August 12, 2015, by Emma Lowry
Love and learning: why Nottingham was #meanttobe for me
As A-Level results day fast approaches, a newly-wed couple reveal why their University of Nottingham experience was #meanttobe – not only for the study abroad and career opportunities it afforded them, but also because they fell in love and married as a result.
Keith Hobson, 30, originally from Staffordshire, is now a Finance Manager at Experian plc. He took part in the student mobility programme during his degree and spent a year at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC).
Ashley Hobson (née Chin), 26, is a Finance Administrator, also at Experian plc. She is originally from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and came to The University of Nottingham (UoN) as an international student. The love birds now both live and work in Nottingham.
What and when did you study at UoN?
Keith: I studied BA (Hons) Industrial Economics with Insurance at the Business School from 2004-2007. My degree gave me the fundamentals in financial accounting, financial management and risk management I needed to later study for my chartered management accounting qualification.
When I was applying for uni, UoN ticked a lot of boxes for me; I was impressed by the courses, the campuses and the study abroad options and the feel of the Nottingham city as a place to live.
Keith’s graduation in July 2007
Ashley: I picked UoN because of its brilliant reputation as a top British university. I studied BA (Hons) Finance, Accounting and Management from 2007 to 2010. My degree helped me secure my first job at Lambert Smith Hampton just two months after graduating. I’m now ACCA part-qualified and work for a large, multinational company, Experian.
Ashley’s graduation in July 2010
How, when and where did you two meet?
Keith: After a short period away after graduating, I came back to live in Nottingham at the end of 2008 when I started working for Experian. In early May ’09 I was meeting with some friends living at Raleigh Park halls that were either on the mobility exchange programme from UNMC or those that I’d known at UNMC who were undertaking further studies. We were due to go out for a night of karaoke and drinks and Ashley was also invited through these mutual friends. I don’t recall that we spoke a great deal that evening (probably due to being drowned out by terrible singing). It was mostly in the following weeks, particularly after the exam period was over, that we started keeping in touch and spend more time together.
Ashley: It was at a drinks and karaoke night out; I’d heard Keith singing a Chinese song, which is ironic considering I am Chinese Malaysian, but don’t speak or understand the language myself! I won’t say it was exactly love at first sight (although he is a handsome fellow), but I was very interested and impressed that he could understand and speak Mandarin. Our relationship developed mostly online as we were separated for three months over the summer, when I went returned to Kuala Lumpur – but we kept in touch almost every day. When I came back to Nottingham we picked up where we left off and have basically been together ever since!
We spent a day at Alton Towers with Malaysian and Singaporean friends in June 2009. It was the first time we’d seen each other since our first meeting in May, although we’d been speaking on Facebook and on the phone. This is us pictured at Halo nightclub that evening.
Here we are pictured in October 2009 at a friend’s birthday party in Dunkirk, Nottingham. This photograph was taken a few hours after we’d decided to make our relationship official
How is Malaysia part of your lives together?
Keith: Ashley’s parents and extended family are in Malaysia so it plays a big part of our lives – we’ve visited twice in the past few years and will, no doubt, fly over for family visits and holidays in future. Aside from the family connection, I have friends in Malaysia from my time studying at UNMC and I try to catch up with them whenever we fly over.
How has studying abroad been beneficial to you?
Keith: I have to say, studying at UNMC was a truly unique experience. I was there 2005/6 – the first year the Semenyih campus opened – when there were only around 1,500 students which created a very special close-knit atmosphere. I was able to visit some new and exciting places, including the famous Petronas Twin Towers, the Hindu shrine at Batu Caves, several Buddhist temples in Kelantan, the island resort of Langkawi, the mountain-top theme park in Genting Highlands and further afield to Bangkok and Singapore. As well as the travel aspect, there were a few first-hand experiences, such as spending the Chinese New Year holiday with a Malaysian Chinese friend’s family that I know wouldn’t necessarily have occurred if I hadn’t studied abroad.
Studying at UNMC gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation of different cultures –this has been advantageous both personally and in my career, as I work with colleagues all over the world.
By coincidence, my current role involves working with teams based in Malaysia (a few miles away from UNMC, in fact). Besides talking about the task in hand I’m able to chat to them more casually about shared experiences. I couldn’t do that if I’d not acquired some local knowledge.
Having spent time in Malaysia also helped when chatting to Ashley in the early days; we were able to converse about places I’d visited, including one of Ashley’s favourite haunts I’d often hang out at after a night out in KL!
Here we are in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia with Ashley’s friends, many of whom she’s known since her A-Level days. Edmund Tan (far left) is a University of Nottingham in Malaysia Campus alumnus
Where and when did you propose?
Keith: I proposed to Ashley in September 2013, after roughly four years together. We got engaged at Wollaton Park, where we had our first date. The weather wasn’t great but it did give us a double rainbow to mark the event!
Tell us about your UK wedding day
This photograph was taken just after our wedding service at St Barnabas Cathedral
Keith: We got married on 18th April this year at St Barnabas Cathedral in Nottingham, and had our wedding reception at the nearby Holme Pierrepont Hall.
Here we are at our wedding reception at Holme Pierrepont Hall, Nottingham in April 2015
Around 90 or so guests attended during the course of the wedding day, including many of my friends from university. Among them was David Marsden who studied with me at UNMC on the mobility scheme. Ashley and I had our eight-day honeymoon in May on the Caribbean island of St Lucia.
In September, we’re holding a reception dinner in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia; this gives us the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends who couldn’t attend the UK wedding. We’re expecting around 200 or so guests including our friends from Malaysia and Singapore (from UNMC and UoN).
On our honeymoon looking at the Pitons in St Lucia, May 2015
Why was The University of Nottingham #Meanttobe for you?
Keith: It might be clichéd to say, but UoN provided much more than a (well-respected) degree; I met a fantastic group of friends and lived and studied in both Malaysia and China. Most importantly, it’s through uni that I met my beautiful wife #meanttobe.
Ashley: I really grew as a person during my degree; meeting so many people from different cultures and backgrounds definitely helped to broaden my horizons. UoN was meant to be for me; it not only gave me the right degree to embark on my career; it’s also the place I met Keith! So, I gained not only a world-class education and millions of great experiences, but also a husband and a wonderful, extended family!
What made you want to stay in Nottingham after graduating?
Keith: As a graduate looking for a role in finance, Nottingham is home to many recognisable employers (Experian, Boots, Capital One, Siemens, Eon, Deloitte, KPMG to name a few) so from a career perspective it was good option to remain in Nottingham. Furthermore, many friends had secured jobs in Nottingham after graduating and that made the decision even easier.
Nottingham has a great selection of places to go to eat, to shop and to visit and is home to so many independent shops, cafes and restaurants that, even after living here for years, I never feel bored. The city’s extremely well connected for public transport with regular trams and bus services right across the city, which means getting around and commuting for work is really easy.
Ashley: I fell in love with Nottingham after three years studying here. It’s not as large as London or Kuala Lumpur but there’s always plenty to do and it’s easy to get around. And of course Keith was here so it didn’t take a lot of thought to want to stay here.
Do you have a personal message for anyone planning on studying at UoN?
Ashley: As I found, there’ll be lots of reasons why you would chose to study here (a particular course, future career prospects, research opportunities, for example) but you’ll soon discover many more. Lots of those may be unexpected, but all will create wonderful memories and, like finding true love, could shape your future!
Holme Pierrepont Hall, Nottingham at our wedding reception with all our friends from the UK
If you have memories to share of working or studying at UNMC, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep up with the 15th anniversary celebrations of the University of Nottingham in Malaysia, using #UNMC15 on Twitter between July and September 2015.