Abderrahman Echchahed shares his experience studying abroad at the University of Portsmouth
Choosing to study abroad
Before I moved here for my studies I was born and raised in Bergamo, a town in northern Italy. For my university course I wanted to do something that merged my love for social media and my creativity, therefore I chose to pursue BA (Hons) Marketing.
Ever since I was 12 I knew I wanted to do something big especially when it came to languages and travelling. I've always considered myself rather connected with my African roots, which I have always been fascinated by – making me even more eager to explore other cultures as well.
My love for the English language was probably one of the main reasons why I decided to relocate. I still remember it being my best subject at school and I have to say, all those efforts paid off quite well now!
The first thing I would say to someone thinking of studying abroad is just do it! It is a risk worth taking that will change your life forever. I am very certain that although it was hard adapting to a new lifestyle and overcoming some difficulties, these past years have been the best ones of my life, no doubt.
Why I chose Portsmouth
My criteria was mostly based on what city I would have found more fun to live in and after further research I ended up choosing Portsmouth.
The city’s best asset – in my opinion – is the beach that surrounds the whole island that gives you something to visit if you want to escape the ordinary urban lifestyle. Some of my favourite spots are situated near the beach, starting from Gunwharf Quays – a big shopping centre full of great shops and restaurants – to the South Parade Pier, an amazing mix of seaside energy and arcade's that tie along with the lifestyle students want to experience when moving to a city like Portsmouth.
My first impression of the University of Portsmouth
I remember when I first moved in, I was both thrilled and scared as I was basically starting a new life from scratch in a country where I had nobody. Once I settled in my new house, I immediately went out and started exploring the city – starting from the university Freshers' Fayre that had just started that day.
The fayre was very busy and full of interesting events and societies, which was the best for someone like me that wanted to start fresh! I bumped into a few people that were on my course that day. The best part is that after 3 years I am still good friends with those people!
The university organised many more events such as free sessions for the societies I was interested in and multicultural events to showcase all the heritage that international students were bringing to the city – which I particularly found fascinating.
Support at the university
Something I have always applauded the university for is how much importance they give to support in general – especially mental health support and financial. It does not matter if it is through leaflets or social media stories, they make sure you get the message that they are there to help you in case you need it.
I have used the university mental health support as well, due to the fact that I was struggling with some mental health issues involving homesickness.
Needless to say that talking to someone was very helpful and what I loved the most is that it is not just a one session only program, but it can progress to several sessions if the student requires, which I think that not many organisations offer.
My advice for an international student
The first thing I would say to someone else is prepare in advance. In fact, I started thinking of going abroad at least a year or 2 before it actually happened.
Regarding making friends, the best piece of advice is to join societies and take part in events such as socials and training! Although it might be hard for some people to socialise, societies are the easiest way to get to know someone. I have met some of the funniest and most reliable people through societies – whom I am still in contact with nowadays.