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THE UK: Subject Guides

Tengku Nadiah Tengku Adnan talks about London School of Economics and Warwick University

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Tengku Nadiahtul Zahraa binti Tengku Adnan is an alumni of London School of Economics, and University of Warwick.

 

She studied the whole of higher education studies in the UK, and here she shares her story of studying in one the most prestigious and top ranked universities in the world.

 

Hi Nadiah, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Graduation

"My name is Nadiahtul Zahraa Adnan, people call me Nadiah. I’m from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I studied BA Sociology at Warwick University and later on pursued an MSc in Anthropology and Development at the London School of Economics (LSE). I am part of both Universities global alumni network. I spent a total of six years in the UK, four of which were studying and the other two were interning and working. Some of the best years of my life were spent there, and I have quite a lot of fond memories. I returned to Malaysia in 2013, and worked with a local NGO for a year. But perhaps the pull and connection to the UK were too strong I am now working at the British Council. I’m a Programmes Officer within the Education, Society and Arts department. I mainly assist in promoting the Society work British Council does in Malaysia. I guess I never really left the UK after all hehe."

 

Why those specific courses and universities?

"My interest in Sociology started during my A-Levels. Learning the concept of nature vs. nurture, how almost everything is a social construction (even everyday concepts like dirt!), and cultural differences all attributes to societal behaviour and diversity really threw me off the concept of what we perceive as “normalcy”. Warwick was my first choice because it was ranked number one in Sociology for that year, a pretty straight forward choice. I was also lucky to have been able to visit the university prior to receiving an unconditional offer from them. I still remember how warm the University reps were and very informative, and how beautiful the campus is (despite being cold and windy!) that visit pretty much sealed the deal I think."

"Like every other university student I was a bit loss as to what I wanted to do with my life post-undergrad. I’ve always been intrigued by cultural diversity, with traveling  and giving back so I thought a career that combined the three of these would be a perfect one for me. I took a module on Sociology of Developing Societies and that was where my true interest with International Development started. Naturally I thought a Masters would help narrow down my field and open up more opportunities, but I didn’t want to lose the local, social voice. So I started looking around for Social Development type courses. LSE stood out for me because of the name really as it was prestigious, and has a good strong alumni network of “glittering” stars. Also I thought having been on a campus university for three years, why not experience a city university?"

 

 Why abroad and not local?

River

"The first reason is mainly a better education opportunity. The field of social sciences in my opinion is more developed overseas than it is in Malaysia, also the level of exposure and accessibility to experts would be higher. The second reason is a more personal one. I chose to go abroad to expand my horizons, broaden my mind and feed my cultural junkie behaviour."

 

Why UK and not the other popular study destinations such as US, New Zealand, and Australia?

"Of course the established education opportunities that UK offers and the long standing relationship between the UK and Malaysia helped make the decision much easier. UK is also the getaway to Europe, brilliant traveling opportunities that you cannot miss out on. On a personal level it’s also the exposure I’ve been given to the UK. I grew up on Beatrix Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine, Spice Girls, Smash Hits – so I guess having been granted the chance to study abroad the UK was a natural first choice for me."

 

What were the main differences you experienced between studying in Warwick and LSE?

"The biggest difference between the two would be that one: (Warwick) is a campus university, and the other (LSE), is a city university. It took a while getting used to the fact that not everything is on campus, and that your lecture may be in a building next to the post office. The commute to university was also different. In Warwick, even when I moved out of campus accommodation I stayed within walking distance to the university and every time you board the bus to go to town you’d see familiar faces. In LSE that was completely different, I had to take a 20 minute bus ride to get to class from my university accommodation, it felt like I was staying off campus. And the bus ride was filled with people going to work, students going to school, anyone and everyone really. Another difference was that Warwick wasn’t in a big city, the closest town was Coventry around 20 minutes bus ride away, it wasn’t a big town and we’d usually go to Birmingham to shop. Life was pretty laid back with shops closing early and weekends primarily boring. LSE being in London was filled with vibrant life and a hugely cosmopolitan crowd, it was fast paced, ever changing and you constantly have something to do. Having been a city girl all my life, this part of London was easy to adapt to."

 

Were you able to adapt and integrate well in to the society in the UK?

I would like to think so, yes. I was lucky because I was able to experience life in the UK as a student and as someone working as well. Both experiences differ and give an opportunity to glimpse into a different sort of life in the UK."

 

Tell us what you liked about University of Warwick.

"The campus. Warwick has beautiful greenery and a lake with ducks and swans, squirrels and rabbits – it’s offered plenty of tranquil walks that are much needed during exam stress period. Also all your basic amenities are on campus, and a huge Tesco only 10 minutes walk away. The sports centre was impressive, the library big (although may not be that big during exam times!) but cosy, the Muslim Prayer Hall (amazing space, with a mini library and a kitchen), the Arts Centre (it has a cinema and theatres for performances)… Warwick campus was a home away from home."

"The people. Your university experience is truly made complete and unique by the people you meet. Everyone that I met in Warwick, from the hospitality people to the lectures, were extremely friendly and warm. I went to Warwick when I was 18 and without the warmth of the campus community I truly don’t think I would’ve transitioned well at all."

 

Tell us what you liked about LSE.

"The public lectures. LSE will always invite someone famous or an expert in their field to come and give a talk. This is where you can see all the LSE nerds congregate to get our greedy hands on the much sought after tickets, you can do it online or get it in person – depends how hardcore you were."

"The friends I made – some of the most intelligent, kind people who made life in London a million times more bearable."

 

As a muslim did you find it challenging to get halal food in London? What do you do to overcome this? What advice can you give to other Malaysian muslim students who would be in the same position as you?

"Not at all! London is a cosmopolitan and hugely diverse city, catering to everyone and everyone’s palette. Halal food is abundant and easily found, indeed quite a few restaurants opt to offer Halal chicken as well. Finding Halal meat to cook is also relatively easy. Also because of the diversity of people in the UK in general, a Halal option is almost always available at events or training for work. If not a vegetarian option is there. It may be good to accustom yourself with the V sign – suitable for vegetarians. I never found eating difficult, I mean the staple food is fish and chips and curry – both of which are most of the time Halal!"

 

What have you learned so far from living and studying in the UK?

"The usual ones that anyone who has ever moved out of their home and lived on their own would learn is independence. And maybe how to cook and clean hehe."

"But for me and my experience in the UK itself, well I guess, the number one thing that I learned is to appreciate diversity, to welcome questions and to respect different opinions. These values have been instilled in me since I was young but I guess I never truly internalised it until I met such a variety of people. That’s when you truly broaden your mind, and engage in not only stimulating conversations but you also understand that it’s ok to agree to disagree."

"Another thing that I learnt is to appreciate my own culture and where I come from. Although the UK has a long standing connection with Malaysia not many know about Malaysia and never met Malaysians – so I realised that at times I’ve to become an ambassador for my country and end up discovering things I never knew either about it!"

"Finally, I learnt how truly blessed I am for being given the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, and to call them my friends. I’ve truly been blessed with good company."

 

Tell us a bit on how the courses you studied abroad has helped you in getting to your career path.

"I learnt a lot about the significance of the local context in implementation of programmes/development projects worldwide. I learnt how the one-size fits all concept is dated and ineffective. As a result of this I felt that I really wanted to be the go-between beneficiary and donor in terms of project implementation within an international development context. It didn’t really work out that way initially because competition for INGO positions in this field in particular is fierce. I identified that I should work for an NGO because they are essentially the go between donor and beneficiary, I gained many insights from this and it has enabled me to get to the job I am at now. "

 

What is the biggest difference you notice from studying in Malaysia and studying in the UK?

"Because I have only studied in the UK on a university level I don’t think a really big comparison can be made."

"But I noticed that you’re encouraged to ask questions and no question is a stupid question. You’re also encouraged to answer without having to be 100% certain that is the right answer. You’re encouraged to discuss more and a strong emphasis is placed on critical thinking. "

 

Your 5 favourite things about studying and living in the UK.

  1. The walks in the parks – I love the parks!
  2. There’s always something going on at the museums, the theatre, the musicals etc.
  3. How there’s something special to look forward to each season – winter wonderland and outdoor ice skating in winter, open air theatre and cinema in summer.
  4. Random impromptu trips – there’s always an offer somewhere on Ryanair or Easyjet.
  5. Christmas time – Although I don’t celebrate Xmas, there’s something about this time of year that’s really quite special and definitely was a fun time to be in the UK.

 

What advice would you give to Malaysians who are planning to go and study in the UK?

"To make full use of their time there – to experience the culture and to explore the opportunities of meeting people from all over the world too. When you’re away from home the temptation to retreat to the familiar and stay within your comfort zone is strong – but remember you didn’t travel half way across the world to create a mini-Malaysia! Make use of the resources you have as well, the international office at your university can assist you in a wide array of things, including finding you a “foster” family to spend Xmas with!"

 

Anything you want to say to encourage students to study abroad?

"If you’ve the opportunity to, just GO! It’ll really open up your mind and change you as a person in more ways than one!"

 

Inspired and motivated by Nadiah's story? Then check out the links below to start your journey in studying in the UK!

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About Author

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.

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