My Journey to Newcastle - Arifahby Ari
Studying abroad at a top university had always been a dream of mine, and now I have the immense privilege of it being my reality. Upon reflection, it has been quite a journey indeed!
Pursuing Media & Communication in the UK
(My brilliant TEDx Talk at Newcastle University… okay, okay, I was just pretending)
After completing a Diploma in Communication and Media at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia, I wanted to thrive in this field even further by pursuing an overseas education. I started by looking at universities based on QS World University rankings and course rankings.
Five universities were deemed worthy of making it into my UCAS application - Sheffield, Nottingham, Lancaster, Cardiff, and of course, Newcastle. I had a smooth journey with my UCAS application thanks to IDP Education, an overseas education consulting agency with a branch in my hometown, Subang Jaya.
The Grand Offering
(Personalised GIFs and inspiring posters from the University hyped me up about coming here!)
I managed to get unconditional offers to all five universities, but Newcastle was the earliest to give me a response - after only 4 days! Since Newcastle was my first offer, it gave me significant hope that I could truly achieve this aspiration of flying to the UK.
However, I needed to argue my case to receive a convertible loan to study abroad, so I chose Newcastle which offered me direct entry into Year 2. I officially accepted the offer to pursue a BA (Hons) in Media, Communication, and Cultural Studies! My family was over the moon, and my friends felt extremely proud.
Newcastle was honestly not my first choice among the five, and I’d heard from a friend about how terribly cold and windy it is. Luckily, the University’s You Belong Here campaign gave me the extra encouragement I needed!
(My loved ones who came to bid me farewell at the airport – and this isn’t even all of them!)
After sealing the deal, I had to face a LOT of tedious paperwork and payments before arrival. But one touching Hollywood moment was when my close friend (who also happened to be the UKVI officer) cut open the envelope to hand me my student visa!
I also attended a Newcastle University pre-departure briefing in Kuala Lumpur where I met members of the Malaysian Society and gained other useful information.
I spent my final few days in Malaysia packing, doing research, and making time for loved ones. After all, I wouldn’t be back home until next summer. I had to bring essential items from Malaysia that were going to be difficult to find in the UK, such as packets of Milo drink and traditional wear such as baju kurung.
Around twenty loved ones including my parents, siblings, cousins, auntie, uncles and close friends saw me off at the airport – it was all very emotional! It was also my Dad’s birthday, and he says getting to see me pursue my studies abroad was the best birthday present ever.
I bid my final goodbyes, and I walked through the departure gates with my housemate-to-be (I’d met her online and she was going to Northumbria) and her parents. We then embarked on a long 16-hour flight into the great unknown.
Welcome to Newcastle!
(The stunning architecture of Newcastle University’s campus <3)
After what seemed like forever (and a transit in Dubai), I finally arrived at Newcastle Airport – with a dream and a cardigan! The four of us were greeted by a bunch of friendly students from Newcastle and Northumbria universities.
We got a free taxi ride to our lovely rented flat in Sandyford. It was so exciting seeing the beautiful landscapes of the city from the car window, wondering what life in Newcastle had in store for me.
I spent the next few days exploring Newcastle with my housemate and her parents – we munched on Greggs toasties, walked by the majestic Quayside and enjoyed ice cream at Whitley Bay beach.
I also stepped foot on the red-brick campus for the first time, having a hard time believing that studying in the UK was real life and not fantasy. I was going to have most of my classes in the Armstrong Building, which looked more like a grand hotel to me than an academic building!
(I got involved in student media like The Courier and Newcastle Student Radio!)
My first few weeks in Newcastle were fascinating and vibrant, as it was worlds away from my life back in Subang Jaya. I had fun documenting my journey to my Instagram followers! I got to participate in Freshers’ events such as a sightseeing bus tour and a St. James Park Stadium tour.
Classes were initially quite lonely as I was directly entering Year 2. Nobody was exactly jumping at the opportunity to meet new people because everyone had their own friendship groups already. I also took a while to get used to the theoretical and essay-based assignments here.
To make friends, I joined several different societies such as the Malaysian Society, Islamic Society and the TEDx Society, and met several interesting people of different cultures and nationalities – some of them are my closest friends today!
Belonging at NCL
(Amazing, unforgettable times with friends that I’ve met at Newcastle!)
Life in Newcastle wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. During my first winter, I really struggled with adjustment issues and making meaningful connections with people – I even wrote about it for The Courier and spoke about it on Newcastle Student Radio!
It took a while for me to find my footing and accept Newcastle as a second home. In a different blog post, I share about three of the best ways to make friends in university that I’ve discovered.
Now I’m in my final semester, and I feel so content that I don’t want to leave anytime soon. I’m creating digital content for the University, participating in student events, making videos when travelling with mates, and writing a dissertation about the role of social media marketing for Avengers: Endgame. I’ve grown and blossomed so much since I first stepped foot on Newcastle soil.
I’m studying a course I’m passionate about in a beautiful city, surrounded by great friends and several opportunities for self-growth – all praises to God.
In hindsight, the campaign tagline was right: I really do belong at Newcastle.
Published By Ari on 13/03/2020 | Last Updated 09/03/2021