Studying in the UK — Expectations vs Reality

By Hiba Gardezi | 11 May, 2022

Last October, I took a flight to London to finally attend my university in-person for the first time after a long year of COVID, expecting UCL to somehow turn my life into a movie. I thought I simply had to enter its force-field to be transformed into a social butterfly, world- class writer, extraordinary academic. However, a few days later, I found myself freezing cold, feet sore from walking, down with a fever, alone on my bed and ready to burst into tears because a video call with my mom would simply not suffice. My life in London was, evidently, far from my fantasies:


Lesson Number One – UK bohat thanda hai, yaar


I walked down Oxford street one afternoon and experienced wind, sleet and sunshine one after the other in a matter of around 20 minutes. Another major problem is the icy wind that blows 24/7, sometimes even when the sun is out so it’s important to keep a scarf and extra layers even if it’s not generally too cold.


Lesson Number Two – Better get used to walking


I generally like staying active but it just became a nuisance because even when I was tired or only wanted to get a snack, it meant I had to put in effort and walk all the way to the store. No more gaari, driver. What’s worse is that it affects the kind of shoes you wear; my heels gave me so many bruises! (Tip for women: Carry your shoes in a bag and wear them when you get to the venue.)


Lesson Number Three – Pakistan main Baba ki Ladu Rani, UK main domestic guru


Living alone meant if I dropped something, I would have to pick it off the floor myself or it would still be there three days later. From washing greasy dishes, to wiping the bathroom floor and taking the trash out into the very disgusting garbage room, I had to do it all. As someone who only knew how to make eggs, it was quite the horror when some of those that I cracked even had blood spots in them! 


However, just because there were some unexpected hitches in the road and I didn’t necessarily day-dream in proportion to possibility (who ever does, really?) it doesn’t mean there are no benefits to such an experience. Truth be told, the challenges made me capable of living independently. I started anxious, head spinning on my first night in another continent, actually realizing the gravity of being truly alone. I started cold and scared, shut in a random apartment, too afraid to go grocery shopping incase I got lost but I ended my trip as an independent woman, not in need of anyone for help and completely content on my own. As time goes by and I get to spend more time in university, I might just have those experiences from my day-dreams but I have realized that they are not what matters most. 

Plan on studying abroad and found this article helpful? Have you had a similar experience? Disagree completely? Let us know in the comments!


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