Studying abroad is exciting and life-changing, but it can also be very scary for both the students and their parents. We spoke to Sooriya De Soysa, an Education Studies student from Norway studying in the UK, about her experience studying abroad. She tells us about the highlights, the challenges, her anxieties and her parents’ concerns.
Tell us a little about yourself
“I am from Norway (sadly no EU discount for me!), and I have just finished my degree in BA Education Studies at University College London (UCL).”
Why did you choose to study in the UK?
“My decision to study in the UK was influenced by several factors. My parents met studying abroad, so I’d always fantasised about moving abroad for university. The thought of moving to a big city also appealed to me, so studying abroad seemed like the perfect excuse. It would be dubious not to mention the quality and prestige of a UK education. Global rankings and student surveys are controversial, but the prospect of studying at the leading institution for Education in the world was exciting and I felt like it would give me greater opportunities in the future.
“I also wanted to continue studying in English, and UK’s proximity to Norway was also a plus. While it would’ve been a far more economically rational decision to pursue higher education in Norway where it’s free, moving to the city of my dreams to study at one of the best universities in the world seemed like an invaluable experience. I should also mention that the Norwegian state has a fairly generous student finance system in place, so although the international fees are atrociously costly I did receive a considerable amount of funding, which definitely helped in my decision to study abroad.”
Why did you choose to study for an Education BA?
“Without trying to sound too much like my cringeworthy personal statement, I do genuinely have a passion for education. I lived in Sri Lanka for a couple of years, and I was amazed at the value the Sri Lankan people place on education. The education system I encountered in Sri Lanka was also radically different from the one I was used to from Norway, so issues surrounding pedagogy, education quality, inequality and development definitely occupied my mind. Education has been hailed as a great social equalizer, and I was interested to unpick this claim further and gain a better understanding of it.
“I didn’t really have a specific career in mind when I first applied for this degree, but I think that education should first and foremost inspire you to develop as a person and to value the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and that it shouldn’t necessarily only function a means to an end (in other words, just function as a stepping stone to a specific career). I chose my degree subject because I was interested to learn more about it and that I can, later on, use this knowledge to work in education. Someone jokingly told me that I should start my own school in Sri Lanka one day if I care about it so much, and I figured that maybe I should!”
Why did you choose to study your subject in the UK?
How has your experience as an international student in the UK been?
Do you have any tips for finding other Norwegian speakers in the UK?
Finding other Norwegians wasn’t a big priority for me, as I wished to meet people from other places. However, I found that playing handball, which is a fairly niché sport in the UK but that is popular in Scandinavian countries, was a great way of befriending other fellow Norwegians. My university also had a Nordic Society. I didn’t participate, but that could be another possibility. Tinder and other dating apps also work since people love to include a little flag in their bio (but you didn’t hear that from me…).”
If you would like to hear our top tips about meeting people abroad who speak your language, then click here.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to study abroad/in the UK?
To read another student’s experience studying Politics in the UK, click here.
“In addition to researching the university and your degree, I would also advise people to consider the place they’re potentially moving to. I had visited London several times before and absolutely loved it every time, so this helped assure me that London was the right place for me to study. Others might prefer more of a “campus feel” and a smaller town, so that’s also something worth looking into. You don’t want to be stuck studying Medicine for six years in some awful godforsaken town… unless you plan on living in the library.
“Also, think about what you can afford! University life can be really expensive, particularly for international students and those on tier 4 visas where you’re subjected to restrictions on how much you can work etc. Make budgeting spreadsheets and be realistic. While I had a great experience here, many international students, unfortunately, don’t. It is a huge commitment, both in terms of time and money, so make sure you’re truly going to enjoy your degree, or at least see the value and meaning in doing it.”
To read our essential guide to studying in the UK, click here.