Travelling nearly 8000 km away from home. I’ve studied and lived in this foreign country for almost five years. I can still remember the day when I got on the plane for this entirely new but undetermined journey. I left my parents with a heavy heart, carried all the weighty luggage and told myself it was time to grow up. Although this seems to have happened yesterday, it’s been over four years and this is probably the last year that I will study in the UK. Time flies! It is difficult for me to narrate my whole story as an international student, but I will try to use three words to summarize this unforgettable experience in this article.
The first word that jumped to my mind is “adventure” without any doubt. The decision to study abroad in a strange country was not hard to make but the process while embarking on this experience is definitely adventurous. I can still vaguely recall being taken by my parents to a talk hosted by global education consultants in Hong Kong, which strengthened my determination to step out of my comfort zone. Since I used to be a science student in secondary school, it was a daring choice to study media courses abroad as this doesn’t fit into the “standard” pathway others usually have. Thankfully, my parents and friends gave me a lot of support as always which made me no longer hesitate about my decision. With their encouragement, I started applications, tested IELTS, accepted offers, packed my luggage, and arrived at Newcastle Airport within only three months! The beginning of my journey as an international student appears to be really unrealistic and fearless – just like an adventure.
As I learned from the collective psychology module from my undergraduate course, “A Hero’s Journey” involves multiple stages and is closely associated with personal transformation either intentionally or accidentally. I am not claiming that I am a hero, but I have truly been motivated to transform a lot during these years. I used to be an introverted person who was not confident in expressing myself and speaking English, which is not my mother language. I was always afraid of making mistakes or being embarrassed like a fool. However, I have met many brilliant students in Newcastle and London. They hail from different places with different cultures but are all confident in conveying their self-identities and exchanging opinions with one another. This has prompted me to change – speak without anxiety in my accent and talk without worries about the exact right or wrong.
Growth seems to be a very similar word to transformation, but for me, it indicates another layer of meaning – individuation. Individuation generally refers to the procedure of separating from the collective, including family and social norms to become a unique individual. In the past, I was head over ears in the appearance and anticipatory anxiety that was shaped by the society surrounding me. Living alone and studying abroad in an inclusive environment allows me to critically reflect on these “toxic” social norms. This valuable experience also assists me in verifying who I am and what kind of person I would like to be.
Whether in Newcastle or London, I will never regret being an international student in the UK. My journey of studying abroad is not easy, but even more meaningful and precious.