won’t be their first language, so there may be a few grammatical imperfections here and there.

Helping out your flatmates with their coursework, where possible, will increase their confidence and allow them to perform to the best of their ability. Likewise, if you need any support or advice, don’t hesitate to ask for their suggestions and opinions, too – they will be more than glad to give you a hand!

Be supportive and understanding

Living away from your family home can take its toll on your mental health.

While university life is usually busy, fun, and entertaining, there are moments when it all gets a bit much, and you start missing your parents, siblings, and friends. If you’re feeling this way, don’t worry – it’s completely normal! In fact, as many as 70% of freshers experience homesickness within a few days of joining university.

Sometimes, these sentiments might be even stronger and more frequent for international students, as the distance that separates them from their families is way larger.

So, if your flatmate is feeling under the weather, try to be supportive, patient, and understanding. Offer a listening ear and encourage them, if they feel like it, to let out their emotions.

And if you miss your loved ones and being back home, don’t be shy and let them know. This way, they will realise that you are all in the same boat and that feeling homesick from time to time is perfectly fine!

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Sources

https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/universities-uk-international/explore-uuki/international-student-recruitment/international-student-recruitment-data

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/eating_together

https://www.whatuni.com/advice/student-life/coping-with-homesickness-at-university/48326/