June 16, 2022, by Lee Mei Kee
Life as an International Student in Biomedical Sciences
Darshni Suresh Bid, Mohammad Rahim and Gabrielle Jessica Robby are Year 2 Biomedical Sciences (BMS) international students. Let’s take a look at their study abroad experiences in the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM).
1. What are the biggest differences between attending classes in your home country and Malaysia for a BMS student?
Darshni: While attending classes online, the time zone difference was the biggest difference I faced, I’m not specifically a night owl or a morning person as long as I get 8-10 hours of sleep, I am able to focus for the day. During the time I was back home in Kenya, when there were lectures early morning at 4am or 5am then I would offset waking up early with afternoon naps. I loved those naps during that time while it lasted.
Rahim: The biggest difference for me was the time zones. Back in my home country, classes at 9am would be at 6am for me meaning all of my submission, work or anything related to the university would be have to be done 3 hours earlier. It did take some time to get used to, but eventually adapted to it. Other than that, being in Malaysia, we got to use the facilities such as the lab, printers, library, so I would say that it made a lot of difference in terms of studies and lifestyle.
Gabrielle: I think the biggest challenge in studying abroad would be being away from my family. I never perceived myself as a family person before university or Foundation, but since the pandemic and returning to my hometown, I’ve realized that I took quality time with my family for granted. Despite this, I think living independently definitely has its advantages: living on my own means that there is a lower risk of me transmitting COVID-19 to my family, especially with the number of face-to-face labs / workshops in BMS and my upcoming internship during the summer break.
Apart from that, I would occasionally miss speaking in my mother tongue as I speak in full English when I’m in Malaysia. I usually overcome this by contacting my family and friends from back home and checking up on what they’re up to. Thankfully, I rarely feel like an outsider considering how Malaysia and Indonesia share similar cultures, language, and food, but whenever I do, I try to lean into it and treat myself like a tourist by going to places I’ve never been. This also reminds me of how blessed I am to be able to explore a different country on my own.
2. Tell us a little about your daily life: accommodation and food.
Darshni: Now that I am back in Malaysia, I live off campus and since I am a vegetarian I have been cooking often, albeit my cooking skills are elementary but at least my eye balling skills have become great. This is why my calls back home are a minimum of 1 hour almost daily, because with most of the calls come much appreciated cooking tips as well.
Rahim: So currently I’m staying off campus in an accommodation nearby called Tetris apartment. It’s a bit far away on walk, but I share a car with a friend so life is easier. In terms of food, I would either eat outside or cook, so depending on how busy I am. Lunch would most likely be outside due to classes or other tasks but for dinner I would cook because I’m already in my room. It does get confusing in the beginning, but its honestly not that difficult to live by yourself once you get the hang of things like cooking, cleaning, financing etc.
Some beautiful pictures of Darshni’s home country, Kenya.
3. How are you enjoying the student life in UNM?
Darshni: I am enjoying living alone and in Malaysia, part of the reason why my family agreed to let me come here in Malaysia is for me to experience individuation. Going into this can seem daunting but the more time you spend the easier it gets as you get to know yourself better. It also helps having friends to go through this experience with as you grow along through university, more likely than not they may be experiencing or have experienced similar aspects as you. so, reaching out to people is great even though as an introvert I felt a bit out of my comfort zone first few times, but it was great because this is how I ended up making many friends like my grocery shopping buddies, or the many people I have interacted within the university with course mates, during events, clubs and societies and outside randomly meeting people as well.
Rahim: It is a bit stressful due to our university’s 3-year plan, but it is very manageable and fun. You get to explore a lot of different concepts and cultures due to the diversity in the university and the country itself.
4. Tell us about the best thing you like about Malaysia.
Rahim: The best thing would be the food, I’ve always wanted to try different Asian cuisine, and even though my local food is not available here as much, it is not a bad trade-off. Because well, I do get to have Arabic food, but along with that Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesia, there’s a whole variety of it.
5. What is your learning experience in face-to-face classes?
Rahim: It is honestly not that different compared to face-to-face classes back then, but it is very different to online. Not only do you feel more motivated and actually are able to pay attention, but the interaction between the lecturer and the students just makes the experience all the better.
Gabrielle: I love getting hands-on experience after only learning it in theory! I appreciated the virtual labs the school provided when physical labs / workshops weren’t viable, but virtual labs can only replace so much of physical labs. To tell the truth, I felt that I was running behind my peers as I wasn’t able to experience physical labs during my first year, but this imposter syndrome (mainly) disappeared when I had my first physical lab in UG! Our lecturers and teaching assistants were so helpful that I now feel much more confident about my lab skills and the theories behind our practical classes.
6. What is your advice to students who hesitate to study abroad?
Rahim: Well, it’s going to be scary to think about it, maybe you’re afraid to leave your parents, or you’re afraid you won’t be able to live by yourself or won’t have any friends. But the fact is, things work out, you fall, you get up, you learn. Eventually things become easier and you tend to find your way through it all. 😊
Gabrielle: Studying abroad really is a wonderful experience, as I believe it pushes you to be independent and have a more open mind by interacting with various people. Being away from home was a turning point in my life, as it led me to improving my mental health by appreciating more in life, having a more ‘big picture’ mindset, and not caring too much on what others think of me. I genuinely believe this experience allowed me to grow tremendously as a person. I recognize the amount of privilege and sacrifice required for me to even consider studying abroad, so I wholeheartedly recommend it if you have the means to. Best wishes to everyone going to university soon! If you have further questions, you can contact me on my LinkedIn ( https://www.linkedin.com/in/gabrielle-j-r/ )! Stay safe people 🙂
Breathtaking beach view from Bali, Indonesia – Gabrielle’s home country.