What’s it like to live in the UK?
Cedric: I stayed in Nottingham for my Postgraduate study. Despite being a city, the air is still fresh. The lifestyle is quite chilled out and it is not hectic compared to living in London. Apart from that, I managed to experience the four seasons.
Matiin: Despite the notorious weather, having lived in Leeds and in Reading during my studies, the UK feels like a second home to me.
Qayyum: You get to have a taste of independent living as well as basking in a different atmosphere. It may be daunting at first, but once you adapt to it, student life abroad will be one of those experiences that you cherish for life.
Rahim: I was an undergraduate student at Swansea University studying Politics. And I can say that Swansea has a multi-cultural and multi-faith community and both groups were able to integrate harmoniously with each other, so getting along with locals in the area was not really difficult. I could practice my Muslim faith freely and I never ran into any big trouble.
Syazwana: Living independently in a foreign land is such an empowering experience and may even reveal hidden attributes within yourself, being so far away from home will really test your character and sense of responsibility. With so many things to see and do, every weekend can be an adventure.
What are some of your most memorable moments?
Cedric: For me it’s the friends I met and spent a lot of time with during the course. Doing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) is one of the highlights of my life. Because it is such a difficult and challenging course, we as students stuck together and supported each other through the countless hours of studying and revising. Without them I wouldn’t have completed the entire course.
Matiin: The best moment, so far, was when I had the opportunity to queue for tickets to watch a tennis match at Wimbledon during the summer of 2013. It was a memorable one as Andy Murray went on to win his first Wimbledon title!
Qayyum: Going out with friends and trying out new places to eat, travelling around the UK and exploring different cities. My occasional stays in London during our study breaks were filled with food adventures and lots of walking around new areas just to see different sides of the city.
Rahim: The three years I spent studying at Swansea University were the fastest three years of my life. My degree was full of blood, sweat and tears but it was also full of joy and laughter. I remember staying on campus for 20 hours to study for an exam and at the same time I was typing away on my laptop to hand in an assignment that was due in the next day. It’s about all the hard work and time that you invest in achieving your goal in the UK.
Syazwana: The first time I made a snowman or actually a “snow woman” during my first year in the UK was unforgettable! That moment when I woke up and saw that blanket of snow on the ground and white flakes falling from the sky was truly magical. I will never forget the snowball fights and making snow angels with dear friends.
What’s the best way to make new friends?
Cedric: Be open and approachable. Once in a while, invite your flatmates or coursemates to dinner or do something fun during the weekends such as going to the movies or a picnic. You might have to take the initiative to organise these events but in the end it’s worth it as you get to know each other better.
Matiin: If you are trying to make new friends, then you need to get involved in the university student union or any social clubs within the university. For example, in Leeds, there is a programme called ‘Give-it-a-Go!’ where students are given a one-off opportunity to try out something new. This is a great way to establish contacts and expand your network.
Qayyum: Socialising with your course mates over a cup of coffee after class helps you to meet new people. This is how I met a friend who is a local who brought me around and showed me different things to do while I was in Birmingham.
Rahim: Just be yourself and you are bound to meet someone who shares the same interests as you. Meeting like-minded people is easier through the university societies. Try to embrace the new friends you make because leaving University with no cultural exposure is an opportunity missed that does not come around often.
Syazwana: Make an effort to talk to your coursemates, even if it is just asking the simple question, ‘You alright?’ Joining extracurricular activities is also a good way to meet new people with similar interests. Be kind, tolerant and genuinely interested in the people you talk to and hopefully friendships will flourish!
What did you gain from this experience?
Cedric: Knowledge from the course and new friends who may even teach you a thing or two about life. You might even pick up a few slangs from the locals.
Matiin: The UK has a well-deserved reputation worldwide for providing high quality and well-respected higher education. That, together with my Chevening Scholarship, gave me the right education and the professional qualification I needed to pursue my career.
Qayyum: Noticing the diverse culture and way of living of the locals while travelling has broadened my appreciation and respect for the different lives people lead. On the academic side, learning from my lecturers and befriending my tutors increased my fondness for books.
Rahim: I gained a new sense of responsibility living in the UK. In Brunei, we are privileged as everything is provided for us. In the UK, all of this stops. For the first time ever, I had to spend responsibly; and also make sure that all my bills were paid on time; and that there was always enough food in the kitchen. I definitely became more independent. This made me more thankful for all the privileges I had living in Brunei. The UK really represented a big step into adulthood.
Syazwana: Besides a good education, I think my time in the UK really opened my eyes to who I am as an individual and increased my self-confidence. I am more comfortable with public speaking and socialising with others and am also more open to having new experiences. Being exposed to different people has given me a wider perspective on life.
What advice would you give to students who are about to study in the UK?
Cedric: Stuff your face with all the food which you think you are going to miss and of course look forward to a new chapter in your life.
Matiin: Don’t worry about adapting to the new learning environment and the weather, students usually get used to this after a while. For those of you interested in applying for the Chevening Scholarship, feel free to drop the Chevening Alumni Brunei a DM on Instagram @cheveningalumnibrunei or visit http://www.chevening.org/apply to find out more!
Qayyum: Have fun while studying abroad but do balance studying and socialising. Taking a break once in awhile is a must – but always set priorities.
Rahim: Make as many friends as possible and always be willing to try new things. When you’re not busy studying, take time to travel and explore the UK. There are many hidden treasures everywhere!
Syazwana: Make the most of your time there and open your mind and heart to new experiences and new people. Your university life can turn out to be some of the best years of your life!
* Inspire Magazine would like to thank the British Council for contributing this article.