Why I chose QMUL as my education destination
From the age of 16, I knew I wanted to be an actuary, so I set myself the goal of pursuing a degree in Actuarial Science degree and worked really hard to nail my basic maths skills in high school. When it came to applying to university through UCAS, I researched Actuarial Science and Queen Mary was one of the best options. I chose to study at QMUL as it is one of the universities that grants the most IFOA exemptions. By choosing the right modules, you can get up to 6 exemptions from your future exams.
I had also never been anywhere except for Singapore and Malaysia before and I knew I wanted to study abroad, either in the UK or the US. Having lived in a rural area in Malaysia, I wanted to experience living in a city where you have everything need nearby.
My first impression:
People at Queen Mary are really friendly and are always ready to help out if you need it. I still remember my first day. I arrived at my accommodation, without my parents, and with three heavy pieces of luggage. My room was on the first floor – which isn’t that bad, but after the dizziness of a 13-hour flight and a 1-hour car ride, I was so pleased when some students sitting in the yard of the accommodation helped me carry all my luggage. From that moment, I knew that people here were kind and happy to help.
Living with strangers:
This was my first time living with strangers and I’ve had my ups and downs. My flat is lovely and I love the location, but it was definitely a bit of an adjustment for everyone to live together at first. I’ve made some of my best friends here and there are 4 of us that get on really well and we have decided we want to live together until we graduate.
How the university supported me:
In my first year, I was really eager to improve my CV but with COVID-19 restrictions still in place, I was a bit limited in what I could do. In my first year, I did a micro internship in marketing for a real estate company, while in my second year, I did a Student Consultancy Project (SCP). Before applying to both roles, I was able to meet with the QMUL Careers and Enterprise team to check my CV, cover letter or essay application. They also offer a lot more support, like the mentorship scheme, where a first-year student can apply to be mentored by a second or third-year student. By doing this, you get a lot more exposure you’re learning from a senior who has been through similar degree experience.
In terms of studies, every single lecture has been super supporting when I have asked for help or guidance in their module. They are supportive and love it when students come and ask for help, so don’t be shy to ask for help or clarification.
The distance from university to the nearest grocery store etc:
There are a lot of grocery stores in Mile End; the biggest ones are Asda in Stepney Green, or if you want something more convenient, there are lots of mini supermarkets really close to campus. However, if you need to do any shopping or, you can hop on the Central Line and travel one stop to Westfield Stratford. It’s the largest urban shopping and leisure destination in Europe and you’ll find all kinds of shops like Primark, ZARA, H& M and others.
If you want to go to Central London, the public transport is amazing. You can take the tube (called LRT or MRT in Malaysia) and buses are frequent and convenient; you don’t even need a car as a student! It takes anywhere from 10-40 minutes when visiting Central London, depending on where you are going.
In terms of social life, I’m not particularly eager to party, but from what I heard, you have decent choices of clubs and pubs in the heart of Shoreditch which is a trendy part of East London. But trust me; there is more than just clubbing to spend time with your friends. You can go for a walk (the nearest park is Mile End Park and Victoria Park), go to markets and share food, get a cup of coffee in the morning and there is always a free exhibition in London. If you want to go outside the city to get a break from all the noise, I recommend Brighton or Richmond. If you fancy some clothing shopping as I did, you can check out thrift and vintage stores in Brick Lane and Notting Hill.
Thoughts on being a student in a big city:
There is so much to do every day. It is kind of mind-blowing the number of museums, exhibitions, art galleries, clubs or new activities you can do in London. It is truly an exciting place to live once in your life (or maybe even all your life). You will make new friends along the way, so worry not! Make the first move and say hi to your new friends in class or society (don’t be over-friendly with someone on the tube, though, because Londoners politely ignore each other on public transport). Plus, being in the United Kingdom you are so close to Europe and being in London, it is super easy to travel because of how near it is to the airports. If you have never been to Europe before, you should explore during the holidays in the summer.
London can be costly at times, so learning how to manage your money efficiently can be life-changing! If you know how to, make a budget and follow it through. I learnt a lot about spending money during my first year and I wish I had made certain changes earlier. And remember, do not overspend money just because your friends are doing it.
Manage your time wisely. As high school students in Malaysia, we followed a rigid schedule from morning to night. Being in uni is different as you will have so much free time to allocate for yourself, so decide what suits you best; studying, socialising or working part-time.
Coming from a country where the sun shines all day and has a fixed sunrise and sunset time, winter depression is REAL. Appreciate the sun that you have today because you will be hoping to see the sun during the winter. To avoid winter depression, keep yourself warm, be active, eat healthily and go for a walk if the sun shines and get that vitamin D!