T he United Kingdom (UK) is a melting pot of international cultures, a place where tradition, history and modern cultures live in harmonious synchrony with each other. Apart from its celebrated heritage and history, the UK is also renowned for being home to some of the world’s oldest and best universities which deliver world-class education. Attracted by this and the opportunity to immersive themselves in the country’s rich culture, it is no wonder why the UK is the top study destination of choice for many international students.
For Cherry Fong and Bryan Kuah, the UK educational system has afforded them unparalleled educational experiences and developmental opportunities. They take time off their busy schedules to share with us more about their decision to study in the UK, and give us first-hand accounts of their unique overseas learning journey.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STUDY IN THE UK?
Cherry Fong: UK universities have a well-earned reputation as long- standing centres of academic excellence. It really is the go-to destination for those who want to enjoy a top-notch education and broaden their horizons through life in one of the richest cultural centres in the world.
Music has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I particularly love performing, and have an interest in composing and analysing music as well. The study, composition and performance of music is an exceedingly exciting activity here in Birmingham. There is literally something happening at every corner of the city! Few other countries offer such a relevant and up-to-date music education as the UK, which naturally led me to make the UK my first choice in higher education.
MOE TEACHING SCHOLAR
Bachelor of Music University of Birmingham, UK
Bryan Kuah: During my time in Hwa Chong Institution, I participated in exchange programmes and was sent to both the Academy of Science in Virginia, US and Beijing, China. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with students from different countries, learning about their culture and experiencing a way of life different from one in Singapore.
Given that I chose to study Law, I wanted to do so in the UK because a law degree from a UK university really sets you on a career path of countless opportunities. I also marvelled at the prospect of being able to travel to countries in Europe during weekends or my holidays because I enjoy visiting countries that are rich in tradition and history.
WHAT ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM YOUR TIME IN THE UK?
Cherry: That would definitely be watching one of my favourite concert pianists, Evgeny Kissin, perform live in a concert at Birmingham’s famous Symphony Hall. It was a splendid experience and my music course mates and I waited for him to exit the hall after the concert. We managed to get his autograph and even took a photo with him – that was certainly a meeting I will never forget.
I also have fond memories of the annual Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market, which is reputed to be the largest in Europe outside of Germany. It is a uniquely ‘Brummie’ – to use the colloquial term for Birmingham – occasion which I look forward to every Christmas. The smell of bratwurst in the cold winter air and the clinking of Christmas mugs holding mulled wine – these are all hallmarks of a fantastic Christmas market right at our doorstep.
Bryan: The main highlight was being elected as the President of the Singapore Student’s Society of Manchester. This role allowed me to work alongside several talented and motivated individuals in my committee, and together we organised dinners and social gatherings to create a home away from home for Singaporean students in Manchester.
I am also a first-team member of the University of Manchester’s water polo team. We constantly travel out of Manchester to other parts of the UK for our water polo games – for instance, we took a 10-hour road trip to Cardiff for a day tournament which was certainly a refreshing experience. I really felt like a professional athlete!
Bachelor of Laws
University of Manchester
HOW HAS A UK EDUCATION HELPED YOU DEVELOP AS A PERSON?
Cherry: On campus, I am a member of the University Music Society, the Guild Music and Theatre Group and the Singapore Society. I have also played in the orchestra pit for the Guild of Student’s production of Chess the Musical as part of the Music and Theatre Group. The chance to work with dancers, singers and stage designers has given me valuable insights into another facet of music production, ranging from the concert hall to the theatre.
As Principal Flautist of the Symphony / Philharmonic Orchestras since I entered the University of Birmingham, I have also had the opportunity to play an amazing range of instruments in the orchestral repertoire. The conductor and my fellow orchestra members are also enthusiastic musicians whose love and passion for music is truly inspiring.
Bryan: Studying in the UK has allowed me to open my eyes to new cultures and various ways of living. The very fact that students in the UK can travel easily to different countries at a relatively low cost means that we are able to experience first- hand the different traditions and unique culture that each city possesses. Students who pursue a UK education will also have the privilege of developing a global perspective. This is crucial especially in Singapore, a country that is generally regarded as a metropolitan city and where professionals from all over the world work in. I also find that I have much more free time to pursue areas in my studies that really appeal to me, as compared to my time in Singapore.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO STUDY IN THE UK?
Cherry: Make sure you choose a course you are passionate about. If a First-Class Honours is what you are after, you must also be absolutely motivated and prepared to work hard from your first day at university. Of course, a UK experience is not all about studying, and you must also remember to relax and take in the sights and sounds of this gorgeous country!
Bryan: It is imperative to attend information sessions provided by your respective schools or by the British Council. The representatives at these information sessions will give you valuable information and pointers derived from their years of experience in dealing with students in the UK. It is also important to keep an open mind and make full use of the various opportunities that an overseas education will undoubtedly provide.