After completing high school, I would study for a degree in the United States. Then, I would find a job there, get a US citizenship, buy a quaint house, and settle down with a few furry cats. Coming from a 17-year-old who didn’t know the world better back then, the plan actually sounded easy.
However, my perfect scheme to go to the US was thwarted when my father insisted that I study abroad in the UK instead.
Why? Simply because there were relatives in the UK that could look after me. If there was a word to describe my father, it would be overprotective. In fact, the main reason why I wanted to study overseas was to spread my wings and explore the world on my own while being in the prime time of my twenties. So I tried convincing them to understand my reasons of studying abroad and to give their blessings.
I noticed a stark difference between the American and British education system: UK degrees are priced comparatively lower, with more options to choose from. Besides, the study duration in the UK is also shorter than the US, which prompted me to change my mind.
I looked up universities in the UK that offered the degree I wanted, which was Bachelor of Mass Communications. I found a few with decent accommodation and tuition fees, but one school in particular sealed my decision to study abroad in the UK: The University of Hertfordshire.
I fell in love with the university instantly. The school looked impressive, with a combination of classic, red-bricked buildings and innovative study centers made of concrete, steel and glass. It was as though I was going between two different eras!
Besides, the university was located only 20 minutes away from the Warner Bros and Harry Potter Studios. The Potterhead in me couldn’t contain the excitement! The King’s Cross Station, London was only a 20-minute train ride away, which is quite convenient for an adventure seeker like me.
After spending (way too much) time reading about fun things I could do there, I realised I had not devised a proper plan for my overseas journey.
Eduloco was a life saviour. I panicked when I realised how unprepared I was to study abroad in the UK, but my cousin recommended Eduloco to me. It was a study abroad agency that offered consultation and application services for free. Hearing good reviews from my cousin, I decided to send them an email regarding my application to the University of Hertfordshire.
I got a reply within an hour!
As I already knew the destination, course, and university I wanted, the counsellor was able to quickly respond to my queries. We sorted out my documents for university and Visa application in no time, and the counsellor even sent me a list of safe and comfortable accommodations according to my budget! I chose to live in College Lane campus, where I had a room to myself with a shared kitchen. Truth be told, the entire process felt like I was talking to a reliable friend rather than an education consultant, which I was really thankful for.
It was challenging at first. As I went there alone, I took some time to adjust to my new surroundings, which was daunting and exciting at the same time. I clicked with my American roommate instantly, and we spent most of our free time exploring town together, from visiting shopping centres to watching Ed Sheeran live at his concert. We’re still good friends to this day!
I’ve always heard about the gloomy weather of the UK. Now that I had experienced it myself, it was actually true! Not wanting the weather to obstruct my plans to see all of Hatfield and Hertfordshire, I visited places I could enjoy despite the rainy weather equipped with a hooded rain-resistant jacket. I saved so many umbrellas from their untimely demise this way.
Train tickets were about £19 which was quite expensive, but with a membership card, I got my tickets starting from £12, depending on the destination.
The town was dotted with quaint coffee shops that made me forget the chilly weather, and I became a coffee addict from my frequent visits. No regrets, though! Summertime was my favourite weather with a perfect blend of cold and warm temperatures, and it reminded me so much of Malaysia.
Group projects were big in my course. There was no thesis here, and the subjects were quite challenging. When it was time for projects, there’s no time for play! However time-consuming and tedious they may be, I still enjoyed the process and noticed myself improving in terms of self-discipline and time management.
Life on campus was always interesting and entertaining. The school offered a generous amount of clubs and societies ranging from salsa dancing, baking, and even K-pop. I ironically joined the Malaysian Society, but after sharing my experiences with like-minded individuals from home, I gained a network of friends that made my stay in the UK much more worthwhile! I mentored junior Malaysian students to help them adapt to their new environment, which was rewarding and meaningful to me.
Studying in UK was fun, but it wasn’t smooth-sailing all the time. I wasn’t half as prepared as I should have been. I jumped at the opportunity without thinking ahead which caused me difficulties to settle in, but my mistakes taught me how to become a better person. For instance, I spent a lot on train tickets and travel opportunities without considering the consequences of over-spending. I formed a plan to curb my over-spending tendency by limiting my travel plans to semester breaks, and I’ve been spending in a healthy way ever since.
I also bought groceries and necessities from the local stores and markets as they were typically cheaper than items from the mall. My monthly expenditure was about £200 to £300, but it all depends on each person’s spending habits.
I suggest putting aside some money to fund goals that you want to achieve while studying abroad. It can be attending a concert or going on a European backpacking trip; it feels rewarding when you achieve it with the money you save. I saved enough to visit Ireland and to go on a graduation trip to Italy with my parents. They were the best trips of my life!
When I chose to study abroad in the UK, I was only thinking of making the most of my twenties. I did not expect to change this much from my experience abroad — in a good way. I started as an immature high school graduate eager to see the world without a proper plan. After going through a life-changing overseas experience for three years, I’ve grown to be more self-reliant and confident in my choices.
There will be differences in culture and funny moments to remember as you study abroad in the UK. They are part of your experience to adapt in a new country. Embrace them as you make new friends, travel, and experience a completely different environment. You will be surprised by what you’ll discover about yourself!
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