Five steps to success as an international STEM student

STEM International Students

The early excitement of going to an international university can soon fade when you find yourself immersed in a confusing new culture, but fitting in is more straightforward than you might think. At Proprep, we want to help you make the most of your experience, so here are our top tips for feeling at home on campus.

Allow for culture shock

The biggest challenge for many international students is getting used to a new education system and the general UK mentality. While culture shock is totally normal, it’s important to make sure you feel supported, so try and find out what programmes are uniquely tailored to international students at your university.

You’ll probably want to befriend other international students – they’ll be able to empathise with your culture shock struggle and help you work through it. Search for uni Facebook groups (they’ll often have one specifically for foreign students) or groups for international STEM students, so you can discuss any questions you have with people who’ll understand. However, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and making an effort with peers from the UK is an amazing way to help you integrate.

Focus on your language skills

As tempting as it is to avoid speaking English when you don’t feel sure of yourself, power through the shyness as much as possible. Every interaction, whether with a friend, a stranger, or a lecturer, is an opportunity to practise your language skills, so try and push yourself to talk – you’ll be so grateful in the long run. Expressing yourself more and more fluently will help you become more confident and improve all your communication skills.

Read as much as possible in English. In particular, things like textbooks, papers, and academic research will help you understand how to write to the standards of your university. If you think you might need some extra help, look out for language classes on your campus. There are also apps you can download to improve your English in a fun and engaging way, like FluentU.

Get to grips with your lectures

Even if you’re fluent in English, it might be hard to get used to native speakers at the beginning. Aside from the fact that people will probably be talking faster than you’re used to, there’s the added stress of hearing regional accents, colloquialisms, and slang in everyday conversations. 

Proprep’s video tutorials are created for your exact university, so the content is synchronised with your syllabus. If you don’t manage to catch everything your lecturer says, you can use our learning resources to catch up – reducing your academic stress, and improving your understanding of challenging material.

Having this support at your fingertips means you can cover content in your own time and at your own pace. You can pause the videos as you go and rewatch them as many times as you want, helping you tackle tougher subject areas with confidence and giving you countless opportunities to practise.

Students studying Math

Photo credit:, Shutterstock 

Build your confidence in class

Living in a new country and feeling that you aren’t quite there with the language can also lead to shyness in the lecture hall. Try not to let this hold you back; be brave and ask as many questions as you need. Ask your professor to speak a little slower if they have an accent that you don’t understand or are talking too quickly.

If you miss a topic in your lectures, using our personalised system of STEM video learning content and study guides can help you review key notes and fill in your knowledge gaps. You can then go over this material with your peers, and this will help improve both your confidence in the subject and your language proficiency.

Use Proprep

Whatever you study, wherever you study, we’ve got your back to help you thrive at uni. Our online video tutorials and other resources are on hand to provide much-needed support, and you can test your understanding with our thousands of practice exercises. Setting up an account is quick, simple, and free for the first two weeks – so click here to learn more and get started!