What's it like studying in University of Leeds? [INTERVIEW]
Deciding to study abroad is a huge commitment. Studying at an intense level for a Masters whilst also trying to cope with living on your own and adapting to a different culture can be very daunting and stressful. But for Haiqal Hisham, a Psychology student completing his Masters at University of Leeds, the experience has been anything but.
We spoke to Haiqal about his studies, his experiences living in Leeds and why he chose to further his studies in the UK to complete his Masters.
Hi Haiqal, please tell us a bit about yourself.
"Hello Wazir, I am an aspiring psychologist currently doing my MSc Psychological Approaches to Health in University of Leeds."
Interesting, why that specific course and university?
"I chose this particular university and course because it is related to the career path I want to take and it is the obvious next step after finishing my undergraduate study. I chose University of Leeds as it is a well-known university with a prestigious reputation."
What did you like about the university besides the academic side of it?
"My main reason of choosing this Uni was so that I could get an opportunity to be in a university with a different environment from what I’ve been in so far in my life. It's definitely different from the city campus experience back in HELP. HELP was a great university, but being in the city can be very distracting."
Why did you choose to study in the UK?
"UK is wonderful, and I did and still do want to broaden my horizon in terms of learning new cultures, making new friends and basically gaining experience. I was actually born here, so being back here due to different circumstances provides me with a different experience and perspective."
Tell us about your experience in Leeds.
"Up until today, it has been a roller-coaster ride, trying to manage this on my own and settling in. Now I’ve learned to adapt with my surroundings and to be honest, I started to love living here."
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when studying abroad, and how did you overcome this?
"Oh definitely transportation or commuting from one place to another, or the fact that Leeds is a small place so everything is accessible by walking and I do find that a little bit challenging. I'm more used to driving to get to places like I did back in Malaysia."
What have you learned so far from living and studying abroad?
"Being independent is definitely the highlight of this journey. Doing things on my own, now that’s a skill I could put on my resume."
Was it hard for you to adapt to the culture in the UK?
"Not really, it is quite different from Malaysia when it comes to the Islamic stuff, but hey, I’m not complaining. In general, nothing much has been that difficult for me."
Tell us a bit on how your course or experience abroad has helped or will help you in getting to your career path.
"Having a master’s degree from UK is definitely a strong point for my career path. Back in Malaysia, having a degree from the UK means a lot, so it will definitely make me very employable in the job market. That’s pretty much the gist of it."
How has studying abroad developed you personally?
"I guess I am more cautious with my actions and principles since you can’t really trust anyone completely in a foreign environment."
What is the biggest difference you experienced from studying in Malaysia and studying in the UK?
"The system is quite different, and the marking scheme for my course. I don’t know if I’m not doing that well to fulfil the requirements, or the new system is just different and hard."
What was your experience like studying in HELP?
"HELP was my first experience in a college or university, those were the best days, created a lot of memories, good and bad, but I do miss it whenever I browse my old photos on Facebook."
What was your experience like when it came to looking for accommodation?
"I am living in a student accommodation. It is a nice en-suite room with a nice view where you could see old people walking their dogs in the morning (It's very relaxing). We do however have to share the kitchen and sometimes, I'm not that keen on what other students cook because of the smell and other reasons which I will not say here."
What kind of resources helped you prepare for study abroad?
"Money is my ultimate resource. My family that keeps supporting me, and instilling moral values in me, and knowing that I have some friends in the UK helped me to ease up my anxiety of coming here."
How did you keep up with family and friends back home? What tips would you give to students to deal with homesickness?
"Get an iPhone, so that you can FaceTime with your loved ones as much as you want. You can also read the Quran, it does help you, (to my Muslim people)."
Tell us 3 things you like most about studying in the UK and 3 things you least like about it.
"Likes: My friends, British culture, and everything is accessible online."
"Dislikes: Drunk people here are quite extreme, the different dialects, and no indoor smoking cafes, it’s 2015 people."
Were you able to make friends easily in the UK? What tips would you recommend?
"It was not difficult to make friends here, in my opinion. My advice is to just be yourself, but if people don't like you, then don’t be yourself."
Is there anything Malaysians should know before going off to study in the UK?
"I would recommend them to do as much research in regards to the education system in the UK, the university, and the course itself. Learn from my mistakes cause I didn't do any of that, and suffered quite a bit in adapting and getting used to certain things here."
Is there any difference between the academic culture in the UK and Malaysia?
"Yeah, I think that the academic culture here is actually more mellow, and that’s what I like about it. In Malaysia, the stress could give someone an early heart attack, as I find it to be much more stressful compared to here."
What advice would you give for those that are already or about to start their studies abroad?
"Just focus on doing the best you can, everyone has their own goals to achieve and there are reasons on why we are here in the first place."
Feel more confident and relieved about studying abroad after reading Haiqal's story?
Then make take the next step to make your study abroad dreams come true:
Tengku Wazir writes from time to time, and is very much into topics regarding international education. Besides that, he is a digital aficionado who is passionate about both fashion and technology.