The London Sea Life attraction is probably my favourite one in London because it reminds me of home.

by Iris Mauricio

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Who am I?

I am Iris Mauricio, and I am a Second year Creative Writing undergraduate at Brunel University of London. As my degree implies, my passion is in the arts—I love creating, and studying what I love to do has been amazing. My main interests outside of writing and reading lies mainly in films, TV shows, and comics, so when I’m not studying or sleeping, I’m most likely watching something on my laptop, or out with friends at the local cinema. I also enjoy writing reviews aside from writing creatively, and I run a few social media platforms to manage both hobbies.

For this blog, I’ll be sharing a bit of my experience in becoming a UK university student in the hopes that maybe you’ll find at least one aspect of it helpful. It’s been such a blast studying here, and I can’t encourage people enough to consider the UK as a place to pursue higher education. 

The Journey Here

Truth be told, coming here to the UK to study university was definitely not something in the cards for most of my life. Up until my senior year in high school, I had been following the same plan that pretty much everyone else was: pass my college entrance exams, graduate, and begin studying at my local university of choice. Leaving the Philippines to study somewhere else in the world just wasn’t appealing to me, despite my dad’s numerous attempts to convince me ever since he moved to London for his job. Manila was familiar, it was home; the place where everyone knows everyone, where I practically grew up with my friends, where I still ate at the same restaurants, and hung out at the same places I’d been visiting since childhood. Staying was the safe option because I didn’t want to have to feel afraid, but a part of me also knew that I would regret missing out on such an opportunity. So after more than a year of stubbornly refusing to even consider studying abroad, I finally decided to open myself up to it. 

This is the moment when you look out the window as your plane takes off and you watch Manila fall out beneath the clouds, because this is it—you’re off for a new life, in a new country. It’s exhilarating and scary and all-around breathtaking.

 

 

The months of preparation for studying in the UK are honestly a bit of a blur when I look back on it now. I think that the combination of my high school graduation looming on the horizon, scrambling to finish my final exams, and also the rigorous rehearsals I was attending to practice for my last international trip with my school choir, made time bend in a weird way. Considering my full plate, I’m surprised at how I didn’t freak out when UK university applications managed to squeeze its way in there, but I made it out pretty happy and all in one piece. If you’re just beginning your journey towards an education here (or even just beginning to think about it), I’ve cobbled together a small list of things that I did that helped me survive the trip:

Before leaving

1. ASKING MYSELF: AM I SURE?

Every action first begins with the decision to do it. Studying abroad wasn’t something to be taken lightly, and I was aware that if I did choose to do it, I had to prepare myself for the challenge of uprooting my life in the Philippines. On the other hand, if I chose to stay, I would be missing out on an incredible chance at experiencing life in a new country. I had to be sure that whichever option I chose, I would be okay with it for the rest of my life. In this case, the possibility of opening a totally new chapter in my life won out, and I threw myself into the process of applying for study in the UK.

2. SEEKING HELP: THE UKEAS 

My journey of applying to UK universities would have been much more stressful had I done it alone. The UKEAS is a consultancy agency set up specifically to help prospective students who want to study in the UK, and not only are they incredibly helpful, but they also do it for free. The agent assigned to help me out was a guiding hand throughout the application process by staying with me through each step, and also liaising with the universities I was applying for. It made a huge difference in making my transition from Filipino student to UK student much gentler, because my agent was very accommodating and ready to answer any inquiries I had to the best of their knowledge. I highly recommend going to the UKEAS for help, especially if you’re already struggling to juggle your current studies and extracurriculars.

Posted while at the airport after my Christmas break in the Philippines ended last January: “MNL✈LDN time again, and with it comes the end of the part of the year I look forward to the most. Thanks to everyone who hung out with me at some point or another! The countdown to next December when I get to come home again has begun.”
Posted on my FB and IG on May 28, 2014, when I arrived in London, ready to begin university: “Just touched down @ Heathrow airport! Props to the pilots for a super-smooth landing! #heregoesnothing!”

3. BRITISH COUNCIL PHILIPPINES & THE IELTS EXAM

Ah yes, the famous IELTS exam. Over the years, I’ve had several people thinking of studying in the UK approach me about this because they were nervous about it and had no idea what exactly it entailed. A lot of the time, the misconception that people have of the IELTS is that it’s something like the SAT (‘Standard Attainment Test’) in the US, but it’s very different. The IELTS stands for ‘International English Language Testing System’, so it’s actually just an English aptitude test, or a test that checks how proficient you are at using the English language. The British Council Philippines is where you should apply to take the test, and they’ve made registering accessible online on their website. Not only does the British Council supply free resources to help you study and train for the exam, but the staff themselves at the office are also very nice and friendly when you’re there to take it. 

4. STAYING ORGANISED

Much of the application process requires quite a lot of paperwork, and a lot of the time, universities will be requiring many documents from you. My organisational skills were definitely tested during this period because I had to make sure that I acquired copies of whatever documents I needed, had them scanned, duplicated the files of those scans, and also kept track of where I was keeping the physical copies. Folders and USBs/hard drives should become your best friends, and I strongly advise uploading some copies onto your Google Drive or Dropbox just to be safe, and to ensure that you can easily access them from your phone. 

Labelling is also very important: make them clear and easy to read for times when you need to quickly pull them up or send them to someone else. Keep in mind that you’ll also be moving to another country at the same time, and things can so easily get lost while packing or on the journey there—stay vigilant! Being organised from the beginning will prevent situations of panic due to being unable to find the paper you need, which is a kind of stress you’d be better off without. 

5. TAKING THE JUMP

This step isn’t so much a preparatory step, but it’s still an important part of the journey. This is the moment when you’ve got your plane ticket and passport in one hand, your suitcase in the other, and you’re waiting in line behind the check-in counter at NAIA. This is the moment when you look out the window as your plane takes off and you watch Manila fall out beneath the clouds, because this is it—you’re off for a new life, in a new country. It’s exhilarating and scary and all-around breathtaking. From here on out, the world will become simultaneously smaller and bigger all at once. The future will feel infinite. 

Take it in. You won’t forget this part.

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