In September 2018, I set foot in the UK for the first time to start my undergraduate studies at York. Flash forward to 2022 and I am currently pursuing a taught Masters; making this the fourth year I’ve been in York and the UK. Looking back, I’ve been wondering whether studying at a UK university is worth it.
A new start
When I arrived in the UK in 2018, I had never been this far away from home before, as I’m from Malaysia. I was terrified and overwhelmed. I was far away from family, far away from friends, and far away from familiar home comforts.
However, I chose to study in the UK (and in York specifically) because of the course. English Literature is not a particularly popular course back home and I wanted the opportunity to go into further study. I also wanted to gain independence, learning to live and work on my own.
Being in a foreign country, not knowing anyone, allowed me to reinvent myself and allowed me to explore my interests and discover brand new ones. I’ve been involved in volunteering and societies, and had part-time jobs and internships. Examples include volunteering at the Jorvik Viking Festival and working as an Event Steward for the university’s events team.
I found adapting to life in York difficult at first, as I missed home immensely and found myself crying often. I also felt that I wasn’t good enough for my course (as someone who didn’t go through the UK education system). As an inherently shy person, making friends worried me. However, I soon began to get used to life at York. Joining societies, getting involved in volunteering and doing things with people on my course helped me gradually find my place.
Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to explore other parts of the UK and experience things I never got to do back home. Examples include attending the world red carpet premiere of Good Omens in London; watching a theatre production live for the first time; and going to a large comic convention for the first time.
Living with UK students also meant I could have new cultural experiences like having my first Christmas dinner and celebrating Pancake Day aka Shrove Tuesday! As someone who’s quite sheltered and has never travelled alone before, I never imagined I could have any of these experiences.
Academically, I’ve enjoyed my course immensely and had the opportunity to explore my academic interests. From mediaeval romances to British science fiction, and fantasy to comics and video games, the English Literature course (both at undergraduate and postgraduate level) have been academically stimulating. The course structure has given me the flexibility and freedom to tailor it to my interests.
English staff at York has been incredibly supportive throughout my time in the UK too. Staff have been receptive to people from all backgrounds and people with different kinds of interests. At the end of my undergraduate degree, I even got to write my dissertation on sentient robots in fiction!
Studying at a UK University is worth it!
Studying at a UK university has given me opportunities I would not have had back home. I’ve been able to pursue my dream course; as well as gain friends, invaluable experiences, cultural exchange and an increased sense of independence. I’ve experienced both personal and professional development throughout my time at York.
York has become a second home, my home away from home, that I will forever cherish after spending almost a whopping four years here. I will miss York greatly when I eventually leave. As I take in the cobbled streets of the Shambles, watch the little ducks by the lake and interact with the lovely people in the city, I find myself feeling reluctant and sad to leave.
Overall, I’d say studying at a UK university is worth it. I feel like I’ve become a different person to the one who got off the plane bleary-eyed and scared at Heathrow Airport in September 2018. It’s all thanks to my experiences studying abroad here.