Advice / Reflection

Keep Calm and Speak English

AlejandroThis post is by Alejandro Marambio-Tapia. Alejandro is currently a PhD student in the School of Social Sciences.

It can be an overwhelming task, an anxious time, and sometimes a very lonely journey.

You have probably heard this before and are probably asking why is this guy saying such obvious things about a PhD? But, I’m not just talking about doing a PhD. I’m talking about doing a PhD in a language that is not your own.

I’m not a native English speaker, which can make the PhD experience overwhelming, stressful and at times lonely. It definitely makes the journey more of a challenge.

The challenges are many. But here are a few I have encountered:

  • Finding the ability to express your ideas in a proper academic style.
  • Simply being yourself. In my case, the English ‘version’ of myself is shy and sometimes uncivil (without meaning to be).
  • It is hard to network. I struggle to understand conversation, miss important communication tips and get lost in jargon.

It sounds like an impossible situation doesn’t it? Fortunately, it is not. There are plenty of things going on at The University of Manchester to make things easier:

  • The people here at Manchester do a great job in welcoming overseas students; their patience is never-ending.
  • A University itself is one of the better environments to make progress, since you have the chance to interact with other people with less pressure than if you were in a ‘normal’ job.
  • The PhD provides the motivation and exercise to improve your dialect and it is rewarding when you feel that progress is being made.

So, keep calm and speak English.

At the end of your journey you will have developed many skills and achieved many goals.

Do you have any tips on how to overcome language and cultural barriers whilst studying in the UK? Please reply below. 


One thought on “Keep Calm and Speak English

  1. I read this book when I was going to Sweden for a friends wedding a few years ago; it gives a fascinating insight into what statistics can tell us about the collective elements of the swedish national identity whilst carefully steering away from stereotype; it also explores the identity of the diaspora in Sweden.

    The author demonstrated that migrants who come from countries that are closer to the equator are more at risk of depression when moving to a northern country such as Sweden; than a country at a similar latitude. I can’t remember if the opposite is also true. The author identified that the degree of extroversion that was considered normal in social situations; and whether an individual’s view of this was in accord with the majority greatly influenced their sense of whether they fitted or not.

    Not terribly helpful, but your post is also interesting and reminded me of this.

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