To be or not to be… a university student

Phei Shan is an international student from Malaysia and is studying Pharmacy MPharm (Hons) here at The University of Bradford. She tells us about making the choice to go to university.

Phei Shan, MPharm.

Societal pressures surrounding university education

It is no secret that there is a stereotype surrounding (East) Asians that we are “good at math” and are generally nerdy and academically driven. While there are exceptions to this generalisation, it held true for me and most of my peers back in Malaysia.

It was ingrained in our minds from a young age that the standard life path was to finish six years of primary school, five years of secondary school, then one or two years at college – with the ultimate goal of obtaining a degree from university. Therefore, to me, it was never a question of whether to go to university, but rather where to study and what course it would be.

I did realise after finishing secondary school that I had schoolmates who decided to end their formal education journey there and then, but that did not put an end to their learning as they attended vocational schools to pick up skills such as baking, hair styling and so on. It is ultimately each individual’s decision to attend university and should not be seen as a decision made due to societal pressure.

Perks of Studying Abroad

I am grateful not just for the opportunity to be in university, but also for the chance to be an international student. Apart from what I learn on my course, I have also picked up soft skills and learned to be independent.

What sets university life apart from the working world is the fact that you get to make mistakes as part of a learning process. This is not to say that you do not have to be accountable for your own actions, but should instead be seen as a time to grow in a safe space with a guiding hand.

It is also a vastly different experience from school because you are given more freedom to manage your time and even expenses, so this nurtures independence as well as a sense of self discovery because you make a decision on a course that you are passionate in and follow through with it for several years.

Studying abroad also means that you take charge of your own life without relying on people around you to keep you on the right track. You find yourself becoming a better planner as you learn to balance lessons and assignments with chores such as cooking and doing laundry while maintaining a social life and having time for your own interests.

Studying in the UK opens your eyes to how diverse the community truly is and with all the societies that universities offer, you’re bound to find a group of friends you’ll connect with despite your differences.

Freshers Fayre at The University of Bradford, 2019.

Where To Start?

If you are reading this, you’re probably either in college or still in school (good job for planning early!) and it might be daunting to have to make a life-changing choice at an age where you are, as the Britney Spears song goes, “not a girl, not yet a woman”.

Fret not for you have plenty of informative resources at your disposal. I recall starting off by looking at the UCAS website, which is the application platform for UK universities. Here you will find lists of courses and universities as well as the links to respective websites where you can read about the course structure, the accreditation by professional bodies as well as course fees and its duration.

Some universities also have student chat platforms such as Unibuddy which is a good avenue for you to connect with current students to discover more about student life in that particular university. I also used an app called Campus Society to connect with other prospective students. It has a feature that filters other users based on their course and university location, which makes finding friends to chat with online easier.

Lastly, always keep a look out for important dates such as UCAS application submission deadlines and university open days. Events such as open days will give you a good feel of the university to help you decide if campus life is one for you. By going on a tour around the university and speaking to lecturers and students, you get to have a glimpse of what it would be like if you were to be a student there.

A University of Bradford undergraduate Open Day.

Always remember that university is what you make of it. It may be a huge financial commitment but what could be better to invest in than yourself. Take your time when deciding what you want your future to look like and bear in mind that any road you take is solely your decision, so take charge and good luck.

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