Student Stories

Memoirs of a London student: The little things that matter most

I used to dread going to university. Yet here I am, missing the three years I spent at university. It’s not just my friends, it is much more than that.

Siti Hanisah Rizaudin
Studied in SOAS, University of London BA in History

In my final assembly at Sixth Form before we graduated and parted ways, my Head of Year, Mr. Hull, spoke ever so softly, almost like a whisper:

“The world is your oyster… seize it and travel.”

That whisper of a statement had struck me until today, even after graduating from university.

I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in the UK, so it was a given that I will pursue my studies in the UK. I ended up attending SOAS, University of London. Probably a university that you might not have heard of? Well, it’s a pretty niche school, the way I normally introduce it to everyone is – the ‘hippy school’ that specialises in Asian and African studies.

To be honest, I used to dread going to university. I wasn’t the best at making friends and I only cared about submitting deadlines on time and that was because growing up I used to get bullied a lot. So if you were to ask me what I remember from primary school to college, to be 100% honest it was such a blur… Eventually, it meant that the entire university thing… the whole concept just felt like another stage in life to get through.

Yet here I am, a fresh graduate missing the three years I spent at university. I don’t just miss my friends, it’s more than that. I miss the entire university experience. From pulling all-nighters at the library to grabbing my morning coffee at the building before my 9:00 a.m. class.

It wasn’t until my final year that I realised, at least 50% of the world’s population end up going to university. Those that fall in that category of 50% get to experience the so-called ‘university experience.’ Yet some fail to realise that not everyone gets the same experience. Your years at university are unique to you, so choose a university not solely based on prestige, the course, or friends – choose one that will enable you to shine brighter.

Studying at SOAS was a beautiful experience, one that I will always cherish. Parting with it, left a bittersweet taste in my life…

What made it special were the small things that I got to appreciate:

  1. Drinking coffee on the bench in front of the main building, while feeling the wind brush against my cheeks
  2. The thrill of rushing out of class to make it on time to my part-time job
  3. Oooh! I also miss the nearby Korean cafes and restaurants. If you get the chance to study in London, especially if you attend LSE, UCL, SOAS or Birkbeck. Or you happen to be around the Russell Square area, there are two Korean Cafés that I would recommend! 
  4. Seoul Bakery (the chicken is halal) and Bimbimbap Café that’s in front of the British Museum. You could probably get a decent meal for under £10, which is a steal if you don’t want to be eating Tesco meal deals every day…
  5. I know I spoke about food already but I really do miss my food runs. In Russell Square, there’s a cute little Italian café bistro where they make sandwiches that will definitely satisfy your appetite, and it’s under £6!
  6. I miss the rustic library where I spent most of my time collecting data for my final dissertation. You weren’t supposed to be eating in the library because every once in a while our little residents (a.k.a mice) would come out to say hi. But the unspoken rule was, you could eat foods that wouldn’t make much noise, that wouldn’t smell. Pssst…also try not to drop any crumbs while you’re at it!

The one thing that you don’t get to experience anywhere else but in the UK is the architecture. Walking downstairs, through the hallways, sitting in the lecture hall that smells like old furniture. Something about those things brings a sense of nostalgia, like a standstill picture. It almost feels like you’re being transported back in time.

Nonetheless, the point of this post is not to entice you to study in the UK Instead, it’s to invite you to wonder what the world has to offer. There’s a world out there, or better yet a university that you might not be able to find in Malaysia. I don’t mean to say that Malaysia doesn’t have the facilities to offer it, Malaysia has her own charm.

Perhaps, just maybe, there’s a place that’s better suited for you. Whether it’s the setting, people, food, or courses, there are hundreds of universities out there that you might not even have heard of (like how this might be the first time you’ve heard of SOAS?).

Find a university that makes you miss the small things.

After all, it’s the small things in life that matter.

So here’s me, telling all of you, “the world is your oyster”.

Seize it, travel to places foreign, to distant lands that may take you out of your comfort zone because travel allows us to see the world differently. To see the world and its colours is a true beauty.

SOAS, University of London
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