23 May 2013

Doing It The British Way

There is a lot more to an international study experience, as two Singaporeans Chan Xin Hui and Chan Cheong Shuen discover during their UK education.

Going abroad to study has always been viewed as a prestigious opportunity for the rich or the smart. Concerns like overseas living expenses, adaptation to a new culture and potential communication barriers are typical of an overseas education.

But these can be easily addressed and overcome in exchange for a highly-respected internationally-recognised qualification and a higher marketability for employment along with self-developed traits like independence and self-reliance.

Fuelled by the prospect of having a positive impact on the lives of others, Singaporean Chan Xin Hui, 23, is currently reading Medicine at University of Oxford.

When asked why she chose to study in Britain, she replies, “The long tradition of excellent tertiary education, the multiplicity of opportunities for academic and extra-curricular development, and the proximity of the UK to Europe, Africa and the Middle East for travel including international volunteer work”.

Actively participating in voluntary and extra-curricular activities, the former Raffles Junior College student won the title of British Council South East International Student of the Year 2008, with her story about her out-of-class achievements that helped make her time in the UK rewarding. For that, she got to meet the UK’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he went to give the Romanes Lecture at the University of Oxford.

The International Student Awards is an annual initiative by the British Council to give international students the opportunity to showcase their achievements while living in the UK. Other than providing opportunities for international students to gain recognition for their contributions abroad, the British Council also teaches English, provides assistance for and promotes British education and training.

Wide Variety

One of the major benefits about studying in the UK for Singaporeans is the absence of language barriers and the ease of finding the right course with the wide variety of English language courses to choose from.

Another Singaporean Chan Cheong Shuen, 29, who is taking his Master’s degree in Carbon Management at University of Edinburgh at present, agrees, “There are only two of such courses available and both were in the UK. The UK has always been at the forefront advocating climate change actions. With its conducive environment, I felt it was the best place to learn the different dimensions of environmental protection.”

Cheong Shuen is also a recipient of the British Chevening Scholarship. Funded by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and administered by the British Council, four or five Singaporeans are awarded the scholarship in a typical year to pursue the one-year postgraduate course at a UK university of their choice.

“The British Council was very supportive in facilitating the application process, accommodation arrangements and making constant contact to ensure everything went well. Although the FCO provided me with the scholarship to further my career development, they did not affect my choice of what I wanted to study,” says Cheong Shuen.


Ultimately, it is more than just an education that one gains from studying abroad. A unique international study experience inclusive of a path of self-development is what international students stand to benefit from.

“I would recommend an education in Britain to others because it is not just an education, it is about self-development. The school and the British Council are always open to your opinions about what would best develop yourself, and they will support you in whatever ways they can,” says Cheong Shuen.

Greatly improving English communication skills, benefitting from cultural exchanges and enriching the understanding of other cultures are some of the rewards that international students receive.

“I’ve gained qualities like independence, analytical thinking, time management, perseverance, as well as the ability to think rapidly on my feet and put forward an argument,” says Xin Hui.

She adds, “The learning environment here promotes intellectual debate. One needs to be able to present a point of view and hold one’s own. The Oxbridge tutorial system is unique; I have had to defend my work in front of world experts in the field.”

In addition, Cheong Shuen is very appreciative of the student-oriented learning culture. “Students’ opinions are highly valued. For example, lecturers will proactively review themselves when faced with feedback and suggestions from students. Students’ contributions during lessons are also encouraged, hence widening the scope of learning beyond the lecturer.”

A most important thing to remember when living in another country is the need to respect the local culture. “To students who are considering an education in Britain, approach your time in the UK with an open mind to best appreciate all that is on offer,” advises Xin Hui.

Cheong Shuen adds, “Maximise your British education opportunity and engage in the subject you are most interested in and have a passion for. When there, make friends, learn and appreciate the UK's culture, but without forgetting your own.”

Contributed by JobsCentral Pte Ltd