From a chance encounter with the Queen to surviving winter as a tropical being, Low Jia Jen made lasting memories as a graduate student in the UK. Her journey began when the 25-year-old was teaching in an international school after her Bachelor’s in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language).
“Being just a few years older than my students, I felt I lacked life experiences and wisdom!” she tells Study International over e-mail. Now back in her home country of Malaysia, Low credits her time abroad for presenting her with unique opportunities to develop personally and professionally.
See what she has to say about her passion for language, travel, and meeting new people. Life as a graduate student in the UK sure sounds eventful.
Tell us about yourself. Why did you choose to study abroad?
Hello, my name is Jia Jen and I’m a graduate of the University of Westminster‘s English Language and Linguistics MA. I’ve always wanted to study abroad but like most students, finance was a major concern. Still, I decided to give it a try and applied for a scholarship to the UK. My application was accepted and I took the opportunity to further my studies. I will always be a proud scholar of the University of Westminster and grateful for the opportunity given.
Why did you choose to study in London? What do you like most about being an international graduate student in the UK?
One of the main reasons was my course subject; the UK is known for its social sciences and doing a major in English and Linguistics just made perfect sense! Also, the UK offers a list of scholarships for international students.
I like how diverse London is, I met people from all around the world, and had to secretly google country names and state names to know where they came from! It was fun getting to meet people from all walks of life; my favourite moments included cooking meals together in our student accommodation.
What did you study and why?
I studied MA in English Language and Linguistics. The course was wonderfully balanced with core subjects that really opened up my mind to the history and structure of English and elective subjects that allowed me to explore and even choose subjects from other departments. I’ve always been a language enthusiast — understanding why some people say potato and some say potahto fascinates me.
Growing up in multilingual Malaysia definitely had an impact on my curiosity towards how language defines a nation, community and essentially, ourselves. Linguistics is the study of languages; it’s the science behind languages and I think it’s a great fit for me.
Tell us about your most memorable time at the University of Westminster.
One of the most memorable times while studying at the University of Westminster was meeting a member of the royal family. I was selected to go on a school trip with a group of postgraduate and PhD students; we were invited to stay at a country home where we had discussions and seminars. The country home was near Windsor Castle and on a Sunday morning, we were invited to go to a private chapel where Queen Elizabeth II would sometimes visit as well.
We were excited but lowered our expectations because what are the chances, right? After the service ended, I was walking out when my friend grabbed me by the arm and whispered, “Look!” I followed the directions of her eyes and immediately froze but managed to still do a curtsy (we practised the night before!). The Queen of England was standing just about 20 feet away from me! Wearing perfectly white gloves, the Queen gave a slight wave and smiled before departing, leaving us in a delightful state of bewilderment. I will never forget that day as it truly felt like a moment frozen in time.
What is your top advice for those planning to become an international student in the UK?
For friends coming from warmer climate places, buy a stock of heat packs and hand warmers! I used to place them in the pockets of my outerwear and that made all the difference. My classmate advised me to get a hot water bottle and place it underneath my covers/duvet and that helped me survive the winter as well.
Enjoy the experience, say yes to opportunities, say yes to trying and challenging yourself! Say yes to helping a friend in need and getting to know people. Keep an open mind and you will find that we have more similarities than differences with each other.