British Council
Feature | Higher Education

Pursuing Dreams In The UK

British Council
Home to some of the world’s top universities, the UK is the study destination of 438,000 international higher education students each year. We speak to two Singaporeans currently studying in the UK about their motivations and experiences.

Many diploma holders from our local polytechnics choose to pursue their undergraduate studies in the UK. For Shawn Seah, who is pursuing civil engineering at University College London (UCL), and Jared Kang Chern Wey, who is reading Law at University of Cambridge, it has been life changing as they recount their experiences thus far.

What is it about a UK education that appealed to you?

Shawn:It advocates the holistic development of a student. UK education system also has a long and rich history which has cemented its reputation as a reliable and renowned academic system.

What attracted you to your respective degree and university?

Shawn:The holistic programme of UCL Engineering offers an all-rounded education, which comprises of non-engineering modules. There is also a one-week construction programme where students from the Civil Engineering Department will build life-size structures.

Jared Kang

Jared Kang Chern Wey
Bachelor of Arts (Law), University of Cambridge

“It has trained me to be independent and adaptable, managing all aspects of my life.”

Jared:The academic reputation of Cambridge stood out for me. Secondly, the institution cultivates an independent work culture where you are encouraged to pursue higher thinking, personal interests and self-development.

Share with us more about the culture at your faculty and among your professors.

Shawn:The UCL Civil Engineering Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) department is warm and friendly. Professors are approachable and faculty members take the trouble to remember your name and greet you. Our yearly construction programme is famous and it creates a great sense of belonging among students who participate in this tradition.

Jared:There is an engaging atmosphere between students and professors at the law school. There is a supervision system (tutorials) where for about an hour each week, we will simply discuss law with the supervisor who can be anyone from a senior Professor to a Fellow who has just completed his PhD. The tutorials take place in very small groups so you will have quality time to voice your opinions and learn valuable insights from supervisors who have had years of experience in the subject of law.

Shawn Seah

Shawn Seah
Bachelor of Engineering (Civil)
Final Year (Year 3)
University College London

“It has broadened my international worldview and perspective of UK culture. ”

Elaborate on how living and studying in the UK has contributed to your holistic development.

Shawn:It has broadened my international worldview and perspective of UK culture. Studying and living overseas has also opened many doors for me as it has built my personal and professional network globally.

Jared:It has trained me to be independent and adaptable, managing all aspects of my life. I have learnt specifically how to prioritise my time, goals and how to make healthy decisions.

What are some programmes and initiatives introduced by the university to assist and support you in the transition abroad?

Shawn: Living independently in the UK has definitely taught me how to manage my finances and balance work and social life. I also feel that moving away from home has instilled in me the confidence and tenacity to produce my own projects.

Shawn:The International Student Office at UCL assists international students with all their needs ranging from accommodation to visa application. An international student orientation programme takes place at the beginning of term as well, and this is designed to support students with the transition.

Jared:The Cambridge University Malaysia and Singapore Association (CUMSA) arranges meetings for you in Singapore to meet other undergraduates who would be going to Cambridge. You may sign up as a CUMSA ‘kid’ and be assigned a ‘parent’, essentially seniors, who will assist you with your transition.

What are some activities or associations that you are a part of at the university?

Shawn:I am part of the UK Singapore Student Council (UKSSC) as Regional Director where I manage all the partner societies for Singapore students.

Jared:I am on the committee of the Cambridge University International Students’ Union (iCUSU) and also an editor for the Cambridge Law Review. In addition, I am involved in Project Access which helps Singapore students from under-represented schools get into competitive universities like Cambridge.

What are some things you love about studying and living in the UK?

Shawn:I love the diversity in society and at UCL. I appreciate the freedom of speech and openness in UK society. It is convenient and accessible to travel around Europe during the holidays too. As an avid photographer, this is highly attractive to me. I have travelled to more than 10 countries in the last two years.

Jared::The short academic terms and long holiday breaks afford me time to travel, pursue hobbies, and ruminate on the subjects I’m learning which enhances my holistic development. The lifestyle in the UK is slow-paced and relaxed as well, which I thoroughly enjoy.

What are some challenges in living and studying in the UK? How do you overcome these challenges?

Shawn:Some topics were covered in ‘A’ Levels and since I was from a diploma course, I caught up by reading notes I borrowed from seniors who are ready to help. My advice is to read up before lectures and seek professors’ help if faced with difficulties. As the cost of living is relatively high in London, I managed my expenditure by cooking my own meals.

Jared:You’ll experience homesickness. Thankfully, you can always travel back home to visit your family and friends during the holidays. Learn to cook some of your favourite dishes as well, as you will miss the food in Singapore.

What advice would you have for polytechnic student considering a UK education?

Shawn:Firstly, be adventurous and tenacious to pursue the road less travelled. Secondly, keep your options open and have a few courses in mind. Read up on the course modules thoroughly before selecting one. Finally, study hard and excel in your polytechnic so you may be accepted by your dream university.

Jared:Think carefully about your motivations for pursuing a UK education, and reflect on your academic interests. These reasons will help you to decide on your choice of city and university. The school you choose will shape your entire experience, so choose wisely!