Studying your PhD abroad

Studying your PhD abroad can open your eyes to a host of benefits. Three of our international PhD students discuss why choosing Birmingham has opened their eyes to a new culture, amazing opportunities and lifelong friends.

Experience a new culture

Sebastian Svegaard, originally from Denmark, made the switch to Birmingham after bumping into his soon-to-be PhD supervisor at a conference.

Studying in Birmingham has given me a chance to become embedded in a totally different culture,” he says.

“It makes me think about here and my home country in different ways. You become aware of culture in a whole new way when you’re living somewhere that isn’t your home. That’s a learning experience in itself.”

Stephanie Chua, meanwhile, first moved to the UK to study her undergraduate degree.

“I’m from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, so I was looking for a city as diverse as my home,” Stephanie explains. “I knew being in a city would mean higher accessibility to the food that reminds me of Malaysia.”

Birmingham – a city with rich tradition

Hafiz Rana, born in Pakistan, would recommend England’s Second City as an ideal place to undertake your PhD.

Studying in Birmingham is incredible,” he says. “It’s a diverse and vibrant city, with a young and varied demographic, and Birmingham City University is right in the heart of it.”

Build your confidence

Stephanie, whose research focuses on cultural differences in visual perception learning, believes studying your PhD abroad can do wonders for your confidence.

“Studying in England involves a lot more independence and freedom, which has helped build my character and give me a better understanding of myself,” she beams.

Hafiz has also been able to build his confidence through lecturing. “Studying at BCU has enabled me to lecture, passing on my knowledge to undergraduate students,” he says.

Enjoy a different style of education

International PhD students will also experience an education that differs from their home country.

“Universities in the UK emphasise hands-on learning,” Stephanie explains. “The system is more practical than in Malaysia, for example.”

Hafiz is also full of praise. “England shares a rich tradition of quality higher education, excellent research facilities and a culture that promotes intellectualism and academic freedom,” he says.

Find a supportive PhD environment

When it comes to studying your PhD abroad, ensure you choose a university that has a community feel, great facilities and adequate support.

Stephanie, in particular, is thankful to BCU for helping her to settle in. “Being in the University has helped keep the homesickness at bay, especially given the supportive network of friends, colleagues and supervisors,” she explains.

There are a number of ways to get in touch with BCU’s PhD cohort, including joining the PGR Net Facebook page – ran by PhD students for PhD students – and following the @myBCUresearch Twitter page.

Meanwhile, the PGR Studio runs regular events – both physical and virtual – to ensure BCU’s research community can share ideas, form friendships and settle in to a new way of life.

“The PhD community are incredibly supportive, both pastorally and academically,” Stephanie says. “There are always events here that give us an opportunity to meet up and enjoy Malaysian cuisine – that’s a guaranteed cure for whenever the homesickness kicks in.”