POV being an international student – Comparing cultures


By Jonathan Chen, BSc Chemistry, Department of Chemistry

Growing up in Malaysia, it was always a dream to leave the boiling, humid, homeland to pursue what I deemed a ‘real education’.  Both my parents had studied at a UK university, and I was eager to experience for myself the happiness and independence they described. Never had I imagined that I’d be lucky enough to come here earlier – for Sixth Form. Alas, this was very different to what they had portrayed, and understandably so because it was boarding school, not university. What these two years did allow me to do before university, however, was to fully immerse myself in British culture.

English was my first language at home, so I never had much of a problem with starting a conversation. What did strike me, was that the nature and content of the conversations really differ substantially than those at home. Topics such as political policies that were, in general, never spoken of in Malaysia were discussed more openly. Even the way people went about their daily lives was somewhat different to me. As an avid foodie, where each meal just had to be perfect, it admittedly took a while to get used to the fact that primarily, food is sustenance, and that taste is secondary. Although these changes appeared subtle, I find that these two years in a British boarding school provided me with the awakening I needed for the global, liberal university that King’s College London is. I probably will never be able to eat baked beans out of a can, but it is the appreciation and acceptance of the fact that people do that is so crucial to have.

Arriving at King’s, I found myself being interested in meeting everyone, and it really did seem like there were people from every corner of the globe. I had become accustomed to the difference in teaching style in boarding school, and I never felt like I stood out amongst my course-mates. A combination of the facts that the King’s community is so diverse, and that I had learnt how to integrate myself from boarding school, meant that my transition into uni life was seamless. And for people for whom studying at King’s is their first venture away from home, they are quick to feel at home in the many cultural societies here.

Now, I find myself in the position of wanting to build my life in the UK, and all it took was a sweeping comment to a lecturer for the career’s department at King’s to provide amazing support. Admittedly, most of my international peers aim to go home after they’ve completed their studies. As for me, the UK has become my home and my experience at King’s has only made me love this country even more.

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