"I think London had introduced me to the best people in my life, when I was alone 7,000 miles away from home." - Fibria Heliani.
I am Fibria Heliani, a Communications Officer of Local Solutions to Poverty of the World Bank. I completed my Master's Degree in International Business, at the University of Gloucestershire, London. About my time in the UK – especially in London, there are things that I enjoy the most; first, I got the chance to meet people from various parts of the world as my classmates or housemates (and we were very helpful toward each other). Second, I got to join in so many cool events held by museums, city council, or other organizations in London and they were all for FREE! Those starting from open air dancing class, movie showcase, painting exhibition from famous painters, fireworks, carnival, to movie premier (oh and almost every museum in the UK is free!)
In London, I love how we can spend hours walking around the cities enjoying the view of famous landmarks or just strolling through the River Thames, or sitting down in the park with friends. Last but not least, there is a chance to travel to cities in the UK in a very cheap price using the bus or trains. All you need to do is just think about what would you like to do for a short holiday (going to football stadium or soaking up in the beach or trekking through hills and enjoy the quintessential British villages and prairie or walking through cities with buildings with medieval architecture), book your ticket online in a very affordable price for students, and off you go!
Pursuing a Master's Degree in the UK meaning that the students are expected to be proactive in learning. This means students could not just wait to be supplied with reading materials from the lecturers or rely on knowledge shared in classes. But they have to search for any kind of information related to the subjects they are studying, and this will involve a lot of time to read various sources of information from books, e-journals, working paper, etc.
At the beginning, I felt overwhelmed with all of these and kind of doubt myself if I could ever do it, especially because I don’t have any business administration background, as I had my Bachelor's Degree in Communications). So imagine, I was still kind of introducing myself with business study, but at the same time I have got a lot of materials (from basic to advance) to read for me to be able to work on assignments or projects in a very short deadline.
But all those hard works paid off. That learning system has gotten me to be even more pro-active in my working environment. During my study, especially when working on my dissertation, I learned that we could have options for solutions by mix-and-match practice in various industries. It really opened my mind and so far, had been triggering me to give creative solutions in completing my work assignments. It encouraged you to have a creative thinking and not easily give up.
Meeting so many people from various background had also improve my interpersonal skills that really helps me in working. For example, now I like to do brainstorm with people in my office regardless their position, because great ideas can come from anywhere.
When boarding my plane to London four years ago, I knew that I would be having so much fun for the next one year ahead; being exposed to international community, getting international standard of education, having a lot of opportunities to go to world-class seminars, workshops, and gathering as well as chances to travel as much as I could. What I didn’t know at that time was that I would get a lot of life lessons just as many as my academic ones.
Starting my first day in the London-based campus of University of Gloucestershire, I remember I texted my mother, “Mom, I think I made a mistake. I don’t have any clue about the subject at all and yet the students in class are very proactive, they look so confident and always have the answers to the lecturers’ questions. I wanna go home.” Then my mother told me to take things lightly and slowly, that it was fine for me to feel that way because it’s a total new environment, that it’s just like having another bachelor degree and I’d get my groove back and I’d be doing great.
And I think that was my turning point when I started to build my confidence in the strangers’ land (it turned out that experiences of solo traveling for years are no comparison with living your life far from home to pursue master degree). Just in about three weeks after texting my mother, I found myself chit-chatting with friends in between class breaks discussing anything starting from the subjects taught to wonderful tourism destinations in Indonesia, sitting down in coffee shops or roaming around the town after class with classmates, or even getting glued to laptops along with friends in the library doing assignments.
It turned out that I actually did not need to worry about anything as my classmates and the lecturers are very friendly and helpful. After the class ended, the lecturer would not mind to be approached by students to further discuss about the subjects taught or the progress of final semester assignments we were working on. For me personally, these helped me to be open and confident to talk about something I haven’t understood clearly or stating my opinion as the lecturers were very open to any ideas or questions.
The lecturers will always help us to clarify things, but throughout my study in the UK, what I felt so different was that the students are expected to be proactive in learning; digging through various source of information (books, e-books, journals, working papers, research results, etc.) when working on their final semester assignments or study for the final semester examinations. I think I read so a lot of books in that year compared to previous years of my life.
In addition to academic experience, living far from home by myself had helped shaping up my confidence, enhanced my skill to manage daily domestic things (such when to buy groceries), made me living in a very orderly life (as I know that it would be very tough when getting sick far from parents, that means I need to pay attention to my meals or lifestyle), made me very creative in managing my financial and be more appreciative toward money.
Moreover, London had taught me the value of friendships. When I was there, my friends and I had the same sense that we are each other’s family and we have no one else to rely on except each other. Therefore, it taught me to be good with people, to not judge them in the first meetings, to help whoever in need, to be sensitive to others’ need and to realize that each one of us has our own uniqueness that we couldn’t force them to do things the way we would do.
I think that we understood this family concept very well that we never hesitated to help each other such as visiting a friend who was sick and cook for him/her, taking turns in preparing meals for lunch or dinner when other friends were short of fund or even putting-in our money together to cook meals when we miss Indonesian food (yes, it is very expensive to cook Indonesian food) or a bit short of cash.
Furthermore, before living in the UK, I thought I had known myself quite well, but during my time in the Big Smoke, I rediscovered who I am and figured out what I wanted to do in life. And I believe those experiences are what made me who I am now both personally and professionally. Yep, I feel I had bigger confidence when talking to or discussing ideas with my boss, clients or senior colleagues and to be respectful with the junior ones.
Seems life was quite tough as a student in the UK? Not really. I had a lot of time having fun and feel so blessed to be able to visit famous London landmarks just few walks away, sit down in the parks with friends enjoying lunch (something we can’t have in Indonesia), walk around the town or stroll along the River Thames with friends day or night time when felt stressed or bored with academic life, take photos with Hollywood famous faces in movie premier events, visit museums for free, indulge myself in hundreds of books in beautiful bookstores or free libraries, watch football match, or refresh myself through weekend gate away with friends to cities in the UK with a very affordable bus or train.
If in my first week in London I almost cried to my mother and told her I wanted to go home, in my last week, I remember I tried to find excuses to stay longer in the town and cried when my plane is taking off to Jakarta.
In conclusion, living in London pursuing my master degree has been the most incredible one year in my life, so far. If I may put my experience as a song title, it would be “Amazing day(s)” because London had opened my eyes that life has a beautiful crazy design.