Guest blog: International PG student

We are delighted that our blog this week is a guest blog written by Yiyang Gao who is a current PGR student. She will be talking about living in accommodation and coming to the University of Exeter as an International postgraduate student.

Greetings from Yiyang, a first year PhD student doing Advanced Quantitative Methods at SSIS. This is a blog to share my experience of living in student residence as an international student.

How do I feel about my accommodation?
I have been living in a standard single room since September 2018 and so far, found myself enjoying my stay very much. And here’s why:

  • Budget: A standard single room usually costs under £120.00 per week which is incredibly reasonable for university students.
  • Location: It takes me 15 minutes to walk to the city centre, and 6 minutes to walk to the Forum.
  • Facilities: My flat mates and I share two toilets and three showers together, so it is not likely to be crowded.  A sink is provided in each bedroom. My single room is spacious enough to allow me to put the yoga mat on the carpet for morning exercise.
  • Cleaning service: Shared areas, including toilets, bathrooms and the dining kitchen, are cleaned by professional staff on a regular basis. But I have found my flat mates and I usually clean any mess made by ourselves, and we keep our own stuff in cupboard when not using it.
  • Environment: I have even made good friends with the squirrels living in the surrounding wood!

How is the social life in self-catered standard accommodation?
Our spacious communal kitchen has provided opportunities for international students like me to be more engaged in multi-cultural communities. There are quite a few benefits living in self-catered accommodation:

  • Students across stages and disciplines:  We have found it interesting to learn more about others’ syllabus, daily life on campus and home culture. All of us can benefit from the information exchange among undergraduates, master and PhD students. 
  • Time balance: My flat mates and I have found effective ways to keep the balance between eating well, saving time and saving money after several tries. Usually we prepare dinner and the next day’s lunch together at around 6pm. Lunch can be heated in microwave ovens near DH2 (near Italiano Pizza) in the Forum or the Law School in Amory.
  • Update your menus: Cooking or having dinner at the same time is an excellent opportunity to update your menus! My flat mates and I have shared our recipes which enables us to be skillful in Indonesian, Greek, Mexican and Chinese food.
  • Meal package for self-catered students: What if we are too busy with assignments and have no time for shopping and cooking? No worries! Catered halls, including Lopes Hall which is just a two-minute walk from my residence, offers a great value meal package of 7 Buffet style meals for only £25.00. This works out at only £3.50 for each meal! My flat mates also go to Lopes Hall together for dinner.
  • Small talks, big impacts: We share how we spend the day while preparing meals, and watch YouTube together while having dinner which is one of the most relaxing moments during the day. Those communications have brought a great sense of connection, especially during exams and around deadlines. We have found small talk, as a part of peer mental support, effectively reduces anxieties and pressure, as we know everyone struggles and we are not fighting alone.
  • Create unique memories with a friendly budget: Living in self-catered halls could also help you save money in other ways beyond the reasonable accommodation fee. Going to outside events all the time may cost a lot, but this would not be a problem if you plan events with your flat mates in the kitchen! My flat mates and I have already celebrated the tradition of Chinese Mid-Autumn Day last September when most of us started in Exeter, and the team-building-like atmosphere made everyone get closer in a short time! Such a gathering seldom costs much, since drinks, food and snacks can be bought from the supermarket in advance. We also just had our Hot Pot party to celebrate Chinese Spring Festival which was a truly fantastic night.

To conclude, it is highly recommended for international students to choose self-catered accommodation which could be helpful with socialising and budget!

Guest Blogger:  Yiyang Gao

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