Studying in the United Kingdom is an amazing opportunity to not only challenge yourself academically but to grow and develop a level of independence and professionalism that living in a foreign country pushes you to do. As the semester comes to an end, I must admit that this has been one of the most challenging yet fulfilling experiences so far in my academic life. I am pursuing a master’s degree in international business at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. St Andrews is a small, majestic town by the sea painted with medieval history, stone buildings, castles, and endless green lands and mountains. UK universities are known for their reputability and high standards; therefore, a lot of emphasis is placed on reading extensive literature and independent study as you are required to engage in much analysis and critical thinking. At times the workload can appear very overwhelming and impossible, but it is important to stay focused and manage your time wisely. There is always a sense of intimidation when you are among students from across the globe, wondering who’s smarter or sharper and whether you qualify or not. But the onus is on you to have confidence in your abilities.
The teaching quality is exceptionally high, and assessments are graded by two professors independently to ensure objectivity. What I like most is that at the end of each assessment each student is given individual feedback outlining their strengths and areas for improvement. I must admit, it hasn’t been easy, the pressures of wanting to represent and make those who sacrificed for you, proud can be daunting.Also, at times it can also get lonely, when you miss your family, friends and loved ones and when there’s no one here from your region that you can connect with or relate to, especially in a far-off town like St. Andrews. But this does make you more independent, especially when it comes to budgeting, things can get very expensive, so it’s always important to make lists and be conscious of your finances. Nevertheless, I have had a lot of fun moments. There are quite a few cultural and vernacular differences to look out for, some of which, even though I have made St. Andrews my temporary home, remind me that I’m still a foreigner: o In St. Andrews Fish and Chips is a Fish Supper. I recall my first time buying fish and chips and stood for nearly 10 seconds wondering why the cashier was looking at me saying ‘fish supper.’ I kept looking around wondering ‘why is she looking at me I ordered fish and chips?’ o When at the traffic light, don’t wait for it to turn green. Press the bottom and it will eventually signal the cars to stop. o Borrowing a book from the University library is simply not the same as home :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wstxUPbUCk o Orientation week is called ‘freshers’ week. o Beware of the ‘freshers’ flu: a string of flu like illnesses that students contract during their first few weeks at university.
You can’t escape the beauty of the United Kingdom either, especially Scotland, especially St. Andrews. A large percentage of the student population is international students, which makes the transition a lot easier. It is also an important factor when choosing a University: not only the subject, but also the student satisfaction rate, percentage of international students and teaching quality. I especially love how on any given day its now become a norm for me to hear Chinese, Thai and German all at the same time! It is also important to embrace the traditions, as many Universities have them. St. Andrews for instances has the tradition of older students (academic parents) ‘adopting’ new students (academic children) with an aim to act as their mentors. Another famous tradition is the Raisin week, which dates back to the early years of St Andrews when academic children gave their ‘parents’ one pound of raisins to thank them for welcoming them. However, this tradition has taken on a new twist, whereby academic parents dress their‘children’ in hilariously themed costumes and engage in a large scale foam fight.
All in all, I can’t escape the fact I am in an amazing space, with the possibility of forging lasting friendships and networks and I do appreciate the opportunities that lie ahead for me. I remain in close contact with my family and loved ones and remember to stay focused and humble at all times. I am forever thankful for this opportunity afforded me and has learnt to balance my time and appreciate the history, architecture and traditions that are now part of my life and of which I can call home for the coming months.