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THE UK: Before you leave

My study experience at the University of East Anglia

Study experience at UEA

I remember the weeks before I flew off to the UK for my first year undergraduate studies, I was asked by my Malaysian peers and relatives numerous times about the university I was going to and its location. It was not a surprise to see puzzling faces when I mentioned the fact that I was going to the University of East Anglia (UEA), which is situated in Norwich, Norfolk. Some who did not pay much attention thought I was going to Norway or the United Arab Emirates (UAE) instead. It is common for Malaysians to be more familiar with the big and famous cities such as London, Liverpool, Manchester and Cardiff, to name a few. I think that explains why there are very few Malaysians who are studying at the UEA today.


I have to admit that my first few weeks in Norwich were difficult. I was assigned to a flat where there were only two international students (including me) out of a total eight of us. My father had previously introduced me to a few British comedies to get me acquainted with the accents and the British slang. However, it did not occur to me that the British accents differ geographically and some was not as comprehensible as watching a Harry Potter movie. The cultural gap was also a hindrance as I found myself to be in awkward silence most of the time after we finished discussing the weather of the day.


However, it was not long till I found solace in some familiarity when I met with few Malaysians and branched out from there. I attended social events and made friends from different countries; ranging from Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong and all the way to Kazakhstan and Cyprus. By the end of my first year, I have already gained new international friends and some of them ended up being my housemates for the next two years of my academic life.


My social network was further expanded when I joined the newly founded UEA Malaysian Society Committee in my second year as a secretary. As there were few Malaysians, the society is mostly consisted of other Asian and European students instead. We hosted mostly food events every fortnight, where the Committee members would work hard to cook Malaysian cuisines for the members. I had to say, I had never cooked or baked before I came over to the UK, and therefore, it was a challenge for me at first, as the guidance was only a recipe downloaded from the Internet. But you never know the extent of your capabilities until you are tested. One thing for sure, if you told me I would be entrusted to cook two dishes for a hundred people three years ago, I would have laughed hard. Besides food events, we had also collaborated with other Union societies for a paintball game and sporting events, where we were randomly put in teams. I had the opportunity to break my introvert self in a short period of time by working together with people I barely knew.


Adibah's study experience at University of East Anglia

My academic life as a law student is no different from any other. It was difficult at first to be adapted to the university teaching method. Unlike previously in Malaysia where everything was served on a silver platter, the lecturers provide more private study time. It did not take long to get used to it and I would advice new students not to fear. The lack of sources provided helped to enhance my research skill, which proved to be very useful when I was doing my legal attachment during the summer holidays. I particularly incline towards the idea of seminars as a complementary to lectures. I utilize seminars to deepen my understanding in the relevant topics introduced in lectures.


Seminars are also where the lecturers encourage open discussions in regards to the topics we learn. We get to discuss controversial issues without fear of being judged or rejected on ridiculous governmental or religious grounds.


Other than that, I genuinely love living in Norwich. It may not be a metropolitan city analogous to London or even remotely close to Kuala Lumpur, but Norwich has become a second home for me. It does not cost me a fortune to get around. The living cost is not that high either as there are cheap local market places and shops available. The crime rates are not that high given that the majority population consists of senior citizens. The people are generally warm and friendly and are willing to help out. It is even a tradition to say ‘thank you’ to the bus driver, which has become a habit of ours here.


I do not deny that I miss this place every time I go back home during the summer holidays. I will always miss the fact that I could go out anywhere I want by boarding on the bus to town. I will miss the Marks and Spencer scones with clotted cream and jam. I will miss the chicken tikka slice served at the local bakery on Unthank Road. Most of all, I will miss my friends. I will fear the day we have to say goodbye when all of us go our separate ways all over the globe.


Overall, I have a fairly exhilarating and phenomenal university experience. I believe if would have been different had I studied in Malaysia instead. I think partly because of the limited number of Malaysians, I do not get to succumb to the tendency to settle in my familiar, comfort zone. It would be a waste, in my opinion, if I had done so. I would not, then, fully enjoy the experiences of being an international student in a foreign country I am now reaping.

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