Dubai: Being far from home, language difficulties, living outside one's comfort zone, cold weather and perpetual rain are just some of the difficulties that students from the UAE face when travelling to the UK to study.
Tim Carnley, Education UK Promotion Manager, British Council in Dubai, told Gulf News: "Students have to manage their finances abroad. If they're staying with a host family, there may be problems for cultural reasons, for example if they're not enlightened about the Islamic way of life.
"Students have to be a lot more independent and that in turn affects their studies. At university, they have to build up their research skills and methodology, putting more onus on students to find out things themselves," he said.
However, he continued, students are placed with educated families, in locations with mosques in and around the area to facilitate prayer.
The last academic year saw approximately 400 new UAE student enrolments in UK higher education courses, making the total UAE-domiciled students studying higher education courses in the UK more than 2,800. Across the GCC, the figure rises to more than 13,000.
"A good international student would be challenging and reading around the subject," Carnley said.
"Depending on where they go, students from here [living in the UAE] might have a problem with the weather [in the UK]!," he continued.
Many Emirati students take a foundation course before starting university, which include elements such as language — improving and/or mastering English before leaving for the UK — for example.
To help students learn how to cope, the British Council runs free annual workshops, called the Education UK Pre-Departure Workshops.
The workshops also provide students with information about how to apply for a student visa.
Once arriving in the UK, the British Council does try to gain feedback from the students, to see how they are coping in the new world they have entered, although this is not always easy, Carnley said.
Some students are nervous about travelling and living abroad if they haven't travelled very much before, he continued, but generally they tend to be all right.
"OK. I haven't had anyone breaking down in tears because they're worried."
Students do approach him with queries, however: "One student asked about the legal system with coming from overseas. If he got into trouble, he wanted to know if he would be treated differently."
As part of the workshops this year, attendees will have the chance to win a free flight to the UK courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.
Help at hand
Dates: July 31 and August 14 Timings: 10am-2pm
Venue: British Council, Dubai
Date: August 7Timings: 10am-2pm
Venue: Abu Dhabi Men's College, Library Presentation Rooms 1 and 2
For more information, contact the British Council on: firstname.lastname@example.org or 050 624 6895 or the news and events section of www.educationuk.org/me