Bryan Ng and Christy Chiu are our Study UK Student Ambassadors, currently studying in the UK and back in Hong Kong for the summer break. Let’s have a chat with them about living and studying in the UK.
Bryan Ng, University of Oxford - Chemistry
What are five things you’ve experienced as an international student so far?
- Academic excellence is not the only way to success - I could experience organising a concert by myself, conduct an orchestra, and more. I’ve found more opportunities while studying in the UK.
- Help exists when you need it, but you may need to seek it out. One may need to improve problem-solving skills.
- Time flies when you focus all your attention on finishing one thing. My first year of university was over in the blink of an eye.
- Using English for absolutely everything every day was quite challenging at first, but as you do it more, the easier it becomes.
- Being on top of time management takes time to develop - when a deadline is on Monday, most people do the work on Sunday, which ends up being quite stressful.
How did you get into Oxford?
I studied at Bedford School for my sixth form. At school they provided extra help for Oxbridge applicants. Through the mock interviews that the school offered, I was able to prepare myself for the interview, which is said to be the most essential part of getting an offer. Instead of asking you questions requiring you to test your knowledge, they prefer to ask questions that require you to think, such as, ‘How many atoms are there in your body?’. The question isn’t testing whether you know the ‘correct’ answer, but is checking whether you can come up with a ‘reasonable’ answer: separating your body into different parts and working out how many atoms there are, will suffice. Oxbridge, along with medicine applicants, has an earlier October deadline for UCAS, compared to the normal deadline in January.
Christy Chiu, University of Leicester – Medical Physiology
What does your schedule look like as an international student?
As a science student, my schedule is usually filled with lectures, laboratory work and tutorials during the week. Unlike Hong Kong, I feel like studying in the UK places more emphasis on inspiring students. They deliver basic knowledge in lectures and raise our interest towards the field during tutorials. In such a way, they leave us room for self-study in areas we are interested in, while ensuring we have enough knowledge to proceed with our work. How much to study and how much time to spend on a topic is in my own hands, which makes learning become much more interesting and flexible. In other words, it requires self-discipline.
On a typical weekend morning, you probably would find me in the market or supermarket doing grocery shopping for the week. Spending time catching up with family through video calls is another must-do item during the weekend. Apart from that, I enjoy going out with my friends, spending the afternoon in a café or simply sitting outside on the grass when the weather is good. Alternately, when the weather isn’t great, it’s always a nice idea for me to bake something to share with my flatmates. I usually spend my night time in the kitchen, bonding with my flatmates while having dinner.
What was the first couple of weeks at university like?
Universities usually hold both International Week and Freshers' Week in the beginning of the term. This is the best chance for you to join clubs and societies to meet people who share the same interests as you. Don’t worry too much about finding specifically Asian friends, as there are also different forms of Asian societies at every university. On top of that, you might have the opportunity to meet your coursemates in advance, if there are group chats available on social media.
For a lot of the time, the social circle of international students is held back by language. Some of the students are too shy, but mostly, I think they feel uncomfortable about speaking English. But all you need to do is to step out of your comfort zone and speak up. Don’t panic over your ‘imperfect’ grammar and pronunciation. As long as people can understand, it’s not such a big deal, and the UK is a society full of people from around the world, so people are used to dealing with people without perfect English fluency. You can always explain a little about your culture if you experience cultural difference in a conversation – as people are open to this. They probably would find it interesting, just as I told my friends that we eat chicken feet in Chinese eating culture.
I know making new friends might seem challenging, but it’s exciting at the same time. You only get to be a fresher once! So, take the chance to meet new people, and I’m sure you will have a fruitful journey.