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THE UK: Before you leave - Must read

My journey - A Malaysian student in the UK

Malaysian students in London

Hello! I am very happy to be given this opportunity to share with all friendly readers of Hotcourses Malaysia on my journey in the UK as an international student. I sincerely hope that my personal experience will help to inspire you to chase after your dream to study abroad!


In 2006, after I’ve successfully achieved 9A1s and 2A2s in my SPM exam, I began my mission in applying for scholarships, and truth be told, I applied to so many scholarships at that time. Almost every day I was at the Cyber café to search for any new available scholarships. Fortunately, I was eventually called to attend interviews for several scholarships to study abroad, under the sponsorship of PETRONAS, Ministry of Education and MNRB Sdn Bhd; thankfully, I was successful in securing all three scholarships. After much consideration, I chose the scholarship from PETRONAS in the field of Accounting. According to the given contract, I will be sponsored for two years in my A Level and another three years to study abroad for my degree programme – this is subject to achieving required results. I studied my A Level for two years at Tuanku Ja’afar College in Negeri Sembilan. If you don’t already know, A Level is quite similar to SPM in Malaysia. If SPM result is required to apply for a local university, A Level result is required to apply for a university in United Kingdom. Based on my A Level results (Straight As) in 2009, I was offered a place to study at five universities in the UK, including London School of Economics (LSE), University of Warwick, Lancaster University, University of Birmingham and University of Bristol. After thinking it through, I chose the university that is considered to be among Top 10 universities in the world for Social Science – London School of Economics (LSE).


During September 2009, I was with my family from Terengganu, together with several students were also under the sponsorship of PETRONAS, departed from KLIA towards London. After a direct flight on MAS for 14 hours, we arrived at Heathrow Airport around 4 in the afternoon, local time.


I did experience culture-shock in the beginning, but with the help of my fellow seniors and Student Advisor from PETRONAS, I was very successful in overcoming my initial few months in London. My life with Zaki (my best buddy) during the first year was not great as the allowance we received at that time was the lowest, and we had to cautiously convert ‘Pound to Ringgit’ whenever we wanted to buy something. As a result, we always bought the cheapest (and so the hardest) bread and we sprinkled with Rempah Brahim, a local spice that we brought from Malaysia. On top of that, I recorded all my expenses for fear that I might not have enough money to last the month.


During my first year, I didn’t travel to anywhere except areas within the UK such as Durham, Newcastle, Cambridge and surrounding areas. Often, we bought things at a more expensive price because unaware of the places to get cheaper deals. For example, we frequently shopped at SportsDirect and Primark even though the same things can be purchased at a cheaper price online via Amazon and eBay. It was also during my first year that I spent close to GBP100 in various reference books; come to think of it, it was not that vital and not necessary to spend that much money. Oh yes, during the third or the forth month in London, I began to write my own blog while at the same time, I subscribed to Blackberry Plan for Blackberry 8900, which cost me around GBP30 per month. So expensive!


My first year at LSE or London can be described as quite boring because I was still in the process of learning about the world and new culture. Also, I was living on my own at the student accommodation and it was not easy to mingle with the rest. In the summer of 2010, Zaki and I returned to Malaysia for our summer break via Ettihad Airways. During my summer break in Malaysia, I spent two months doing my internship at Ernst and Young. For my second year at LSE, I stayed with Zaki and two other friends at a rental house. At the same time, I became more familiar with online shopping, especially Amazon and eBay. I bought quite a lot of things from eBay and Amazon simply because the prices were cheaper as compared to buying at the stores. In addition, I bought clothes from Charity Shops and resell them on eBay for some extra earnings. I avoided Boxing Day and focused more on factory outlets such as the outlet at Portsmouth for my shopping.


For my second year, I started travelling to places outside of the UK. Even though it was not cheap, I felt it was the best opportunity for me to really enjoy the benefits of studying abroad. During my second year at LSE, I travelled to Belgium, Germany and Spain, and covered major cities such as Munich, Berlin, Brussels, Andalusia, Barcelona and many more. For each country I travelled to, on average, I spent around GBP500 for accommodation, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses. Other than travelling, shopping and eBay, I’ve also showed improvements in my study and achieved 1 first class and 3 second upper for the 4 modules in my second year in university. At the same time, I attended several meetings or talks organised by LSE and Malaysian Student Department in London together with ministers and politicians, including DS Anwar Ibrahim, DS Muhyiddin Yassin and many others.


During the summer break in 2011, I spent my free time following Projek Kalsom – a project to help Form 4 students with struggling family background in Malacca. I was one of the facilitators for this project. In the blink of an eye, I was already in my third year and also my last year in London School of Economics; I realized then that I only maximised one year out of the two years that went by. With this in mind, I wanted to make sure my third year in London will be the best. Since the allowance from PETRONAS began to change, I took the imitative to move into a more affordable house with few of my LSE mates. In addition to writing my blog, I also offered tour-guide services to tourists from Malaysia. 


Moreover, I worked harder on my eBay business by selling to overseas buyers; I covered more Charity Shops and Carboot Sales in order to obtain the cheapest deals for more sale profits on eBay. During my final year, I also travelled to more new countries, including France, Wales, Scotland, Portugal, Turkey, Denmark and Sweden, including Cardiff, Paris, Porto, Braga, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Christianshavn and Malmo. The further I travelled, the more expansive my experience in living life and overcoming obstacles. Besides eBay and travelling, I also focused on my study. Oh yes, you might like to know that during my third year, I spent zero pound on reference books, instead, I relied on lecture text and supplement as well as books on loan from the library. Great way to save!! 


You might have noticed that most of the stuff I covered above was about what I did during my free time or during holidays. I didn’t touch much about my study life at LSE because studying at LSE is a very independent study style. Different from other universities, both local and in the UK, LSE has made it compulsory for their students to take only 4 modules per year. For each module, two hours of lectures and one hour of tutorial class are required. Hence, each week, there are only 12 hours for formal learning with lecturers and tutors while the rest is up to the students’ own efforts and initiatives. Although my course at LSE was Accounting and Finance, I was also taught Economics, Statistics, Organisational Behaviour and many more unrelated modules. For me, this was awesome because LSE aims to improve the thinking skills of their students and not limited to one particular field. Furthermore, study groups, past-year exams, smart notes, online research and always reading on materials such as Financial Times, The Economics, Business Times, City AM and etc, really helped us in our final exams. In 2012, 13 July and on a Friday, I graduated from the London School of Economics with my final result – Second Class Upper. Alhamdulillah, I have successfully achieved my target! I am so blessed that my mother came from Malaysia to be with me during my Convocation Ceremony. Yeehaa!


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