My Student Life at the University of Greenwich

My name is Xingyu, a sophomore from China. My major is Politics & International Relations. As most Chinese students choose to major in business, there are no other Chinese students in my study circle.

I initially knew little about western singers, movies or food, and so I found it difficult for me to fit in with Europeans because of cultural and language differences.

I do have some other good international friends, but they are not from China. I have realised that they all have their own families and jobs, so we seldom get to communicate with each other except for study purposes. However, as our major has a Mandarin course option, I have been able to make some friends who have chosen to study Mandarin. I’ve also created a Mandarin Group on WhatsApp to assist those wishing to study and improve their Mandarin, and also to help learn about Chinese culture.

In terms of study, when I first entered university, the difference in language and learning methods was a big challenge to me. I found it difficult to take notes, look up materials in the library, and write references and so on, despite my English language skills. However, after a year’s study, I feel I have adapted and relaxed into the British way of learning pretty well.

However, perhaps due to my natural introversion, I still find there are some problems in my communications. For example, I was also quite afraid of creating and participating in presentations. However, these problems have much improved since taking part in the Cultural Insight Workshops.

Cultural Insight Workshops

By chance, I found the project Cultural Insight and decided to participate in their workshops, with the significant purpose of making friends.

The aim of the project is to help foreign students integrate into British culture and improve their personal skills in study, work or social interaction and I have now attended three workshops altogether.

The first workshop was structured to help students understand British culture and life.

After taking part in the first activity, I was able to share this learning with one of my Italian classmates.

She has told me that she also found the workshop both interesting and useful.

The second workshop was designed to help students understand how to fit into a genuinely multicultural community.

It also taught ways to make friends quickly in a multicultural society.

The workshop also taught how to use LinkedIn to create our own social circles.

The third workshop was structured to help students improve their communication skills and how to fully and better express ideas.

These workshops were all interspersed with some interesting activities, such as teamwork with Lego, to make the workshops more interesting and engaging.

The programme of Cultural Insight workshops has been limited, but they have still enabled me to gain a lot of knowledge that I could not easily assimilate. It has definitely helped me improve my interpersonal and personal skills and also equip me to better adapt to and integrate into British culture.

In short, I have enjoyed and benefitted from the workshops on Cultural Insight.

Xingyu Liu is a Chinese international student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Politics and International Relations. She came to London after graduating from high school. She is taking beginners, Spanish classes. During her free time, she likes learning and practising Latin Dance and Ballroom Dance for dance competitions. She is a proud owner of two cats and enjoys taking care of them. She plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Chinese Studies upon graduation.

My experience with Cultural Insight Workshops

If I had to describe Cultural Insight workshops in three words I would definitely choose – interesting, exceptional and valued. I must say I signed-up because my classmates, who later became my good friends suggested that we go all together to get GEP points and meet new people. It was less than a month while I was studying at university, but I’ve heard of GEP points a lot and decided it would be really good for my future to try something like this. I signed up and kinda forgot about it so when I got the reminder, I thought I do not want to go but because of my responsibility I went and was not disappointed at all. 


First things first, when I came into the room where the first workshop took place, it instantly felt so warm, as if I was back home and then it became even better. I must say I love attention and when one of our workshop tutors was talking with me and about me it felt even more better. I believe that the topics for these workshops were amazingly suitable for students and their individualities. The first one called ‘Your voice – Your community’ was one of my favourites. The idea that you matter as an individual just as much as society in whole is really important. Some people forget that they have right and voice and I believe that workshops like that could be provided for more students to show them that they matter. 

My most favourite topic was ‘Global Dexterity’ and that is because of only one thing. We were reading poems in our native languages. This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. Because I come from a small country, I could not hear many languages in my everyday life and there is it… You are sitting on a chair in a circle and people around you stand up and start reading some gorgeous pieces which are their favourites. You can understand them not even knowing the language.

Emotions, intonation, pauses, softer and louder moments, all this helps you truly understand the person on the whole new spiritual level. You understand that you live in this moment and it is beautiful.


The whole atmosphere of workshops was so good, and I could honestly see the interest of our tutors. It is exceptional when people are so interested in what they do. I want to thank them for making this project because I found a lot of new information and now can better understand myself and those people around me. It will definitely help me in achieving new amazing heights. Thank you!!! 

If I could return to October, I would probably tell everyone to come and join the Cultural Insight family. I found new people who became my friends, new information about different topics and new thoughts and views. If you read till the end, I strongly encourage you to sign up for all CI workshops in a new academic year, you will not regret it!

Kristina Pazekova (Tina) is from a small country Estonia. Her hometown is Tallinn and she always wanted to move to a bigger country.  This is the reason she chose London and the UK overall. Tina finished ballet school so she really enjoys dancing when she is free. Tina also enjoys cooking, reading and watching movies. Cinema world is her passion and this is why she and her classmate created a new society called ’Cinematheque’. Although Tina is studying Marketing management, she attempts to try herself as an actress in short movies. In the near future, she would love to create her personal Instagram blog and also try some modelling.

My thoughts on attending CI workshops

Click to hear Yujia’s experience with CI workshops

I like to say that this project is relaxing, inspiring and friendly. I would like to take my best friend to a workshop to experience the love as she is a really nice person who suffers from low self-esteem and confidence.


This Vlog is authored by Yujia Qian, a final year student studying in BA(Hons) Business with Finance. Yujia is into rap and k-pop music. She also enjoys dancing in her free time. Yujia is ready to pursue a Master’s degree in marketing upon finishing her first degree. 

Cultural Insight 2018-19 project won an award!

The Cultural Insight team’s 18-19 project is highly commended for Paul Webley Award for Innovation in International Education!

Led by Dr Crystal Tsay, Dr Yang Yang, and Dr Jing Luo, and supported by two PhD students Jingwen Qu and Sen Wang, the Cultural Insight project team designed and delivered five bespoke workshops to develop Chinese Direct Entry (CDE) students’ psychological and social capital, enabling them to use personal and social resources to cope with cross-cultural learning challenges, such as learning the UK Higher Education (HE) system, homesickness, isolation, and social integration.

The review panel commented:

“I’d also like to give a highly recommended to the Greenwich project which I think for me was probably the best read but also had some brilliant outcomes and realisations. It challenges sector, and indeed their own, assumptions that Chinese students need ‘different’ support and actually transitioning to HE is difficult for many students, including those from the UK “In retrospect, what the project team offered to CDEs was actually support for learners who attend the UKHE for the first time without sufficient skills and confidence to develop resources to become independent and resilient learners.”

The project funder, UK Council for International Student Affairs said the project and the issues it dealt with is currently extremely relevant in the sector with the OfS, rightly, examining attainment and participation gaps between POLAR/IMD, BAME, disabled students and the importance of transition into HE. They were also delighted to see that the immediate impact of this project. That is, University of Greenwich supported the team this year to continue the bespoke workshop provision to a wider range of students, including students from all cultural backgrounds and at all HE levels.

The final report can be accessed from the UKCISA website.

Author: Dr Crystal Tsay

Acting Outside Your Comfort Zone

How many times have you heard from friends, teachers, parents, colleagues, or bosses, telling you to get out of your comfort zone? How many times have you told yourself to do so?

On 15th January, 2020, 23 Greenwich students from Faculty of Business, Faculty of Education and Health, and Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences got out of their comfort zone by attending the Cultural Insight workshop 4. Together, they identified common challenges among students in areas of university, work, and personal life. These include

Students brainstormed situations where they wanted to get out of the comfort zone
DomainChallenging situation
·      Deliver public speaking (or a presentation), especially when English is not my native language;
·      Go on stage/ talk in front of the class
·      Understand the UK Higher Education and its expectations towards students
·      Work in a group and communicate well with other group members
·      Share my ideas more and speak up in group project
Do something I am not good at (e.g. academic writing) or I haven’t done before (e.g. make international friends)
• Attend extra-curriculum activities
• Talk to people I do not know at a networking event
• Get involved in workshops that can improve our employability skills, e.g. BSEO workshops
Work ·      Get a degree-related job
·      Attend a job interview in a non-traditional format, e.g. phone or video interview
·      Begin a new job in an unfamiliar environment
·      Take on a new job role (e.g. group leader, project manager)
·      Promote myself to my boss
·      Ask for promotion or pay rise
·      Speak to colleagues with a higher rank (e.g. managers)
·     Deal with difficult colleagues
Personal ·      Ask someone for a date or just to go out
·      Do something that I don’t used to do, e.g. going out at night, speak to a stranger, stop using mobile phone/ take a break from social media, be alone
·      Be more self-disciplined, e.g. go to the gym, do exercise 5 times a week
·      Ask for help
·      Eat alone in public
·      Travel to a country where people do not speak my mother tongue or English
·      Learn a different language
·      Explain my culture/language to someone who knows little about it
·      Make new friends
·      Tell someone something he/she might not aware (e.g. loose zip or tissue under their shoes)
·      Refuse a gift
·      Give negative feedback
·      Make important life decisions
·     Stand firmly for my own rights and onions
Students presented challenging situations by different life domains

Based on Dr Andy Molinsky’s work <<Reach: How To Build Confidence And Step Outside Your Comfort Zone>> , there are five psychological challenges that stop people from taking a move to go outside their comfort zone. These challenges often lead to negative emotions, which further drive us to use different avoidance strategies, such as procrastination, full on avoidance, doing the task partway, or passing the buck.

Psychological challenge Common thinking Associated emotions
Authenticity“This isn’t me at all.”Exhaustion
Confidence“I am not good at this behaviour, and it’s obvious to others.”Embarrassment
Likability “Doing this will make people not like me” or “ I worry how people may look at me” Anxiety
Resentment  “I shouldn’t have to be doing this behaviour in the first place.” Frustration
Morality “This behaviour isn’t something ‘I should be doing’” Anxiety

Through self-assessments and group discussions, workshop participants identified their own primary psychological challenges and shared tips that they’ve used to take a leap based on Dr Molinksy’s three strategies, personal conviction, customisation of behaviour, and clarity development. For example,

Strategy 1: Conviction– A deep belief in the purpose of what you’re doing. It can be improving your own lot in life or helping others.

Strategy 2: Customise one’s behaviour– putting your own personal touch or spin on behaviours you’re trying to master. Tools can be used include acting, customising the words you use, customising your body langue, customising the timing, using props, and customising the context.

Strategy 3: Clarity development– the ability to “normalise” your reactions and perceptions of a situation so that distorted thinking doesn’t sabotage your behaviour. You can achieve clarity by stepping away, referring to yourself in the third person, practising self-reflection, and finding clarity through someone else’s eyes.

Students self-assessed psychological challenges of getting outside comfort zone

Extended Learning

  1. Procrastination: Tim Urban- Inside The Mind Of A Master Procrastinator
  2. Acting to customise your behaviour: Amy Cuddy- Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are
  3. Seeking clarity in own situation: Dale Carnegie- How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Author: Dr Crystal Tsay

When communication at Greenwich is not just effective, but also poetic…

When I watched the new movie “Frozen II” last weekend, I most enjoyed Olaf Gets Poetic Scene.

Image result for frozen 2 poetic"

Anna: Enjoying your new permafrost, Olaf?
Olaf: I’m just living the dream, Anna. Oh, how I’d wish this could last forever.
Anna: Hm.
Olaf: And yet change mocks us with her beauty.
Anna: What’s that?
Olaf: Forgive me. Maturity is making me poetic.

Yes, Maturity is making all of us poetic. In our 3rd Cultural Insight workshop, we have not just discussed psychological theories and communication skills in global context. We have shared poems by reading them aloud in our first language.

What insights have we gained out it? Hmmm… We thought we would learn this…

Yet, we actually learnt that when we try to communicate something so beautiful and so deep in its meanings, what we say made us put our nerve down and just enjoy the joy of communicating such a beautiful thing to others.

Here are some poem sharing videos and some poems shared by our lovely attendees.

This 3rd workshop and the blog are both created and delivered by our project team member Dr. Yang Yang

Positive attitude and the importance of relationships

One of the significant topics of the workshop was the importance of connection. This includes external relationships with other people, and the personal connection with oneself.

 “Embracing community helps us live longer and happier”

It is necessary to meet other people to sustain a strong social life, and this workshop helps to do this. It offers conversational starters for any situation and the opportunity to meet a range of new people.

The workshop highlights the importance of those around us in helping to manage stress, and how vital it is to discuss our struggles with others. There is a key focus on community and projecting our voice, to connect to others and develop our own emotional intelligence.

The activities presented in the workshop help students to improve not only their interpersonal skills and confidence, but also their intrapersonal skills. To develop confidence in their own abilities and interests is essential in understanding oneself. In order to be confident, we must not only accept our own strengths and weaknesses but also those of others. The workshop encourages teamwork rather than competition between students to maintain a positive attitude and fulfilling relationships.


Leanne Pitt  (BA English Literature, Year 2)

The Cultural Insight Workshop Event 25th October 2019.

The cultural insight workshop includes a range of fun and interactive activities for all students to engage with. Students can meet others from different backgrounds and countries, spanning from Germany to China!

Whether it is expanding your knowledge of different cultures, making friends, learning how to advance your interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, or developing your LinkedIn account, the lecture slides and teamwork activities are incredibly useful in providing the tools to expand your social development and knowledge of oneself.

Wesley – “I found the workshop very helpful in meeting new friends.”

Over the course of the workshop students can participate in various activities including:

  • Minion Hugging – wherein a number is called out and the students must quickly make a team of that amount.
  • Speed Friending – wherein students talk to three separate partners and get to know each other within five minutes.
  •  A competition to find the most commonalities with your peers in as short a time as possible.

Sisi said: “I loved it! My favourite activity was definitely the speed friending, where you can speak to others one-to-one. It was amazing to meet so many people from different cultures!”

Overall, the workshop is a welcoming experience, helpful and supportive, building confidence in students both socially and in their own abilities.  All these activities help to improve confidence and social skills, as well as being fun!


Leanne Pitt  (BA English Literature, Year 2)

Cultural Insight rewards

In a Cultural Insight workshop, you participate in interactive group activities, learn to appreciate cultural differences and navigate yourself in a multicultural environment like University of Greenwich. After the workshop, you can enjoy a meal (worth £6) with your newly met friends.

Apart from the learning benefits mentioned above, we are pleased to introduce our attendance rewards system.

Cultural Insight Attendance Reward System

# of attendanceRewardsNote
110 GEP points​An attendance confirmation sent within one week of a workshop
210 GEP points X2​
A LinkedIn endorsement from Cultural Insight project team
An attendance confirmation sent within one week of a workshop
310 GEP points X3​
A LinkedIn endorsement from Cultural Insight project team
An attendance confirmation sent within one week of a workshop​
Viewed as 4 attendances​ if a blog post is submitted and published
4 +10 GEP points X4​
A LinkedIn endorsement from Cultural Insight project team​
DVC(A) certificate
An attendance confirmation sent within one week of a workshop

Want to earn free rewards? It is never too late to join our workshops!

Please find the coming workshops dates and locations below, for more information please see Cultural Insight 2019-20: Workshops to help you find success in Greenwich’s Global Village:

You can sign up for workshops by using this online form.

For any enquiries, please contact

Cultural Insight Team

Requirements for Cultural Insight Blog 


This blog is created to provide an insight into what life at Greenwich is really like. As University of Greenwich (UoG) is ranked as one of the top two most culturally diverse universities in the world (HotCourses Diversity Index 2016), we would like to collect stories written by the people who know UoG best: our students.  


Any topics are welcome here. For example:   

  • Insights into different aspects of life at University of Greenwich, so you know what to expect  
  • Stories about our students’ time at university  
  • Advice about topics relevant to you. That might be top tips for an interview, how to choose your programme and module, or some guidance on how to settle into university life.  
  • Stories about where you come from and ways of doing things back home  

We suggest that you do a bit of research to help you decide why you want to either start or write for a blog.

They key is to ask yourself: will it be useful to your audience? And will you benefit from the experience?  

When you prepare the content, you can consider whether you 

  • offer content in different formats like videos and podcasts.  
  • have an article with a length of at least 140 words. 
  • make sure you write good quality, well-researched content.  
    use subheadings for longer posts.  
    use eye-catching images optimised for web use that can be downloaded quickly, especially for mobile devices.   
    always write clearly with your readers in mind.   

We welcome images and/or video to accompany guest posts. Your images should:  

  • be directly relevant to the post content.  
  • in full color.  
  • reference the sources of authors/photographers 
  • be in the format of .jpg, .gif or .png and meet our size/quality requirements: 
    • Feature image (Required): width of 800px and a height of 450px.  
    • Large Image (Optional): 656px by 410px will fill entire width of the post.  
    • Medium Image (Optional): 300px by 199px will fill ½ the width of the post.  

If you use videos, note that: 

  • the length of a video is between 1 and 4 minutes.  
  • a video may be filmed in languages other than English. However, non-English language videos should have English subtitles.  

To submit your article,  

  • include your personal information, e.g., name, student ID, programme, and year of study   
  • save your article in Word (.doc or .docx) and send it to .   
  • your article will be reviewed by the Cultural Insight team and editing may be done if it is accepted for publication. Once published, you can take a screen shot of your blog post and use it as evidence for Greenwich Employability Passport Challenge submissions.  


  • You gain GEP points for up to 2 blog posts per year.  
  • Blogging provides an opportunity to network, learn, share and be part of a community.  
  • You will become a better reader and writer.  
    Through writing, you will be better able to express yourself, understand yourself and build up your confidence.   
    You can use your blog post(s) to showcase digital literacy and communication skills to a potential employer.