The GREAT in Great Britain (and Northern Ireland!)

by Kat Usita

What made me choose the UK as a study destination?

There’s so much about the world I want to learn, and what better way to get a truly global education than to study in the UK? Distinctive yet diverse, modern yet historic, progressive yet respectful of tradition. This place is full of contrasts that broaden the way I think and feel, helping me understand everyone around me a little bit better as I learn about the things that I’m passionate about. It has been a life-changing adventure so far, just as I thought it would be. 

Choosing where to study abroad is a big decision, but it can also be exciting once you consider all the amazing things you can discover once you get there. For me, I was always sure that I wanted to do my master’s in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or the UK for short. Here are some of the reasons why studying here has been the greatest choice I’ve made in my life so far.

The best and the brightest

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would get to study in my dream school, which is one of the best universities in the world and the oldest among all English-speaking ones. On a whim, I decided to send in an application to the University of Oxford, and I got in! The UK is home to some of the highest-ranked schools internationally, most of which offer a wide variety of programmes. Whether you’re interested in science, the arts, history, law, politics, sports, business, language, fashion—really, the list goes on and on—you will surely find an excellent programme in a British university that suits your educational goals.

Scholarship opportunities

The financial cost of studying in the UK may seem daunting and you might want to study in the Philippines just to keep expenses low, but that’s not always the least expensive choice, especially for a master’s degree or a doctorate. With a little extra effort and research, you might just be able to land a generous scholarship like I did. Of the 124 students in my Master of Public Policy cohort, 80% have either full or partial funding. Almost all my Filipino student friends in the UK also have some form of scholarship or grant. If you decide to study here, chances are you will also find some means of support. Like they say, the best things in life are free!

Interactive, collaborative learning 

I was worried about being a student again after six years, but I quickly found myself enjoying the classroom setting because of how interactive it is. University classes in the UK have the usual lectures, as well as smaller group sessions called “seminars” where students can discuss the material covered among themselves. Seminars give me a chance to appreciate our lessons with more depth as my classmates and I exchange thoughts on how we understood them and how they differ in the contexts of our home countries. They also give our tutor (one of our professors or a teaching assistant) the chance to clarify or emphasise important parts of the lectures. Aside from seminars, we have a variety of activities that provide opportunities for group work and shared learning, such as a mock trade negotiation that we did for one of our classes.

Testing your limits

Another concern I had once I got to school was examinations. The last one I took before grad school was back in 2010! I wasn’t sure I still remembered what it was like to answer an essay question under time pressure. But the good thing about UK universities is that they give you everything you need to prepare for all your tests. When I was revising for my exams last month, I had 24/7 access to libraries and almost all my readings were available online. My tutors held “office hours” and “revision sessions” where we could ask questions if we were unsure of something in our lessons. We even got to participate in our school’s tradition of exchanging carnations before exams and pinning them on our chests for good luck. Since all learning resources (and lucky customs) were made available, all I had to worry about was managing my own time and energy. It definitely got stressful at times, but I got to test my own capabilities using the tools provided to successfully hurdle my exams.

Diversity and multiculturalism

I love the Philippines, but I always knew that exposure to the rest of the world is necessary for my personal growth and development. I chose to study in the UK because I know that it is a cosmopolitan country—honestly, studying here is the most efficient way to get to know so many cultures at once! About one-fifth of all university students here are international students. My class alone is made up of students from 69 different countries and territories, while my dorm’s kitchen is shared by five girls from five different continents. I can now confidently say that I have friends from all corners of the globe, and that I’ve had the honour of serving as an ambassador of our country to all of them!

Historical landmarks and cultural icons

The truly incredible part of studying in the UK is my proximity to some of the most remarkable, must-see landmarks in the world. Since moving here, I’ve walked across London Bridge, posed in front of Big Ben, seen the Stonehenge up close, visited Shakespeare’s birthplace, jogged around Buckingham Palace and stepped over the actual Prime Meridian. And yet all of that is just a fraction of everything there is to see and do in England, not to mention the rest of the United Kingdom! The amount of fun and learning that can happen while checking out these places truly makes living here an exceptional experience. 

Endless pop culture sites 

Whether you’re a fan of Harry Potter, Sherlock, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, James Bond, Mr. Bean, The Beatles, or any other British contribution to pop culture, you will inevitably find something here that is connected to one of them. Personally, I was thrilled to see the real-life dining hall that was used as the basis for the Great Hall in the Harry Potter movies. I could just imagine the boy wizard sitting with his Gryffindor mates in one of the long tables while listening to Professor Dumbledore say something both extremely funny and wise. I also got super kilig when I found the blue door of Hugh Grant’s flat in the classic rom-com Notting Hill—yes, the actual door that paparazzi swarmed while waiting for Julia Roberts to emerge.

I hope that last bit doesn’t reveal too much about my age! But that’s another great thing about the UK—there’s something here for everyone, no matter what stage of life you’re in or whatever your interests are. If you want to have the greatest, most enriching and exhilarating educational experience of your life, start looking at British universities today.