I went on exchange over the 2019/2020 academic year, in my second year. I would describe it as possibly the best few months of my life. Going on exchange has been my goal and dream since I applied to the University of Nottingham Malaysia; I worked hard and was finally given the opportunity to study abroad. When I arrived, I thought that the UK campus was absolutely beautiful. My favourite thing to do after a long and exhausting day was to walk around campus in the glow of the setting sun and to let my legs take me anywhere as I felt myself unwind.
I also enjoyed the academic experience there. I had been informed of the relative size of the class before going for exchange, but experiencing it put it into perspective. There were probably three times as many students in a UK classroom as in a Malaysian classroom. The lecturers were not only friendly and easy to approach, but were truly experts in their area.
I was impressed with the facilities provided by the university. There were free shuttle buses that could take you from one campus to another. The university is also well-connected with the city’s public transportation system, making it easy to catch a bus or a tram from within the campus itself. The food choices on campus were varied – as a Muslim, I was delighted to find halal food in the cafeteria. It was also easy to find vegan and vegetarian meals.
The services provided were also of great help, especially the Careers and Employability Service. They organized frequent workshops and seminars that were course- and school-specific, and offered one-to-one sessions to discuss students’ concerns for their future careers. They assisted students in finding relevant work experience, whether it be with the university or external organizations.
The university was also bustling with activities and events organized by various clubs and societies. I met many people by being active in the societies there. I strongly recommend UNM students going on exchange to reach out to the Malaysian Society: they helped me find accommodation, as well as offered tips and insight on living in Nottingham. I made many new and meaningful friendships from participating in their events, and as a member I got Chatime perks too!
Being in the city of Nottingham as well as the UK in general was such an incredible experience. The city was the perfect balance of quiet and bustling. Nottingham is not as busy as London, but events are regularly held, and there are many places to walk around and shop at. If you are Muslim, there are also many halal and Asian food choices, including ethnic food markets, so eating out is never a problem. I also travelled plenty while I was in the UK and visited many cities and towns. Some of it I did with my friends and some I did with the Travel Society, who offered day trips to famous cities for student prices. Travelling is one of my favourite parts of my experience abroad, so I recommend using this once-in-a-lifetime experience to explore as much as you can.
The highlight of my experience, though, would be the friendships I formed over the few months of being in Nottingham. Being across the globe away from your home country, you rely on those around you more. I truly would not have made it through the experience without my friends.
Although my exchange experience was cut short due to COVID-19 and I returned back to Malaysia four months earlier than expected, my time there meant so much to me because of how much I grew as a person. First, being away from my family pushed me to be more independent. I had to take care of myself, my health and my safety. Not only that, I had to manage my finances well and plan wisely. I had to be more responsible and think of the consequences of my actions and decisions more intently. As I was in a different academic environment, I pushed myself to work harder: I had to have self-discipline and be strict on myself to perform in my studies and not slack off. I had to take my future seriously as I was in my second year, so I often joined career talks, seminars and consultations, which opened my mind to future prospects and finding relevant work experience. Social events were out of my comfort zone as I am an introvert, so I worked hard in building networks and connections during my time in the UK. Socialising became easier over time and I ended up making many good friends, which I counted as a win.
The exchange programme was truly a remarkable experience as I had learned so much about the world and about myself. Although it wasn’t very long, the months I spent abroad will always be kept safely in my mind as every moment felt precious.