University Life, From Kuala Lumpur To Sheffield
Melisa Pang, Malaysia
Looking at my University life now it seems amazing that I was reluctant to leave home and embark on this 'crusade' of University life. I was eager and looking forward to coming to university, to experience life in another country, but somehow, as the day for me to leave drew closer, and when it actually came, I really didn't feel like leaving. I guess I was nervous, anxious and even afraid. I didn't know what this new place would be like. Making new friends, meeting new people, living in a new place by my self: everything just seemed so daunting.
In retrospect, I think it was pretty easy to adapt to University life: much easier, at least, than I initially thought. A lot of things helped make the adaptation process much easier. The most helpful was International Orientation. Even though it was just for a week, it was great fun and a time when you made your closest friends. It was also a time to venture, explore and learn how to find your way around the city. I also lived in a University Hall of Residence. That was a good experience, especially since it was my first year. Because you are in a friendly atmosphere amongst people in very much the same situation as yourself, fresh and new to the place, you tend to get along and understand each other better. You can also pop into your friend's room down the corridor for a chat or to hang out together whenever you feel like, plus the fact you don't have to worry about the cooking or cleaning in a hall.
University life in KL and in Sheffield are quite different, though in a positive way. I think University life here is much more fun. For a start, I think you get more of a University level feel from the lectures. It is more formal, a more independent learning process. In addition, with the much larger number of students in each module, it gives you a chance to get to know students from so many different countries, which opens up a good opportunity for discussions and sharing opinions on certain issues. This is especially helpful when it comes to preparing for seminars and tutorials. Each student also has their own personal tutor, whom you can go to for a chat. It is especially helpful when you are undecided, as I was, about important academic issues.
We also have a Students' Union here. There's loads of stuff in there. You have the union shop where you can get all your student essentials, there is a photo studio to get all your pictures developed and buy University memorabilia, cafes, bars, prayer rooms, travel agency, ATMs and even a cinema. There is also a countless and diverse range of societies to join, from the Medieval society to the Whistling society. These give you a chance to learn new things and new talents perhaps, and participate in interesting activities, like Ceilidh or Samba dancing. Many events are also held by the societies, showcasing amongst other things, the diversity in the University's international student population. There's the International Food Evening, where you get to sample food from different countries prepared by the students themselves, and there is also an International Cultural Evening with performances and entertainment presented by the various societies.
I think the best part about University life here is that you get to know and meet people from so many different places, from Latin and North America to Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. It is a very enriching experience indeed. So, one does get a chance to learn bits of a foreign language, though I just can't get the hang of French!
Another thing I do more of here than in KL is walking. Although the transport system is good, the buses and trams run frequently, and the bus stops are pretty near by, I much prefer walking. This is partly because everything is quite close, and also because I like walking in the nice mild weather – unlike the tropical heat we get back home. It's nice, I think, walking to class on a pleasant day. The snow isn't bad either. I absolutely love walking in the snow hearing it crunch under my boots. It's a marvelous experience I savour, for I won't get to do that when I go back, which is pretty soon.
Travelling is also really easy and great fun. Europe is so nearby and accessible. You can just get away for the weekend and have an 'escapade' in Rome or Paris when you feel like. Now how brilliant is that? Within the UK itself there is so much to see and experience. All the different counties can be so interesting themselves. In Spring or Winter, Autumn or Summer, it's great fun travelling. Scotland and Ireland are just pure brilliance itself. We spent almost a whole week up in the Highlands of Scotland and we still felt that wasn't enough.
In all, I consider the time spent here to be a valuable experience. It is not every day that you get to walk to class amidst the gently falling snow. Some people may focus on the differences in food, weather, culture and so on. I tend to see it as experiencing and exploring new tastes. Try the different kinds of food whilst here instead of the regular kind of food we get back home. Enjoy the cool breeze and snow while you can instead of the regular tropical weather. Even in Malaysia, we live in a multicultural atmosphere, so it is a similar situation here, surrounded by different cultural experiences. It does not mean you have to practise it and it does not mean you have to ignore it. It is about choosing. You decide what is the best for you yourself. At the end of the day, it is all part of decision making, all part of what University life is about: leading and ushering us into becoming mature responsible thinking individuals.
Melisa Pang, Malaysia