Ebtihal Al Kindi is an Omani student in her third year at the University of Glasgow.
What factors did you think about when choosing a place to study outside your own country?
For me, the experience of studying abroad mattered the most. I researched universities in the UK, both online and by asking people who had relevant experience. I chose Glasgow because my sister was already living and studying here, and because the business school is highly ranked both in the UK and the world. My sister graduated last year from the University of Glasgow and that’s where I’m studying too.
More generally, I chose to study in another country because I wanted to be independent. Courses and degrees in Oman are of good quality, but I loved the idea of being by myself – not in the sense of being away from my family, but having space to make my own decisions. Studying abroad has helped me to get to know myself better and grow as a person.
Why did you choose the UK as a place to study?
I wanted a place where I could feel comfortable and be myself, especially as a Muslim. I've found the people in Glasgow welcoming. My perception of the US, based on stories people have told me, is that I would experience more discrimination there. This feeling has intensified recently. Compared to other destinations such as the US, the UK is also closer in distance to Oman.
What were the challenges of adapting to university life in the UK?
The main challenges of adapting to UK student life were academic. There was a big difference in how we were taught at school and how we are now taught at university. Although my English was good to begin with, I had to develop my writing skills since a lot of our coursework is assignment and essay-based. Fortunately, we have a lot of support from our supervisors.
Apart from working with supervisors, what other support networks do you belong to?
I received 30 hours of training to become a member of peer support services. We are there to help students who don’t feel comfortable enough to speak about their issues with more senior counsellors, but can talk to us. I think a lot of students from my part of the world would be intimidated to speak to a formal counsellor, but we are there for each other as peers. It’s a work in progress.
Did anything surprise you about life in the UK?
People are more active here in the UK, and I like the fact that people walk wherever they want to go. Even senior citizens are more outgoing and active. In Oman you don’t often see that. I also like the fact that people love their dogs so much here – they treat them like part of their family.
Glasgow is very cold, especially coming from the hottest country in the Middle East. The architecture, sites and landmarks in the UK are beautiful. And the transport is amazing! You have lots of options if you want to travel to any city by train, bus or plane.
What advice would you give a student from the Gulf moving to the UK to study?
Come prepared. Make sure that all your documents, especially visas, are in order so as not to face any delays. When looking for accommodation, stick to the rules and the law.
As a person who comes from Oman, who is Muslim and an Arab, you still need to remain vigilant. Most people are very nice, but some are intolerant. I have heard some annoying comments about my religion. I also believe that those comments were naive, and as people have gotten to know me they respect me more.
Read the British Council report Students from the Gulf: The UK experience.
Find more opportunities at Study UK.