Tzuching Chu: My life as an international history student

Tzuching is currently in his final year of his BA History degree at Birmingham. As an International student from Hong Kong, Tzuching writes about his experiences about student life at the University of Birmingham and in the UK.

Written by Tzuching Chu

As a Chinese-American student who lived most of his life in Hong Kong, university life in Britain was definitely an interesting culture shock and something to adjust to.

Blossom tree at the University of Birmingham Campus

It’s the little things like hearing classmates and tutors talk about the British education system like GCSEs, A-levels, and sixth form as the standard for education and learning to the lack of multiple choice questions in coursework and exams that build up and really establish the University of Birmingham as quite different from America or Hong Kong.

The biggest adjustment was how the University campus and the city of Birmingham were both initially overwhelming for me because they’re both a lot more spread out and sprawling than the very compact Hong Kong where you can reach one end of the island in half an hour without much fuss and my previous schools were in a tiny fraction of that island. This openness found in Britain definitely set the kind of stage for how things were going to feel a lot more different compared to other places in the world.

The university of birmingham campus covered in snow

However, I can definitely say that both the many other international students studying at the University and various University adjacent activities and societies definitely have allowed me to get to know people with similar experiences or interests as myself. The societies for places where I’m from and people like me have allowed me to have fun in socials they set up, but this, by all means, doesn’t exclude non-international students from participating in them as well.

When it comes to my history coursework, I believe my different perspective has given me a lot more to consider with what I focus on and the modules provided by the History department give me ample space to explore what kind of work I can do with my time at the university and how to properly flesh them out into an interesting analysis of subjects like the full historical impact of the Silk Roads or Brazil’s many social movements.

On a personal level, Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter and the various Asian grocery stores near the university campus have alleviated my homesickness since they have all kinds of familiar snacks, drinks, and food in stock to make my living experience a bit more like home. Hopefully if you’re East Asian like me or from another part of the world, you can find something to alleviate a similar mood!

Chinese Supermarket called Taste the Orient in Selly Oak

I hope that was an interesting little look into an international student experience and I'd love to hear if you’ve had any similar feelings if you come from a multi-cultural family or interesting experiences as an international student. I am part of the Facebook group for History Offer-holders if you would like to ask me any questions.