by Iris Mauricio
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 am not studying or sleeping, I am 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 will be sharing a bit of my experience in becoming a UK university student in the hopes that maybe you will find at least one aspect of it helpful. It's been such a blast studying here, and I can not 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 was not 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 do been visiting since childhood. Staying was the safe option because I did not 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 are off for a new life, in a new country. It is 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 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 am surprised at how I did not 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 are just beginning your journey towards an education here (or even just beginning to think about it), I have cobbled together a small list of things that I did that helped me survive the trip:
1. ASKING MYSELF: AM I SURE?
Every action first begins with the decision to do it. Studying abroad was not 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. 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 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 are already struggling to juggle your current studies and extracurriculars.
3. BRITISH COUNCIL PHILIPPINES and THE IELTS EXAM
Ah yes, the famous IELTS exam. Over the years, I have 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 is very different. The IELTS stands for ‘International English Language Testing System', so it is 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 have 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 are 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 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 will also be moving to another country at the same time, and things can 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 do be better off without.
5. TAKING THE JUMP
This step is not so much a preparatory step, but it is still an important part of the journey. This is the moment when you have got your plane ticket and passport in one hand, your suitcase in the other, and you are 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 are off for a new life, in a new country. It is 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 will not forget this part.