Making International Friends in Malta

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Chris Burnett (24) from Aberdeen studied applied social sciences at university. He studied abroad in Malta where he made friends with students from all over the world…

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What were your reasons for applying to study abroad?

My grandparents travelled the world and I grew up seeing their photos and hearing their stories. It brought on a desire to explore the globe!

Studying abroad was actually part of the reason I chose my programme and university, because they emphasised the possibilities of going abroad on the open days I attended. The idea of testing myself in a new environment resonated with me, and once I was on the course I found out it was financially subsidised, which meant I could afford to do.

Tell us what studying in Malta was like? Was it what you expected?

Funnily enough, Malta wasn’t my first choice, Cyprus was, so clearly I fancied a bit of sun. I remember getting the email offer and realising I didn’t know anything about Malta, so I read through Wikipedia.

The country itself was a lot similar to home than I expected, in terms of the shops and supermarket products. However there was obviously a difference in the climate and weather – when I arrived in February it was already 19°C. The university and wider country was very welcoming for international students, probably because they’re so used to tourists, and the general lifestyle was great.

What was your favourite part of the experience?

My favourite part of the experience was undoubtedly connecting with so many people from all over the world who also lived at the international residence. We developed a real sense of community and made lasting friendships that I’ve used to visit new places since. Oh, and the residence itself had a swimming pool and a bar…

What was the biggest culture shock?

The biggest culture shock was within the university: there were only lectures, no seminars; lecturers would just not show up sometimes and students weren’t surprised; and the teaching included a lot more theory.

Did the experience open up any opportunities for you?

The international friendships I made presented opportunities to travel to various places and stay with locals. In the years since, I have visited people in London, Dublin, Copenhagen, Eastern Canada and Alaska among others.

More broadly speaking, the experience gave me the perspective of how enriching it is to live abroad and I’ve since worked in Canada and Thailand, both through the British Council.

Can you tell us 3 lessons you learned while studying and living in Malta?

1. Embrace diversity

I learnt to surround myself with people from different backgrounds in order to learn about myself

2. Cultural awareness

I learnt to appreciate that other countries have different ways of doing things.

3. Take initiative

Whether it’s seeking out opportunities or simply making the effort to introduce yourself and get to know people.

Finally, what would you say to students who are thinking of studying in Malta or applying to Erasmus+?

For anyone going to Malta, my advice is simple – stay at the international residence.

More generally, I’d advise anyone thinking about studying abroad to get involved with the student society at your home university that organises events for international students. Even just by chatting to students who have studied abroad you can gain some valuable insight from others who have been there and done it.

Finally, my advice is always to take the plunge and fill in the application form or talk to your lecturer about going abroad, because you won’t regret it.