The journey from a small semi-urban town of a tribal dominated district of the state Odisha, India, to the royal country and home of world’s centuries-old universities Oxford and Cambridge, the United Kingdom sounds like a fairy tale. I am glad that I could be able to make it which I dreamed since I was young. The pleasure and excitement of being a student in the country of world’s education hub are simply incredible. My beautiful journey as a student started in one of the prestigious Universities, the University of Sussex, Brighton. It has been over a year being in the gorgeous country and not a single day passed without learning. While living in a foreign country sounds exciting, it does have its share of challenges. There is a need to learn every day to adjust to life abroad. After all, becoming a part of the local culture probably the hardest part I experience during my stay abroad in a foreign country.
It is tempting to share my experience of living abroad with people back home. Since this is my 3rd visit to Europe and 2nd to the UK, I had a little exposure to the western culture and practice which is slightly advantageous. My very first experience in the country is of safety. I landed in a new city at 11:30 pm after a long delayed flight and managed to travel in a taxi as I did not have any choice. There was a sense of anxiety and apprehension while traveling alone at night but as I came close to my destination I realized that the taxi driver knows every corner of the University and ensured I reach at my place safely without any trouble. That experience imprints in my memory and gives me the sense of security and safety in this country. The first few days spent in accustom with the surrounding and settling down. It was a joy of meeting fellow students across the globe, interacting with them, trying to understand their assorted accent and making them understand mine. This part was really smooth and enjoyable. Settling down in a new country was a bit demanding as I had to learn how everything works. The new system, new routine, new accent although not a new language. However, everything was up and rolling in 2 weeks.
The global north has lots of similarities with the global south yet it is distinctively different. The difference is in the climate, habitation, culture, practice, public spaces, transports, people and much more. Everything seems to me so systematic and structured. The first thing I religiously follow, in fact, everyone traps to this practice is to queuing. Whether it is in the University office or in a super bazar or at a bus stop, people patiently follow the queue till their turn comes and there is no sign of overtaking. Although it was my practice in India as well but at times, the hyperactivity overpowers my patience and I remember raising my voice sometimes for long waiting. But the small yet fundamental practice has enabled me to be more composed, patient and abiding.
There is a radical difference I notice while traveling in public transport. No segregation of different classes which is remarkable. There is a separate section in the train marked as a first class which has relatively equivalent facilities as the standard class in the same compartment. Buses from my University campus run 24*7 as per the schedule, does not matter whether anyone boards the bus or not. I have grown up in a place seeing 3 persons employed in a bus for different activities. It was so impressive to see the gigantic bus operates single handed with multiple functions. In all my years I have seen bus carries more than it’s capacity and stops everywhere as per its convenience. It is so overwhelming to see the way public transport functions in this country. The bus stops dot at the stop and does not open to board when it reaches its capacity. Moreover, it is extremely impressive to see the facilities available and accessible everywhere including in public transport to cater needs of all categories of people along with differently abled. Life of people with a disability even with a high degree of impairment is pretty normal like others. I truly respect the people friendly system in this country.
As a person and a professional, I have a close association with children and therefore, my eyes always look for them around. However, in my experience, children population in this country is comparatively less than the adult as I witness many elderly people around. I am amazed to see the disciplined toddlers who hardly cry or make noise at public places. It is so spirited to see the independent elderly people enjoying life on their own which is much different than the elderly people in my homeland. Probably at that age, our grannies need 2–3 support hands to survive. Yes, it is important to mention that pets especially dogs play a vital role in everyone’s life in this country. They are part of family and have free access to everywhere including public transports. To me, it does not come so naturally to accept the pets in public places but gradually I have started accepting and it is truly a pleasure to see the well-behaved pets around.
The countryside has the view of lush green farmlands as it is in my country, stretched till the eye can see the horizon but without any demarcation of land. When tried to understand the reason I learned the practice of community farming. Although I knew about it but never witnessed on such a large scale. Organic products are abundantly available in supermarkets which show the priority given to organic farming. Initially, it was a bit difficult to regulate my eating habits due to the availability of limited vegetables, large varieties of fruits and processed food items. Processed foods are the most preferred ones and rated high among people especially students as it is ready to eat. However, being a strict vegetarian I prefer to prepare my food and regulate my eating habits with available vegetables and fruits. Now my digestive system is finely tuned with the food habits. I can feel the difference of living in a pollution free atmosphere which is so refreshing.
The best thing I enjoy here is my University campus. Facilities are accessible, user-friendly and guided. I do not remember of facing any problem till date. My identity as an Indian really makes me feel proud when I see people’s expression of WOW, India! It might be the size of my country, population, culture, heritage, politics, cricket, technology, Bollywood or something else which let people recognize the country.
My experience as a student is highly enjoyable. The University provides an enriching academic environment that makes learning more engaging and smooth. The teaching approach, relationship between student and teaching staff, the range of reading materials, the professionalism of teaching and non-teaching staff is undoubtedly remarkable and high rated.
During my stay, I have started exploring the beautiful country and visited different places and Universities. My experience of visiting the historical cities Cambridge, Oxford, and the world class Universities is amazing. Feel blessed and fortunate to be able to visit the places which I read in books and located in the Atlas. I am overwhelmed to receive an invitation from HER MAJESTY’s GOVERNMENT of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to attend a reception by Their Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge before their official visit to India in April 2016. Somewhere I read that ‘life gives surprises when you least expect them’. Absolutely! And it is astounding when life throws a ridiculously unexpected and incredible surprise and you don’t know how to react. I had a great lifetime moment meeting the royal couple and interacting with them.
Overall my experience of living in the UK is enriching and educative because it forces me to adapt things that are unfamiliar and unusual to me. It has enabled me to become independent and open to new and exciting challenges that I would probably have not encountered in my home country. Adversity, failures and challenges are part and parcel of life and I am not exception. I too had and still having my share of difficulties and hard times. But that have never been able to win over my determination and willpower to pursue my dream which is rewarding. For me its an opportunity to learn and develop as a person, discover things about myself that I might not have known before, to evoke my spirit, passion, and willpower as a person and more as a woman!
Originally published at medium.com