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Studying in Birmingham Changed My Life (and Here’s How)

In this guest post, University College Birmingham student, Madalena Ribeiro tells us how her time studying abroad in Birmingham changed her life and helped her gain the skills and confidence to land her first job.



Hey everyone, my name is Madalena, I’m from Lisbon, Portugal, and am currently finishing my BA (Hons) in Marketing with Events Management at University College Birmingham. I’ve now been living in Birmingham for three years and have learned a lot about myself and about the subject area I am studying.


When I was in my 12th grade, I didn’t have any clue about what I wanted to study at university. The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to study abroad.


At the beginning of my final year in high school, I learned about a company called OK Estudante, that help Portuguese students to study abroad in the United Kingdom. As soon as I heard about this opportunity, I booked my meeting and started sorting the paperwork – I wanted to be ready to go in September that same year.


Moving to Birmingham helped me become independent


September arrived and my life started changing a lot. I’m an only child, and since we had a housekeeper, I wasn’t used to doing much at home. I was fortunate that I didn’t move alone because I couldn’t even cook eggs – one of the easiest things to cook!


But during the three years I was living and studying at university in Birmingham, I learned how to cook, and now if I were to live alone, I think I’d be fine (of course, I’m still not a master chef, but maybe one day).


Moving to Birmingham also helped me to become more mature and financially independent. I used to be a person that was always spending money, and now I know how to save. As an only child, I was never allowed to go out as much as I wanted, and always had to ask my parents for money. Birmingham taught me how to be independent – I was even able to go travel twice with my own money, which for me was a significant achievement.


What’s more, I also used to be a timid person, but now my favourite method of being assessed is by presentations!


The student lifestyle in Birmingham helped me step out my comfort zone


Another challenge that I found when I arrived in Birmingham was the need to adapt to a new routine. I’m a person that loves routines, but in my first year of studies, I only had three days of classes, so for the first few weeks, I found myself lost. Eventually, I started looking for a job and visiting the city in my free time, and was able to create my own new routine. I even started reading more, which was one thing I wouldn’t usually do daily.


For many international students studying abroad, making friends is one of their biggest concerns, and I was no exception. I thought that my English was horrible and that no one would understand me. But I was wrong! I ended up making many friends. One of them, who I met on enrolment day, is now my best friend!


Related reading: Study in the UK, Get There With the TOEFL® Test


Because Birmingham is a multi-cultural city, I was able to meet and befriend not only other Portuguese people, but people from all around the world. Having such a diverse group of friends allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for other cultures and traditions (as well as a few potential holiday homes).


Studying in Birmingham gave me work experience


When I was still living in Portugal, I had zero work experience. Usually, people in Portugal only start working after they graduate. But when I moved to Birmingham, all of my university friends were working as well, which I didn’t know was a possibility.


Towards the end of my first year, I got my first ever job! It was a great experience. I learned how to be more organized, made more friends, and it helped me understand how to save more money and stop spending it on things that I don’t need.


Currently, I am working as an event and social media assistant for the Enterprise Hive at University College Birmingham, a department that helps UCB students open their own businesses. If it wasn’t for my time abroad and deciding to go to University College Birmingham, I would not have developed the skills in time management, writing, communication, and problem solving required to have such a fantastic job.


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This post was developed in partnership with University College Birmingham.


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Based in the heart of the UK’s biggest regional city, University College Birmingham (UCB) is highly respected by employers and industry for providing career-focused education and training.

UCB specialises in vocational courses in both the Higher Education and Further Education sectors with a growing portfolio of Apprenticeships.


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