Two students working as an International Student Ambassador

International Student Ambassador Marta from Portugal tells us how they went from afraid to speak English in public to a confident speaker

5 min read

My name is Marta, I am an international student doing a BSc in Software Engineering at the University of Portsmouth.

When I moved to England, I had a lot of fears and obstacles – as we all have when we move to a new place. One of the biggest ones was without a doubt the fear of speaking English in public. I would feel very anxious and stressed when I was about to talk to someone, even if it was just when grocery shopping or talking with my peers. So to avoid an embarrassing moment, I always tried to do everything myself and look for information on the internet.

In my home country, we start learning English very early. We learned American English at a very basic level.

Marta Rodrigues, BSc Software Engineering

I knew that if I wanted to come to England to study I would have to develop my English beyond what I had learned at school. And that's what I did. Through series and music, I managed to become a little better, especially speaking, but that never prepared me for what I found when I moved.

When I arrived in Portsmouth, it was a shock for me to talk to people. They all spoke very quickly and I could never get all the information. So many times I didn't understand what I had to do or where I had to go.

I knew this would be a big problem for me, not only in my personal life but also academically. So I decided to look for solutions that would help me overcome this problem.

After a lot of research and talking to some university staff, I discovered that there is a service that can help us to develop our English at the University, called In-Sessional English (ISE): Academic Language And Communication.

I decided to sign up for a semester in the most basic module. That was one of the things that helped me a lot to overcome this problem, but not the only thing.

Marta Rodrigues, BSc Software Engineering

To develop our English one of the best things to do is talking to other people; so I did that too. By going to social events at the University or societies meetings, talking to people and getting to know each other, all of that. That also helped me a lot.

And last but not least: work. When I got the job as an international student ambassador I was scared. First, because I knew the interview had shown my lack of ability to speak fluently and then, because I did get the job. So now I had to show that I would be able to help other students even with my difficulties in speaking. However, as I worked and talked to people at work, I became more confident in my skills and also gained a bit of a British accent.

Nowadays, a friend of mine tells me that she forgets that I'm an international student, she just remembers it when I say "How do you say that word in English?". And I think that's super funny.

Marta Rodrigues, BSc Software Engineering

If you have the same problem that I had, or if you identify with any part of what you read, I have to say that the best thing to do in this situation is - as they say in my country - to give your body to the manifesto which means to gain courage and face your fear.

It's not easy, but one of the hardest things we've done is moving to another country, so learning a little more of the language is nothing. If I can do it, you can too. And I'm sure that if you follow my steps or some of them - or even find your own - you'll become a pro in the language and maybe native speakers won’t even notice that English is not your mother tongue.

My English wasn't perfect, it still isn't, but I can confidently say it's 90% better than when I arrived! Just go work for what you want, if you think you can do it, you will!

Marta Rodrigues, BSc Software Engineering