COMMENT: A tertiary journey in Britain

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MANY Malaysian students are heading for the United Kingdom to continue their education this month.

They have chosen the country as their destination due to several reasons.

Firstly, it is a favourite place because of its historical ties with Malaysia.

Secondly, many British institutions have a fine reputation.

Thirdly, English is our second language.

The student will probably not be met when he arrives in the UK.

All he has is his luggage, a letter of guarantee from a financial institution to convince the immigration officer of his ability to survive for the duration of his stay in the UK, a letter of acceptance from his university and directions to get there from the airport. The weather in September is fine.

As a student, you are cleared through immigration without a hitch as your papers are in order.

You proceed to customs and notice a signage for those with nothing to declare to follow the green lane.

You know the contents of your luggage are for personal purposes. However, you are apprehensive in case you are stopped. But no one halts you and you proceed to the arrival hall.

You look on with envy at those who have someone to welcome them.

Here you are, all by yourself in a foreign country for the first time. Yes, it is a strange place. You have chosen to be in this situation. Pride is at stake. You have to persevere as you cannot go back empty-handed.

You make your way to the coach station to buy a ticket to the city where your university is located.

You have paid a deposit and registered to stay at a hall of residence before you left home.

You arrive at the hall to find it cosmopolitan in nature and you interact with students from other countries.

Since you have arrived a day or two before the start of the academic calendar, you have ample time to make friends and shop for suitable clothes and essentials such as kitchen utensils and stationery.

On registration day, you make more friends, especially those who are in the same programme.

Your coursemates make you feel very much a part of them. You are not discriminated. In fact, your pals want to know more about your background and they admire you for having the courage to leave home to be in a foreign country.

You, in turn, ask questions about their country. You are wise to steer away from sensitive issues.

Registration day is a time to confirm your courses as well as to tour your university and the city. You take note of the nearest clinic or hospital and the best eateries.

The societies at the university also recruit members on registration day. You were a keen sportsman during your schooldays. You sign up for your favourite game.

Even though you are excellent in your sport, you have to make your way up to the first team from the third.

The open arms attitude of your coursemates makes you adjust easily to the new environment and way of life.

It then dawns on you to prioritise similarities rather than differences. This approach helps you to get along well with your coursemates. Soon you have a close circle of friends.

Your love of sport helps you to overcome homesickness. There is a natural bond easily understood by a sport fraternity.

You face challenges as university life is different from your elementary and secondary schools' environments.

Independent study is central to academic work as an undergraduate. Unlike schools, interaction between students and lecturers is limited.

Your analytical skills take precedence over your ability to memorise.

You must strive diligently and utilise all resources to achieve good academic results.

This includes jotting down important points at lectures and PowerPoint presentations, and making full use of the available material such as online notes.

Your good grades, which met the university requirement, were not by chance or luck but through sheer hard work. So you have a strong foundation and are well prepared to study harder.

There are assignments to do and papers to present at tutorials and seminars. You enjoy practising the art of presentation. You learn to accept criticism and criticise constructively. The importance of meeting deadlines and punctuality is ingrained.

You cherish your time as a student. You settle into a routine. In the mornings, you leave your hall of residence (or digs) and head for the library, classroom, laboratory or lecture theatre.

On certain days, you are at the playing field. During weekends, you shop at car boot (or garage) sales to lessen your financial burden. You look forward to emails and calls from home.

You take the opportunity to explore the UK during term breaks. You visit as many interesting places as possible. When money and time allow, you travel to neighbouring countries as well.

Time passes quickly. Soon you sit your final examinations. After nervously waiting for a month, you check your results at the notice board or go online. You and your coursemates have made it with an honours degree.

Looking back, you love the time at university. Though hectic, your time there has been fulfilling.

Living abroad as a student has taught you to be independent and to survive on limited resources.

The conferment of a degree marks the start of a career in a tough competitive world. Your employer and colleagues -- and later your spouse and children -- are the nuclei of your life and the catalyst of routine now.

The conferment of a degree marks the start of a career in a tough competitive world


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