Winter wellbeing and Christmas support for scholars and international students

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 challenging.

If you’re finding it more challenging than you expected, then you won’t be alone. This blog details the support, networks, 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:

  • student advice or support services
  • your university’s international office if they have one
  • 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.

Consider volunteering

Your university’s student union will facilitate volunteering activities throughout the year. Depending on what kind of volunteer work you’re interested in, they may also be able to point you in the direction of some local organisations.

Do IT, the UK’s national volunteering database, is also a great resource for finding volunteering opportunities.

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.

Keep active

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 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 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

Student Minds
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

UKCISA advice
Specialist advice for international students

NHS every mind matters
Expert advice and practical tips on mental health and wellbeing from the NHS and Public Health England to help with anxiety

Five steps to wellbeing
Five steps to mental wellbeing from the NHS


You’ll find more resources to help with a wide range of issues on the welfare section of our website.

You can also access the Chevening Scholar Assistance Programme. Support is free of charge, completely confidential, and the service operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Through the service, you can have to up to 6 counselling sessions per issue, per year.

You can access a wide range of practical information and speak to experts about topics such as:

  • achieving study-life harmony
  • improving relationships
  • managing life changes
  • improving self-esteem and confidence.

Please refer to the Scholargram for information on how to access the Scholar Assistance Programme.

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