Going to a foreign land in pursuit of further study has enticed many with its offer of worldly experiences and opportunities. Three individuals speak about what it is really like studying abroad.
Becauseof its worldwide recognition and long history, Anthony chose the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to pursue his interior design course.
Having studied previously at a local institution, Anthony says that the learning programme at RMIT was more structured.
“I found the head of department and lecturers more approachable. There was more of a friendship than a strict student-lecturer relationship, which made it easier to seek assistance from them. The programme co-ordinator also set up regular one-to-one meetings to review student progress and for students to voice out concerns.”
According to Anthony, studying in a foreign university will give students international exposure as they mingle with both students and staff from other parts of the world. For a design student, he adds, this is particularly important.
He says those planning to pursue their education at an overseas institution should carry out extensive research beforehand on the chosen university and country. And whilst there, he advises them to make the best of the education offered and find time to join social groups on campus.
Of course, studying in a foreign land comes with challenges and Anthony was not spared. He says having to cope with the changing seasons, especially winter was rather difficult.
“Also because you are not at home, you are not in your comfort zone and being away from your family and friends can be rather tough at times.”
But studying overseas, Anthony continues, taught him to be more independent. For example when pocket money was running out, he took on part-time jobs that included telemarketing and leaflet-distribution to help sustain his lifestyle.
Anthony considered staying on in Melbourne once he graduated but as he was offered a job back in Malaysia, he chose to return home. He has since then moved to London where he works as an interior designer.
If asked to do it all again, Anthony says he would not hesitate in choosing the same institution. “I was very happy with the education I received and the study culture so I will definitely choose the RMIT experience all over again.”
The Charles Sturt University in Australia was Kwek’s choice to continue his tertiary education. Kwek studied advertising and says he chose Charles Sturt University because it was linked to his college.
He says that the study culture at the university was different from what he was used to in that people were more willing to participate in classes and were more outspoken, which he found to be good. However, what he found challenging was trying to understand the Australian accent.
Like most students studying overseas, funds were scarce so Kwek had to look for an alternative to supplement his pocket money. “I took on jobs as a chef at a few small restaurants cooking Chinese food. These restaurants allowed me a decent wage for my living expenses,” he says.
After graduating Kwek worked in Australia for two years but soon realised that home is really where the heart is; he decided to come back.
“Even though the wages and the lifestyle is better there, Malaysia is still home to me and I do not regret my decision at all,” Kwek says.
Kwek presently works as an animation producer, working mainly on commercials, TV series and anything that requires graphics or animating and has been in this field for about a year-and-a-half.
In his opinion, employers take higher education seriously but he feels that it does not stop there.
“One must have the passion and knowledge in his chosen field. Take advertising for example, you cannot be an advertiser solely through books as you need the passion for knowledge and selling. You need to be in the mind of consumers and think like them. It’s all about presenting and selling yourself at the end of the day,” he explains.
For those planning to go overseas, Kwek’s advice is to go with an open mind. “It was a good experience for me to wake up to something different and unfamiliar every day. If the opportunity presents itself, leave and come back with knowledge.”
“And when you’re there, never forget your roots.”
Audrey See Tho
A psychology major at the Stony Brook University in New York, See Tho says she chose to study at this university because of its high quality of research and teaching in psychology.
“I also chose the university because it is part of a network of New York state public universities called ‘State University of New York’ and it’s relatively near distance to New York City,” she explains.
See Tho says that everything is discussion-based in class and if you don’t raise your hand and ask questions, you lose out. “Professors are also very willing to mentor students and are always welcoming students to come to their office for questions or just a chat,” she adds.
Studying away from home has helped See Tho attain independence and leadership skills as she had to do everything on her own from grocery shopping to paying the bills. Together with the good, studying abroad brought with it a set of challenges.
“The distance from home also brings various stresses such as homesickness, loneliness and in winter when the sun sets really early, one can easily get depressed,” See Tho says.
She also had to cut down on her spending as she realised she could not just rely on her parents for funds so took up a job in the library as a student assistant.
See Tho says that she would definitely encourage students to study overseas as it has exposed her to so many different people and experiences and she now looks at things from new perspectives.
“New York City has broadened my vision of the world. I have been provided with so many opportunities and have met so many interesting people during my time here,” she elaborates.
Once she graduates, See Tho plans to stay on in the US if she is offered an opportunity. “I do not, however, intend to live here for the rest of my life. Malaysia is my home and I want to bring better changes to my home country with the knowledge I have gained overseas.”