Justin's Journey: A brief take on studying in England
Hello dear readers! I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity by Hotcourses to write a guest post on their blog. I have to admit that I am a little surprised, and excited all at the same time. This is a new experience for me. Here is a quick article that briefly summarizes my experience of studying in England.
Before I begin, a little background about me. I have recently graduated from the University of Southampton in July 2012 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. Prior to that, I spent most of my life in Penang where I completed most of my schooling years as well as my A-levels. Before I went to England, I had to decide between studying in Australia, America or England.
I selected England because it was cheaper than studying in either Australia or America. Unfortunately, even after managing to achieve 10A1’s and 1A2 in my SPM, I was still unable to secure a scholarship for my tertiary education. I was forced to rely on the funds of my parents. Although the expenses in England were higher per year than compared to Australia or America, it was possible to complete my course in a shorter span of time (three years) in England than in the other two countries (four years) making the total expenses less in England.
I left for England in September 2009. There were really strong mixed feelings as I left home; part of me was extremely excited as I embarked on this strange new adventure while the other was slightly intimidated by the thought of being alone in a foreign land. I was determined to embrace everything British in the next few years. I made a resolution to step out of my comfort zone and truly experience what it is like to be immersed in different cultures.
During my first year at university, I stayed in university student accommodation like most of the other freshers. The student hall I lived in was rather unique as it was in a relatively older building. We would have 20 people in a corridor share a common pantry and toilets, as well as a communal area where the entire hall would dine, being a catered hall. As a result, I got to know many of my hall mates with some of them going on to become my best friends in England.
Living in halls provided me with exposure to people from all over the world. Among them was a pair of Thai siblings and an English girl who went on to become my housemates for my second and third year at university. Unfortunately, there were not many other Malaysians living in the halls that I stayed at.
I spent the first couple of years in England not knowing many other Malaysians. My friends were very global, coming from countries like Mozambique, Thailand, Botswana, Germany, Cyprus, Portugal and so on. I managed to get a part time job at Apple Retail in my second year as well, although I was probably the only non-British employee at the store I worked at. My circle of friends was mainly limited to my course mates, colleagues and hall mates, as I did not have much time to do anything else between university and working.
Unlike most Malaysians who study abroad, I did not travel much. Instead I invested my time and resources into building relationships with people that were important to me. I came back to Malaysia every opportunity I could as being away from home for so long made me rather homesick. It was also always nice to come back to family.
Unsurprisingly, being so far away from home, surrounded by people all over the world made me wish that I knew more Malaysians in England. When I hear stories of my friends meeting university friends back home, it made me a little envious that I did not have the opportunity for such an experience. Before heading back to Southampton for my third year, I made a contradictory resolution to find more Malaysian friends in England. I joined both the Malaysian and Singaporean society when my third year began.
Fortunately, this time around, I started to know more people from home. Hanging around them in England gave me a sense of comfort and familiarity. Talking about local places and foods brought back fond memories that help ease the distance away from home. It was something I missed out on the first couple of years in England.
My experience in England has taught me quite a few things. It has made me realize how much I love Malaysia. Often enough, we do not realize how much we value the things we love until we are put into uncomfortable situations. For instance, many youths and even adults make a mockery of our national language, Bahasa Melayu. Most people say that it is a waste of time and that it is not a prominent enough language to be investing so much time and effort into. I could not disagree more. Being in England has made me realize that our national language is not just a language anymore, its part of who we are as Malaysians. I can distinctly recall how my ears will perk up whenever I heard someone else speaking Malay in London, or use a Manglish accent. Sometimes, I would even speak Malay among my Malaysian friends just to reminisce. I cannot imagine how devastating it would be without a common language to identify us as Malaysians.
I do not regret not knowing as many Malaysians as I should have in England; after all I was there for the international experience. As I prepare myself to head back to London this September to work, I am no longer intimidated and I know that with my experience I am well equipped to live and adapt in a foreign place, among a very international demographic. I have also made some of the best friends in my life and learnt a great deal from them. However, as cliché as this may sound, being there only serves to cement my affection for my home country. One day I hope to come back to Malaysia and bring whatever experience and knowledge I have back with me, to contribute to this beloved country I call my home. Until then, I know where my heart belongs and I hope that every Malaysian abroad does too.
I'm a Penangite who is currently pursuing my CFA on my gap year. I will begin work in JP Morgan Chase London this coming September. Contrary to my degree, I am a fan of economics, finance, business and technology. Other hobbies include reading, gaming and working out. I have a huge interest in venture capitalism and private equity. My ultimate dream job is one where I can be the change and drive development in Malaysia.
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