Before I went to the UK, I never imagined that I would be friends with a German. Or a Russian! Or even a Trini (I even had to refresh my geographical knowledge when my friend first told me she is from Trinidad and Tobago)!
One of the perks of studying in the UK is you got to experience a multicultural life. Even though I studied in Bournemouth, a small town, but Bournemouth University has a significant number of international students, in fact out of the 31 people in my MA Advertising and Marketing Communications class, only 4 of them are British, leaving the rest being international students.
Now, I can’t possibly write my memories and life changing experiences that I had in one blog post (simply because there are too many!), but I can summarize some of the important bits for you to read.
First thing first, I got to tackle stereotyping.
Admit it, we tend to stereotype people. I’ve heard stereotypes of Indonesians. How we are perceived to still live in the jungle, thanks to Orang Utan! Well.. No not really, but we are perceived to still live in a very traditional society, thus creating a surprise in everyone’s face when I mentioned that Jakarta, where I live, has Topshop too, or when I showed them a picture of Pondok Indah Mall, with all the stores carrying brands that can also be found in UK ‘s High Street.
To be honest, I too had some stereotypes of certain nationalities. People from country A? snobs. Those from country B? lazy. That one from country C? Uncle Scrooge!
Trust me none of those stereotypes were true. The one I perceived lazy was one of the most diligent person I’ve met. She taught me how to have a good academic and social life balance. Those I perceived snobs became my best friends, even until now, despite our living in different parts of the world. So, lesson learned… no more stereotyping ever since. Keep a broad mind, accept the differences, and learn to get the value of those differences.
Second, I learned that second chances do exist.
Prior to living in the UK, I had a pretty flat life. By flat I don’t mean boring, but everything was sort of predictable, mapped out in a linear line. There was this common scenario in my surroundings that life means going to school, get good grades, get a degree, work in a good company, build a career, get married, and all that. I too, had that kind of view.
In the UK, I met this European girl. She was in her early 30s, with a successful job. She decided to leave her job, take all of her savings, and move to the UK to study English, and get herself a master’s degree. I used to think that it is weird to leave a prominent career and take all of your savings to start a “new life”. But after becoming friends with her, I see how happy she was, and how her coming to the UK had opened a lot of new exciting opportunities for her. It made me realize that it’s okay to take second chances, because they do exist! Never limit yourself by how old you are, and be brave enough to take a second chance!
Lastly, different (and interesting) cultures showered on me!
My first cultural event in the UK was end of the first semester/Christmas party with my classmates. I’ve been to Christmas parties before but that one in the UK was very different, because it was a potluck party, and we had to bring one traditional dish for the whole class. I cooked an easy one; perkedel kentang and called them “Indonesian fried mashed potato” :p Lucky me … everyone seemed to like it! I also got to enjoy different kinds of food, ranging from British Minced Pie to Greek Salad.
Then there were birthday parties. In Indonesia, you have to treat your guests if you want to throw a party for your birthday. One day, my British friend invited me for lunch in a fancy restaurant to celebrate her birthday. Being a student with limited monthly allowance, I was so excited, because I’ve never eaten there before, and of course, had thought it would be her treat. Afterwards, I was so confused when everyone reached for their wallets and took out some money to pay! It turns out that in British culture, the one having a birthday does not necessarily have to treat their guests, and it is common for the guests to pay for themselves! Different country, different culture
In that one year period I lived in the UK, I have also celebrated the Guy Fawkes Night (this one is my favorite; it is a fireworks night celebrated every 5th of November as a remembrance of Guy Fawkes’ arrest, a guy who tried to bomb The House of Lords). So, all in all, I’ve experienced various Christmas parties, have celebrated the New Year’s Eve in front of the London Eye, celebrated Easter by eating the Hot Cross Buns, celebrated St. Patrick Day, and so forth …
I have also tasted a very good Thai steamboat cooked by my lovely Thai friends, Japanese curry cooked by my Japanese housemate, German bread baked by my German friend, Indian food (how can I forget Indian food cooked by the lovely Indians!), and of course, I can’t never get enough British pub food (Jacket potato anyone? Bangers and Mash? Or maybe Fish and Chips?)!
I learned how to dance Salsa from my Venezuelan friend, learned to hike from my Russian friend, and learned to cook from my Taiwanese friends…
Without being friends with the Brits, I would never developed a habit to queue, nor would I drink tea whenever I feel tired or stressed out to calm my nerves. I also would not call those delicious fried potato “Chips”, and would not crave to have crumpets with strawberry jam for breakfast, or scones with clotted cream for afternoon snack…
Finally, after a year living in the UK while completing my master’s, I can proudly say that I now have friends from all over the world and that every memory I have with each one of them have helped shaping the person I am now.