Winter wellbeing and Christmas support for scholars and international students
December is upon us. Lights twinkle on decorated trees in homes around the UK as the evenings grow darker and colder. Christmas can be a joyful time of year, but for international students studying in a foreign country it can sometimes be more challenging. You might be separated from your friends and family due to distance or the restrictions of the pandemic.
If you’re finding it more challenging than you expected, then you won’t be alone. This blog details the university support, networks, ideas and resources out there to help you if you find that you’re struggling during the Christmas period.
1. Familiarise yourself with your university support services
Make sure you know where to go for support and advice at your university. This could include:
- Finding the contact details for any student advice or support services
- Finding the contact details for your university’s international office if they have one
- Finding the contact details for the students’ union officers who represent you
If you are in the UK, register with a local doctor’s surgery if you haven’t already. Do this sooner rather than later so that you have somewhere to seek help in case you feel unwell. Your university may have a student health service you can register with.
Check out student societies and the students’ union
Check out your university’s sports teams and student societies, and sign up for the ones you are interested in. This is a great way to make new friends, even virtually, and you may be surprised by the range of activities on offer! Students’ unions often run events and activities open to all students; check out the events listings on their websites and follow them on social media for the latest updates.
Take a look at Chevening’s volunteering page for more information on how you can volunteer and connect with others in December and January. You can also find volunteering opportunities on the Do-it website or through the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Maintain your friendships and support networks
Talk to friends and family and check in on your fellow Cheveners and international students. Take care of your health and make time for the things that you love doing outside of studying.
Try to exercise once a day; it doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous or tiring. Getting outside for a walk or visiting a local park can be great for your physical fitness and mental health. If you want to be more adventurous you can go out for a run or do a challenge such as Couch to 5K. If you’re self-isolating or the weather is bad, you can even exercise at home. There are some great free fitness classes on YouTube for indoor workouts.
2. Know where to turn in a crisis or emergency
Key telephone numbers:
- Call 999 for ambulance, fire, police (emergency)
- Call 101 to speak to police when it’s less urgent than 999 (e.g. mobile phone theft)
- Call 111 to speak to the NHS when it’s less urgent than 999
- If you are feeling down, or are in need of help, visit Samaritans.org or call 116 123 for free at any time to talk to someone in confidence.
Remember that it’s OK to be “not OK”
If you are struggling it can be hard to talk about this with others. Remember though that you will not be the only one who feels this way, and it is not a sign of weakness. There will be people who can support you, and with the right help you can find a way of coping with any difficulties that you have. If you don’t feel OK, please do reach out for help and support.
3. Find mental health support resources online
Mental health support for students
NHS Moodzone mental wellbeing audio guides
Audio guides to help deal with anxiety and boost your mood
The Which student budget calculator
Advice on how to manage your money
Specialist advice for international students
Guide to staying safe, from Chevening
NHS every mind matters
Expert advice and practical tips on mental health and wellbeing from the NHS and Public Health England to help with Covid-related anxiety
Five steps to wellbeing
Five steps to mental wellbeing from the NHS
There are more resources to help with a wide range of issues and problems on the welfare section in the Current Cheveners area of our website.
4. Keep up to date with coronavirus (Covid-19) precautions and restrictions
The latest guidance can change quickly. Find information on coronavirus (Covid-19) and more wellbeing links for scholars on our dedicated page: chevening.org/coronavirus
Your biometric residence permit (BRP)
We are aware that many scholars who have arrived in the UK have been unable to collect their BRP. This will be a cause of frustration to many of you. As your BRP is evidence of your right to live and study in the UK we would advise that you do not leave the country until you have collected it.If you have still not received your BRP then please speak with staff from the international team at your university for further advice.