Moving to the University of Derby during COVID-19

Nicole Wootton-Cane
Nicole Wootton-Cane
Last Updated: 16 March 2021 • 8 min read

Moving to a new country to study is always an exciting but challenging experience, and this is especially true during a pandemic. 

Three students from Pakistan, Lithuania, and Vietnam share their experiences of moving from their home country to the University of Derby during COVID-19.

Osama’s story - from Pakistan to Derby

Hi, my name is Osama Janjua. 

I’m 27 years old, a Pakistan national, marketing analyst by profession, and currently pursuing my Global MBA from the University of Derby.

Deciding to move to the UK amid the coronavirus pandemic was a difficult decision.  

There was a lot of uncertainty involved, and lots of options that I had to weigh before choosing between on-campus vs online classes. 

Some of the top reasons why I chose to study abroad included experiencing a new culture, meeting new people, and learning about the country. 

 All of this couldn’t be experienced online so I decided to move to Derby. 

The first few days were quite challenging. There were a lot of what-ifs, and I found myself anxious about whether I made the right decision or not. 

However, fully COVID secure classes started right after a week, and I really liked the fun campus environment. 

Apart from that, there are tons of good restaurants here in Derby, shopping is fun and cheap and most importantly, there are peaceful places for a nice walk. 

Now I have been here several months and university life has been great so far.

I have made new friends, and studying at the world class library that the University of Derby has to offer is a wonderful experience in itself. 

Since the term is coming to an end and we have sight that COVID is getting better, hopefully the next term is going to be a lot better in terms of experiencing a social life at the university.

I was expecting things to be less normal, but I’ve managed to form a good routine, which has brought a sense of peace to me. 

I’m very much looking forward to enjoying my stay and learning experience.

Iveta’s story - from Lithuania to Derby

Hello, I am Iveta, a second-year zoology student from Lithuania. 

I always wanted to study in the UK because it offers a high-quality education In Lithuania, there were not any courses that took my interest. 

I felt Derby had a very good zoology course with a placement year and fieldwork opportunities that caught my eye.

I chose to study at Derby because it offers career support, and internship and placement opportunities throughout your studies. Derby provides amazing support for international students and Derby city itself is central within the UK which means it’s very easy to travel to other destinations. 

Not feeling so new to Derby

Before coming to Derby, I was nervous, but at the same time, I was excited to start something new. I was especially scared that I wouldn’t fit in or find any friends, also I was quite nervous about studying in a different language.

Once I arrived in Derby, I was excited and ready to explore every part of it. After spending a few days exploring I felt more at ease and way more comfortable. 

After my first week, I realised how friendly and welcoming everyone is and I easily made new friends. We were all in the same boat being here for the first time, not knowing where to go so that made everyone get closer. I had many opportunities to make friends and I took advantage of that. 

Asking questions

My worries about lectures were gone when I attended my very first session and I became confident again in myself. 

During the lectures I was paying attention and taking notes and if I didn’t understand something my friends happily explained everything. I realised that I shouldn’t be scared to ask questions and get all my problems resolved. My lecturers were always happy to help me which made me feel at ease. 

Right now, we have blended learning and I’m finding it okay, although there are days where I find myself more productive on campus. Currently my schedule is four hours online learning and three hours on campus. 

Settling in fast

I have settled in fast and have fully adapted in around two months. The main reason why I settled so fast was that I wasn’t afraid to explore, ask questions and make new friends. I knew that everyone was willing to help and that the University will always support me at every stage of my journey; I then felt comfortable living here.

Being able to study in a different country is an amazing opportunity and I’m grateful for that. With the current situation, I find at times I struggle a bit and get homesick, but I Facetime with my friends and family which makes me feel better and more positive about this situation. 

Living with friends

I live in private accommodation with my other Lithuanian friends. We found a beautiful four-bedroom house and we are happy with it. To pass time me and my friends usually go to town for some shopping or for a cup of coffee, to Markeaton park for a picnic or to just have a nice walk there. 

Sometimes we do day outs in Nottingham and nights out here in Derby. During the lockdown periods most of the time we went to the park and chilled in the house with a cup of tea just chatting. 

What’s next

My plans after finishing university are to stay and work here in England potentially as a research assistant in London. After a couple of years of working there and gaining experience I plan to move to another country. 

My advice for international students, before coming to the UK, is to be open-minded and brave. Being an international student is an amazing opportunity and you should take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you, make the most of it and don’t be scared. Explore the UK and try to make new connections, everyone here is friendly and always happy to help you. 

Huyen Le’s story - from Vietnam to Derby

Hi, I’m Huyen Le, a MA Careers Education and Coaching student at the University of Derby. 

Working in Vietnam and Singapore in organisational development made me realise how making the right career choice, and driving career development, can positively impact individual well-being and organisational growth as a whole. Therefore, moving from Vietnam to Derby for a Masters in Careers Education and Coaching was my turning point.

I decided that I wanted to pursue my passion, whilst learning how I could help people of all ages to improve their own wellbeing through their career choice, and their own personal development. 

Coming to the UK this time was one of the most difficult decisions I made, as my family were very concerned about the impact of COVID-19. However, I wondered if I deferred my offer to next year, whether the situation would be different, or there might be other barriers stopping me.

Furthermore, this pandemic is a critical time for people to seek guidance and support on upskilling and reskilling themselves to cope with the situation. Those reasons pushed me to take the risk and move my life to Derby.

The most attractive reason for choosing my course was that it was one of only five in the UK accredited by the Career Development Institute (the UK’s leading professional body in the career guidance sector). Derby also has a strong reputation for teaching quality and a well-known research centre in this field (iCeGs), giving me the chance to connect with and learn from its experts.

The people I spoke to couldn’t have been any more understanding about my concerns and challenges as an international student, and they fully supported me to begin my new life.

Before arriving, I was added into a WhatsApp group that included other South East Asian students. I started to make new friends, and get support from dedicated staff, who guided me through everything as I transitioned, which made me feel cared for and secure for my first trip to the UK.

Broad experience and support

I have received good academic support from the beginning.

My lecturers are passionate and have a deep knowledge of their subject, which inspires me a lot. I also regularly meet with my personal academic tutor to discuss my progress. Our online learning system, Blackboard, has given me the same experience as I would have had in a face-to-face class, with group discussions, group work and collaborative activities.

Outside of my lectures, I’m a student representative for my course. This gives me the chance to listen to other students and suggest improvements to the course. 

I also receive support from other academic staff to join extra-curricular activities such as volunteering, seeking part-time jobs, and joining mentoring programmes. This has really helped me to start engaging with UK life and broaden my networks and skills required for my future career.

Looking ahead

Looking to the future, I plan to gain more experience in the UK after graduation and before returning to Vietnam. My aim is to help strengthen our career guidance system and contribute my expertise to help improve wellbeing in developing countries through lifelong guidance policies.

I firmly believe that investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. This course at Derby is the beginning of mine.

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Nicole Wootton-Cane
Written By
Nicole Wootton-Cane

Nicole lives in Manchester and is a Content Writer and Editor at Edvoy and journalist.


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