Life as an International Student in King’s College London

Sheikh Zakaria

When we talk about a city massively diverse on religious and cultural grounds, with one of the oldest and extensive transport system in the world, and quality education in arts and science-it just has to be London. With around 300 languages spoken within the boundary and more than 10 different religions, London is home to a hugely diverse population with different cultural backgrounds. Certainly the illustrious history of education which England boasts has lured me more than anything else to pursue my undergraduate degree here in London. The likes of University of Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Imperial College, King’s and LSE have always dominated the world university rankings.  I went for King’s School of Pharmacy as it’s one of the few and most renowned schools in London with 98% graduate job prospect. Now as my first year ends, I’ve discovered a more self established and responsible person inside me than I was before going to university
London’s luxurious, it’s old yet posh-but it has got nothing to do with way a student leads his/her life here, especially the international students who have migrated only for the sake of a top class education. Belonging to such a minority, I’ve learnt over the months what sacrifices one needs to make to undergo the transition of life from home to a different country.  It has been quite a rough ride for me to acclimatize with the environment and lifestyle here; bearing in mind the love soaked comfort my parents bestowed me since my childhood. My room was cleaned, my meals were ready, my clothes were washed and I always got to use the car-just some basic daily routines which were served to add to my laid back lifestyle. But from the moment I stepped out of Heathrow till now, I’ve been through a bumpy yet fun ride in my life. I was always admonished that with age comes responsibility and I didn’t feel like taking them up when I was back home. Now that I’ve deliberately entered a new frame in life, I’m coerced to live up to the daily hardships whether I like it or not.
University studies top the hierarchy of education and so I was mentally prepared to tackle the pressure. But my initial determination seemed so banal and vapid when the lectures started to literally pour on us. Pharmacy demands hours of dedicated studies and not just turning the pages. Also there was the “wow” effect that London was giving me- the superfast metros, classy clothing, tourist attractions like the London Eye and Hyde Park. So all my initial plans to shape up my life with a better dimension just crushed into pieces as there were too many things to worry about, the first and foremost being  living away from home. With the massive influx of foreign students in London over the past couple of years, the universities and colleges can’t provide enough accommodation for all of them. So as I have seen, students tend to rent expensive private halls or live in poor settlements, where a flat’s shared by three or four people. I’m lucky though as I am living with my friends from school in a large house, keeping my homesickness at bay.  Still there are always household chores like washing, cleaning and cooking to do which cut my study time to a great extent. It’s a typical bachelor life, as some wise people say, that we must make most of as we get to taste the bitter side of life. I have never in my life  touched a frying pan and now I’ve to sit for a test the next day but I cook curry and rice for ten more people as part of our cooking timetable. There’s always a homely air hanging around the house which doesn’t make me miss home that much, but of course no feeling’s parallel to a mother’s affection, which I miss the most!
Underscoring the philosophical title “struggle for existence”, it does remind us especially the biology students or some wise people about Charles Darwin’s postulate that population in a species will compete for same basic entities like a particular type of food, shelter or mate and only the most able one will survive. I am tempted to analogize our very own situation with the competition Darwin postulated. Sad but true, London’s a pretty expensive city to live and study in and hence students have a tough time to bear with the tuition and living expenses.  It advantages the chaps from well off family who manage to study at UCL or Imperial College and pay around 20,000 pounds, while the less privileged have to settle to comparatively mediocre universities or colleges like Holborn or  City College.  It’s a pity the UK universities don’t provide full or even half scholarships to meritorious students and hence they can’t afford the top universities. Apart from the tuition fees, there’s monthly living expense to worry about which hovers around 300 pounds a month, if one’s not availing the halls (which are more expensive in all fairness). With the country’s battered economy just bouncing back from the recession, the job market’s not promising enough to provide jobs for full time posts, and we the students are indirectly facing the brunt of it as we look for part time jobs. Still some of my friends who have been living here for more than a year have managed to get into retail shops and restaurants and now earn enough to pay their living expenses. None of them are content though as they are unwillingly compromising their study hours for their work; not that they don’t want to study, but they say if they don’t get to live properly, what’s the point of studying then?  So far life may appear all rough and tough through my eyes, but there are more ways than you can think of relieving yourselves from stress. There’s hardly anything which will beat roundtable chat with your housemates, playing Playstation with your friends, hanging out in cool amusement spots like the O2 Arena in Greenwich, Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus, and Hyde Park just to name a few.
I’m one of those hapless chaps who are still looking for part timers, yet fateful in most other cases when it comes to living, eating and studying. Pharmacy’s one of the most demanding majors around and by God’s grace I am able to deliver what’s needed for successful progress. Here, we all struggle in our own ways but what matters for us is the degree that we all aim to achieve at the end of the day. Most of us don’t wish to live here after our course, because London’s job sectors may not be the best suitors for some of our degrees and also we wish to do go back to our country and establish ourselves provided that there’s enough infrastructure and opportunity.
For instance, the engineering people may wish to see off their postgraduate years in the States, but the medics or even pharmacists may well live here for few years and then go back home with bags of experience.
The onus is on us to make most of the freedom that life has given us, even out a balance between studies and leisure, and in the end come out triumphant from the struggles with a degree that will make your life shimmer with pride and glory!

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