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Studying English at university as a non-native speaker

By Aikaterini Lygaki

Studying at university can feel daunting to begin with, but throw in a new language into the mix, and things start to seem overwhelming. As an international student myself, I can definitely relate to the feeling of inadequacy when it comes to studying an English degree when English is not your mother-tongue. Even though I am still working on letting go of this stigma myself, I am here to demystify the process and let you know that your multilingualism can become a source of power rather than imposter syndrome.

There is always a transition period when it comes to studying at university, as the vigour of a degree is not always reflected in school curriculums. My advice for making this period of adjustment as short as possible is to consult your classmates. This can be nerve-racking for sure, but reading other people’s work and asking for essay advice is key to understanding the mechanics behind them. Every school and every curriculum have their own requirements, so collaborating with others to figure them out is the best way to combat that inevitable period of transition that follows starting a degree (especially if this is in a different country from the one you’ve previously gone to school in).

My most important advice, however, is to have trust in your strengths and use your multilingualism to your advantage. Even though English is not my first language, as a Greek speaker, I’ve been able to identify the roots of many ‘complex’ words and literary tropes with ease, using this previous knowledge to enhance my essays. The same applies to any language/ cultural knowledge that you may have as an international student: don’t try to move away from your previous, seemingly unrelated, knowledge. Instead, embrace the skills that most other students studying English at university may be lacking, and use them to your advantage.


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