When I was in high school, I never thought I would study abroad in a country nearly 20 hours away from my home by plane. Only when my best friend once shared her dream to study in the UK that it made me consider the country as a choice of study abroad. After graduating from high school, our university destination changed ironically – my friend decided to stay in her home country, and I decided to fly to England. Of course, my decision to study in the UK was not made on the spur of the moment. While doing two years of the International Baccalaureate program, I contemplated my ideal university. In the end, I found that UK universities were the perfect fit for me. As I expected, my first year in the UK was not disappointing. It was amazing! It would be ten pages long to share my whole experience, but to tell it in a nutshell, it is full of Challenges, Opportunities, and Defining moments.
In addition to the reputation of excellent education, the reason why I was attracted to UK universities was its concise curriculum system for undergraduates. Compared to other countries, most universities in the UK offer three-year undergraduate programs because they do not include a year of liberal arts, but focus on the core modules. The program may be laborious, but I wanted to devote more time to the course I chose and be free from liberal arts study. Currently, I am majoring BSc psychology at the University of Leeds. I could say the diverse teaching method is the highlight of our department. Aside from attending lectures, sometimes we get involved in psychological experiments. Participating in an experiment helped me understand the perspective of a participant, which I believe is an important ingredient to be a good experimenter. Submitting each report within a week was quite challenging, but the process was truly beneficial for me in deepening down on the research topic.
Besides academics, it was a challenge for me to live alone without my parents. Independence has been my dream since long ago, but there was always a little fear in one corner of my mind. What I worried much was balancing time in doing household chores and studying without the support of my mom. Living in a catered accommodation inside the university campus was a stroke of genius, considering how much time I could save from cooking. Also, I was able to meet amazing flatmates! They were the first people who gave me the confidence I need. Plus, it was easy to make new friends in the catering hall by eating breakfast or dinner on the same table. Thankfully, the University of Leeds held many events for international students to adjust themselves to the new environment as well. In my case, I joined Global cafe every Monday evening of the first semester. From there, I met various people from different countries. Talking to them, I realized that I wasn’t the only one nervous about starting university life. It was a small pleasure for me to spend Monday evenings drinking a cup of tea with them and cheering each other for stepping into a new chapter in our lives.
Another reason why I chose to study in the UK is my desire to learn in a more globalised place. As many knows, the UK is one of the global centres of the world. Its history and prominent reputation in various fields attract students from all over the world every year (Apparently, I am one of them as well!). By studying in such a place, I had more chances to meet people from different countries, and also to be exposed to various culture. During Freshers’ Week, I attended International Welcome Meetings and took Leeds’ city tour. At the event, I could easily meet people who came from countries I have never been in my life. Later on, I met more international students in my course and societies, and some of them became my most beloved friends. To tell the truth, meeting them was a great chance to widen my view of the world. Whenever my friends and I find free time during the semester, we travelled around the UK or Europe. We attended Leeds Light Night, took punting tour in Cambridge, set a sudden day-trip in Manchester, and fed alpacas in Sheffield. Also, we went to London and cried over astonishing art pieces exhibited in the National Gallery, spent Christmas and Spring vacation in Munich and Barcelona respectively, and had a fabulous break in Vienna. While travelling around different countries, I realised that there are tons of great opportunities waiting outside my comfort zone. I believe that I would not be able to reach this epiphany if I did not choose to come to the UK.
In the academic aspect, the University of Leeds provided many opportunities in extending our skills. In my case, I took critical thinking sessions offered in Skill@Library. Although I somehow knew how to apply critical thinking, considering its importance in academic writing, grabbing the chance to enhance is beneficial. The result of the session was satisfying because my tutor left quite good comments on my second essay. Another opportunity offered by the university is holding career-related events. Time to time, my department held career seminars, wherein they invited experts in various psychological fields and opened Q&A time for us. These events became a valuable time for me, who still had ambiguous plans for my future career.
In retrospect, my first year at the University of Leeds was full of opportunities and challenges, and they were a good source in developing myself. The whole academic year was not full of excitement. To tell the truth, it was a roller-coaster. Sometimes I cried because of homesick, fought with my friends, and stressed over given assessments. However, from those experiences, I could become more mature. Compared to me a year ago, it is amazing to see how I have changed. Now I gladly accept academic obstacles, have less fear in doing new things, and view my weaknesses optimistically. In short, the experiences I had in the UK and at Leeds is slowly defining who I truly am. Perhaps this process won’t stop until I graduate the university.