5 steps to combat stress as an international student in the UK

Fátima Ordinola

Faculty: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
School: Cambridge School of Art
Course: Children's Book Illustration MA
Category: Student Ambassador

22 November 2022

Here are my 5 steps to fight stress while you’re studying in the UK.

Living abroad can be overwhelming and can be too much for some people. If it’s your first time doing this, by yourself or with friends, and you add studying, working and homework on top, stress will be part of your daily routine without even noticing. However, there are some ways to combat stress by doing simple activities every day.

1. Exercise

I know it sounds obvious to exercise even if you’re not living abroad, but sometimes we forget because we get so busy! You don’t have to prepare for a marathon or go to the gym every morning at 6:00 a.m. but it’s worth taking the time before or after class to stretch your arms, legs and any part of your body that needs it, and you’ll see a difference in your mood.

I’m not a morning person, but I do like stretching early before class, here is a video of a 15 min yoga I do in my student room, with my windows open and my phone off.

2. Go to a café or pub with a friend

This is my favourite part of the day! Back in Peru I used to do this on the weekends, but here I learned that doing it even on a Monday or Thursday, is a nice way to distract yourself from homework and get to know your classmates a little more.

Because my course asks us to draw everywhere and every day, I always carry a sketchbook with me, and I found this activity more relaxing and amusing to do with friends, even if it is with a coffee or a pint at the bar. Here are my favourite cafés and bars in Cambridge:

Thrive cafe is perfect for a hot chocolate and a vegan dessert. Go to the 1st floor where there’s more space for doing homework or playing board games.

The tram depot is around the corner of the University. It has a lot of tables and sofas to chill with your friends or by yourself. My favourite drink, and something I discovered while living here, is the Old Mout Cider, especially the berries and cherries flavour.

Illustration of people in a coffee shop

3. Prepare a delicious meal with international ingredients

If you asked me what’s the main thing you miss most of your country, I would say food without hesitation. You don’t realise the things you have until you travel across the sea and all the food you bring in your suitcase is running out little by little. But it’s not the end of the world, I mean, unless you’re a Peruvian like me. When I arrived here, I asked my international classmates about it, and the answer was “Mill Road”. I went there, with my sketchbook of course, and I found markets, restaurants, ingredients from all over the world. It’s an amazing street to look around and feel like home for a while.

Illustration of a street in Cambridge

4. Go for a walk

Yes, 100 times, yes. It’s been two months of walking around the city, and finally I can say that I don’t need Google Maps anymore. It’s an achievement! Cambridge is a lovely city to walk around, you can go anywhere just by walking. The bus is great, I took it just to have the experience, but I have found that walking by yourself with your favourite music on your headphones or with friends on a Sunday afternoon, is a different experience too. I would recommend you use warm clothes because the weather is changing now, and having a proper outfit would encourage you to move around more every day.

Illustration of lots of people walking.

5. Watch a movie in the cinema

Last, but not least, go to the movies…YESSS! I used to go to the movies a lot in my hometown. I’m not studying filmmaking or animation, but I found this place so magical and distracting from my everyday routine. There are various cinemas in this city, but my favourite is the Art Picture House on St. Andrew’s Street. It has a variety of films and independent films that I would recommend. If you haven’t done it yet, get a student subscription for a year, because it would motivate you to go out and watch a film even if it’s just once a month. It’s an amazing experience to do by yourself or with friends. Also, it has a lovely café/bar on the first floor to visit minutes before your movie starts.

Illustration of inside a cinema

Extra tip

Taking care of your mental health is important but as well as the five tips above, I would recommend you go to the counselling and mental health support anytime you need to talk. Don’t leave it till the last minute, living abroad is hard and new, your mind and body need to adapt.

I also found an app called “Headspace” that has been helpful for mindfulness and sleeping troubles. It has a documentary on Netflix about this topic 😊




Fatima is studying Children's Book Illustration at ARU in Cambridge. To find out more about postgraduate degree courses and student life at ARU, book your place at a Virtual Open Evening.

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