Student experiences - Singapore

Serene Chng - BSc Biology

Serene ChngComing to Bristol is a dream come true. I had always wanted a career in wildlife and environmental conservation, but opportunities in this field in my home country were limited. During my search for the perfect university, my junior college Geography tutor suggested University of Bristol, stating its emphasis on conservation and stellar academic reputation. Impressed by the rigorous Biology course, the university and the city, I made Bristol my first choice. I love how the university is a city campus that provides convenience without compromising on character. The city is vibrant yet not intimidating, and the student culture is very much alive here.

Having a great interest in Biology, I find the course intriguing. In the first year, we are reinforcing basic biological concepts and learning more about the diversity of life. I particularly like practical sessions as we are given a chance to try hands-on what we have learnt in lecture, as well as interact with the academic staff and laboratory assistants and tap their knowledge. I’m really looking forward to the fieldwork in the next two years. Furthermore, I appreciate the opportunity to take open units, and am doing Global Environmental Change and Ab-Initio Spanish. I have always wanted to learn Spanish as it is such a useful and charismatic language. It is not easy learning a new language, and while I’m not much good at it, I can actually understand something when I listen to Spanish songs.

Apart from academics, I enjoy attending gigs, having nights out with my friends and attending trips with the university’s Conservation Group. I listen to indie and rock, and am glad that Bristol is quite an indie hub, with many talented bands coming to perform in the city’s many venues. Volunteering with the Conservation Groups is also a lot of fun, as we get to go into the countryside to maintain the landscape. I get to make friends with like-minded and interesting people and see more of the British natural environment.

Besides that, I’m an avid football supporter and sometimes watch matches at our hall bar (I stay at Hiatt Baker) where there is quite an atmosphere. I am about to start combat karate lessons too, which will be a laugh and a useful skill to acquire. I have also made some good friends who have definitely helped me to adjust to life in a different country. I am quite a big fan of the British culture, but despite being accustomed to the sense of humour and manner of speech, there is much that I have learnt about this country.

Being in an entirely different continent also opens up many travel opportunities! I’m taking advantage of the numerous discounts a student card entitles one to, and planning to explore Europe. So far, I have been to Prague, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna with a friend, a most exciting experience indeed!

My experience in Bristol has been amazing so far and I eagerly look forward to many more experiences in my remaining years in this lovely place.

Marissa Mir - BA Philosophy and German

Marissa MirIn all honesty, I had not heard of the University of Bristol until I started looking into furthering my education. When I told my friends that I’m going to study in the UK, they simply equated it to me studying in London. Now that I’m here, I have to resist coming across as the self-appointed ambassador of the University or even (why not) the whole city of Bristol. I’m just really proud to be here.

The University needs no introduction; I knew it was top notch when I did my research. I expected the best and I still managed to find myself blown away when I got here. The facilities are amazing and I love how there is such an efficient communication channel between the University and its students.

The best thing for me has got to be how in sync this beautiful city is with student life. The University is conveniently located in the heart of town, which has a very accommodating feel. So many shops and cafés are catered to students and I find it really nice to just be able to sit and enjoy a cup of tea or a sandwich in between my lectures.

I’m studying Philosophy and German and my course requires a lot of reading. The libraries here are so well equipped that I have literally sometimes managed to spend 6 straight hours without having to leave the building. It is great how there are so many University libraries around Bristol, granting access to all students and an even more impressive online database of books and research materials. It really helps as well that the libraries stay open till quite late and even (dare I say it) open 24 hours when the exams draw near.

That being said, my social life has hardly suffered since I have been here. The nightlife in Bristol is simply one of a kind. I am still recovering from Freshers’ Week! It is always great fun to go out with my mates for a night on the town given all the diverse pubs and clubs along Park St and Harbourside. That is just one aspect of the holistic University experience offered here though.

I have made so many friends on all the walks I have been on since joining the Explorers Club. The furthest I have been so far is to Snowdonia in Wales for some weekend hiking and the experience was priceless. The natural beauty of the countryside with mountains and lakes was something quite new to me, coming from a concrete jungle of a city like Singapore.

The University of Bristol has given me just that: Countless experiences and opportunities that I would not have been able to get anywhere else. The people that I have met since I have been here have been so welcoming and wonderful. It is scary enough to move to a completely new place and it is human nature I guess to keep to yourself and to what you know. That is what being here is all about though. I took a leap of faith, put myself out there and I could not be happier with what Bristol gave me in return. The best is yet to come! 

Jonathan Pang - MBChB Medicine (Pre-Medical Year) Jonathan Pang

Bristol’s allure is in its diversity. This was most apparent in the university’s willingness to offer an arts students, like myself, the chance to read a clinical science like medicine. The prospect of meeting new people from all across the country and even the world, understanding their accents, and learning their culture; has been a exhilarating and harrowing one! But, one that continues to be immensely rewarding. I seem to learn something new everyday- about the people around me, local culture, or myself. I am confident that the personal growth and the friendships that I’ve forged at Bristol will outlast my time spent here.

The quality of education at the university is consistently high. I am simultaneously grateful for and amazed at the effort that the academics put into their lectures and tutorials, and the level of detail to which we are taught. Complementing this is, is an infectious desire for learning that pervades most of the student population, and spurs me on. The knowledge gained and, perhaps more importantly, the paths through which it was obtained are my newest prized assets.

Bristol as a city is nothing short of amazing. The university precinct and its halls of residence are located in the hilly suburbs. A sprinkling of charming restaurants, cafes, pubs, and breathtaking sights provide a lovely escape from work. Further downhill lies the buzzing city center with its tall buildings, harbor, shopping, and nightlife. It’s hard to believe that such a small city would have all this within walking distance! A description of my Bristol experience, however, remains incomplete without mentioning the friends I’ve made.

While my first moments here were fraught with awkwardness, everyone quickly warmed up with each other. My close groups of friends make day-to-day university life amazing. Early morning lectures are so much easier to wake up for knowing that my cheery friends will there with a big Good Morning, working in the library becomes less tedious when we do it together, and catching up over dinners is always enjoyable! Most memorably was the occasion on which, my course threw me a surprise party for my twenty-second birthday. I was caught completely unawares, and deeply touched by the thought!

Although I’ve only been here for a few months, I feel as I’ve been made a part of the city, and it people. It’s odd to say, but I feel at home here, as if I have two homes, one here, and one in Singapore.

Stasia Soh - LLB Law

Stasia SohBristol as my choice of university was no mistake. I chose Bristol mainly because of its renowned academic reputation particularly in the field of law. In fact, the University of Bristol was recommended to me by several lawyers whom I know personally back in Singapore. Although I had never visited the city until I commenced my studies here, the experience thus far has been nothing short of fascinating.

Being an international student has exposed me not only to the English culture, but to others as well. It was only during my first week in Bristol when I got to meet so many people from absolutely everywhere - a truly wonderful experience where various cultural traditions were exchanged amongst the students. I settled in well and after having spent a term Bristol, I am glad to say that I feel very much at home here.

Law is indeed an intriguing subject. Despite the extensive amount of readings that we are required to complete, the different facets of law that we are exposed to has truly been eye-opening. What I find most interesting is the fact that the law operates in almost every part of our daily lives, and being able to read it in depth has indeed broadened my knowledge of its wide-spread applicability.

Moreover, Bristol has a vibrant night-life, with many pubs and bars flanking the streets. Occasionally, I would join in the pub-crawls and parties organized by various societies.

Studying in Bristol has also opened up many travelling opportunities –come this summer, I plan to visit places like Paris and Prague as well as explore other places in Europe. Going to places such as Bath over the weekend has also been a great form of relaxation for me. My experience in Bristol has been amazing and I look forward to spending the rest of my university life in this wonderful city!

Delicia Tan - LLB Law

Delicia TanIt has always been my dream to study law. Being admitted to the University of Brist/ol  (UoB) and being offered a scholarship was truly a triple bonus. UoB enjoys an excellent reputation both globally and in Singapore.

I started my exciting journey and took the very first step of my legal career in September 2007. When I first arrived at Heathrow Airport I was overcome by the beauty of England. Lush greenery and misty grey skies greeted me. I moved into Clifton Hill House and there met with many warm and welcoming people of different nationalities and races.

I started Law School on 01/10/2007. Ah, I finally understood what my sister (who also read law) meant when she said to watch out for the legal reading! It is truly no mean feat to plough through the tons of books and materials that must be prepared for each tutorial. Nevertheless I have learnt much, both in terms of substantive law as well as in intangible character-building skills such as perseverance, time management and taking ownership of work and in life. These will stand me in good stead as I move forth in life after Bristol. It should be noted that academic competition is rife in the University. Ah well, the high standards and strong competition are excellent sources of motivation!

The university offers different activities for students to explore, develop and even indulge in their interests. I have particularly enjoyed shopping and clubbing in Bristol. I also love spending my free time at cafes in Clifton reflecting, pondering on and thinking about life, and more specifically, the meaning of my work and how it can be used to benefit others.

As for the City of Bristol, my favourite part of Bristol definitely has to be Broadmead. I love all the shopping trips with my close friends! I have so much fun exploring Bristol and find that it is through these little sojourns I bond best with my friends. Truly, these are the best times of my life.

Notwithstanding the breadth and depth of work that is associated with law studies, I enjoy my days and look forward to spending the rest of my terms at the University of Bristol and in this lovely country.

Samuel Tay - LLB Law

Samuel TayHaving been at the University of Bristol for a while now, I have come to appreciate that it is an excellent place for pursuing both academic ambition and extra-curricular interests. The University is simultaneously small enough to feel warm and friendly yet big enough to provide ample opportunities for the broadening of one’s horizons.

The University of Bristol is a world-renowned intellectual powerhouse. Students here are guided by leading academics and the foremost thinkers of their respective fields. In fact, certain textbooks used by students are authored by their lecturers themselves! As a leading university, it also attracts students and teaching staff from all over the world, resulting in an engaging and vibrant international community.

Apart from academia, there is a cornucopia of activities and societies available for students to engage with, ranging from interest groups such as the Chocolate Society to the various university sports teams. Personally, I am involved with the Innocence Project. It undertakes investigations into claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful convictions at the hands of the legal system. There is something here for almost everyone and if there isn’t anything that catches your eye, you can always start a society yourself instead.

Set around a historic harbour, Bristol is a lovely city to live in as well. It offers both the convenience of city-life and the laid-back nature of country living. Furthermore, with the university located in the city centre, everything you need is within walking distance. My favourite part of the city is the Clifton area. The scenic views off the top of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, together with the quaint gift shops and speciality boutiques in the area make Saturday afternoon jaunts there a real pleasure.

It can be rather daunting to leave family, friends and the familiar to go abroad for further education. However, I would wholeheartedly recommend the University of Bristol to anyone interested in studying in the United Kingdom. I am sure that the well-rounded and rigorous nature of an education here will leave you in good stead upon graduation. Also, the experiences and friends you encounter here will definitely leave you with fond memories of university.

Dionna Tong - LLB Law

Dionna entered the British Council's International Student of the Year Awards in 2005 and was a runner up.  Entrants were required to write a letter to someone at home to describe their experiences of living and studying in the UK.  Here is Dionna's award winning letter:

"Dear Joanne,

As I read your letter about coming to the UK to study, I was sipping a hot mug of tea, warming myself up after having gone for an afternoon jog around Bristol in the cold.  I have been running on a regular basis as I am training for the Adidas Flora Charity Half Marathon in London this Easter.  You may think I’m mad, running in shorts in three degree weather, but running in cold, British weather is such a refreshing change from the pulsating heat that we struggle through – the cold air brushing against bare skin just energises you!

Although the term has barely begun, I’ve been really busy completing my applications for summer internships at solicitors’ firms in London, and preparing for the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) moot-reading cases on International Commercial Law, which is not my current field of study, but it is challenging and every bit rewarding.  Of course, there are numerous tutorials I still have to complete on Tort, Contract, Property, Human Rights, Jurisprudence and European Union Law, but I can’t tell you how much I enjoy my course.  Studying in the UK has given me a brilliant opportunity to apply what I’ve learnt directly in Barristers’ Chambers in Fountain Court and Stone Chambers over the past summer.  I did two mini pupillages at some of the top sets in England.  What can be more inspiring to an aspiring lawyer, than working with Queen’s Counsels on legal cases that are worth more than 20 million pounds, and watching them verbally tear each other apart in the Royal Commercial Courts in the heart of London?

In your letter, you expressed concern about the strong ‘pubbing and clubbing’ culture in the UK.  I can assure you that those aren’t the only activities one can indulge in.  I love university life here because of the diversity of activities one can be involved in.  I’m in the Model United National Society (MUN) and last year, 10 of us were selected to represent Bristol University at MUN’s 2004 New York Conference.  Not only did we stay in the Hilton where the conference was held, but we also managed to obtain sponsorship for all of us – so flights and accommodation were paid for!

This year, as I’m doing a European Union Law module, I have taken a sharp interest in all things European, which I find is increasingly pertinent in today’s global dynamics.  Not only have I enrolled at the University Language Centre and picked up Spanish (did you know that Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin?), I’ve also become a committee member of ELSA, and learnt more about European Law through interaction with not merely English students, but French, German, Polish, Scandinavian and many others.  The UK provides a platform for interaction not just with English students, who never cease to amuse me with their dry brand of humour, but also with students from a ‘melting pot’ of other European cultures.

Aside from academic interests, sporting interests are also easily pursued.  I’ve joined the Skydiving Society in Bristol, and it’s beyond words.  I cannot possibly encapsulate in words what it really feels like to sit on the edge of the doorway of a plane, with nothing but a cord and helmet, listening for the command to fling oneself out into the open empty space away from all safety and sanity.  I believe I touched a cloud on my first jump.

Thrills and spills aside, day-to-day living in the UK isn’t as dreary as some Singaporeans paint it.  University life here isn’t just about lectures and tutorials.  I am currently a Student Ambassador for the University Widening Participation scheme, and I basically run open days for secondary school children, encouraging higher education, not just at Bristol, but general tertiary institutions.  Also,  as a university academic trainer, I run courses on communication skills, time management, and leadership, for British University students who feel that they may need help in such areas.  Training a group of university students who may be my age or older can be slightly daunting, but it gives much satisfaction, especially when they come up to me after the session to thank me personally for an interesting and insightful course.

If you are worried about the high exchange rate with regards to the British pound, there are ways to get round it.  For example, many British students, unlike Singaporeans, pay their own way through university with summer jobs and part time term time work, for example working at the till in supermarkets or witnessing.  Their parents can help them with fees, and they have student loans, but it is certainly admirable how many of them actually work to save their own money and pay their own way.  It is this same individualism and independence that makes them so refreshingly different from Singaporeans and I truly admire such traits.  Skydiving here does not come that cheap, even though I am a student.  So I give English and Literature tuition to a 13-year-old British girl for extra pocket money to upkeep my expensive hobby." 

Amir Khalil Tyebally - LLB Law

Amir-Khalil TyeballyI was really looking forward to coming to the University of Bristol after having served my mandatory two years of National Service in the Singapore Armed Forces. Although my experience in the army was a tough but enjoyable one, there were many lessons that I drew from it which have definitely helped me in university so far. Things like time management, discipline and prioritizing are essential for all students in university. It also made me a lot more understanding and appreciative towards people’s feelings.

I chose Bristol solely because it always had a very good reputation in Singapore for its Law program. I did not know very much about the university and the City of Bristol. As I had more time to explore the city, I was quite surprised as to how big and diverse the city was. However what I really like about Bristol is the very good mix of country and city life. All you need to do is cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge into Leigh Woods, and you are surrounded by greenery, stunning scenery and fresh crisp air.

Another part of Bristol which I really like is the Clifton Village. It is really quaint and it has lots of small boutique shops, selling everything from clothes, accessories to organic cheeses and honey. It is also a very peaceful and quiet area of Bristol and I am really glad to have found a house to live in next year in this area.

One thing that I really enjoy here is playing football with my mates. We have a team to represent our hall, Clifton Hill House, and we play competitively once a week in the Intramural League. Not only is it really good exercise, but it is a great way to bond with your friends. We also play 5 a side football once a week, which is also a great way to improve our skills, and have fun.

I think it is really important to find something that you like doing, and then pursue it, especially when you are an international student, as it can help you find your feet faster by doing something you are comfortable with. It is also a great way to make new friends.

Another thing which I think is really important is to mix around well with the locals. Some international students often keep among their countrymen, which I think is alright at first, when one first gets here. But later on, once you are more comfortable and things are more settled, mix around more with the locals. Immerse in their rich culture, and share your cultures and traditions with them. After all, this is what being an international student is about!

Ying Yeo (Jason) - LLB Law

Ying Yeo JasonBreathtaking, thrilling, engrossing, astonishing are a few words that chronicle my experience here at the University of Bristol. At first, I was a little apprehensive about what I would expect from Bristol but have gotten pleasant surprises ever since I arrived. Perhaps the initial one was my student accommodation. I was pretty amazed at the size of the house and its décor. It looks like an authentic structure out of the Victorian era with a nice backyard and lots of open space. There is even an apple tree in the backyard. Furthermore, it is located just across the renowned Clifton Suspension Bridge and the view while traveling over the bridge is simply magnificent especially during the night.

The next building that held me in awe was the Wills Memorial Building, where I am reading my course. Again it looks so historical; I thought it was a Cathedral at first but it turned to be an academic hub containing a great hall, classrooms and a library. It was unbelievable to find out that I was going to have classes there. Besides this building, I found out that the University is an integral part of the city and it is intrinsically woven into the fabric of Bristol. Also, I find that the staff of the University, especially the tutors, are all helpful, courteous and friendly especially when I was corresponding with them in my home country. I got good advice from the International Office and Career Services.

Amidst being swarmed with work and reading, I really do enjoy my classes as the tutors actually challenge your mind to think and not just regurgitate information. Although I feel that there is heighten competition among the students, it acts as a motivation to do better and this has better honed my study skills. Also, I feel that the system of Blackboard has facilitated access to faster and easier learning.

As they say, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so here the Student Union helps to strike a balance between work and having fun. It is amazing how the Union can churn out interesting events periodically that would attract a lot of students. I’ve been to a few, especially the ones during orientation week. In addition, there are also the Societies that one can feel a belonging to. A few of the societies I have joined include the Malaysia Singapore Student Association and Thai Society. I love the integration of different cultures in many of the events where people from all over the world can mingle. (e.g. the Oriental Festival)

Finally, I would like to say that the ‘Bristol experience’ has given me new insight into certain areas of my life and would be an unforgettable one especially with the new friends that I have made. I am looking forward to the 2 more years that I would be spending here and hope that there will be something new at every turn.

Ee Yip - BSc Economics

Ee Xiu YipBristol first caught my eye- one, because of its ranking as one of the top 10 universities in the UK and top 50 in the world, and two, because of its idyllic location in the Southwest of England- 2 hours from London, a stone’s throw away from the ancient wonder- Stonehenge, and within reach of the rolling hills of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. I was particularly attracted to going to school in such an environment because it was nothing like what I would get in Singapore. Thus far, I am enjoying myself very much

Being in Bristol is like being in a very eccentric town. It’s weirdly self-sufficient in that you could find everything you need (To be fair, it doesn’t have the scale or variety of London but it’s just small enough to walk from one place to another), and the community is mostly made up of students so it’s common to bump into familiar faces. The main activity though, is coming out at night when the clubs open and the music starts. Bristol has established itself as the music capital of the Southwest and is host to many up-and-coming bands from all over the world. Just this month, it hosted the Plain White T’s and next month there will be Jimmy Eat World, amongst many more.

My favourite aspect of Bristol though, would probably be the laid back cafe culture so evident in the many quaint cafes and restaurants lining the streets. It’s fun to explore and discover new places to lounge about on a lazy afternoon or even in between lectures. There are virtually no commercial buildings in sight, once again reflecting the indie/alternative personality of the city.

With regards to social activities, Bristol offers plenty of opportunities to meet new people. So far, I have joined the MSSA, Thai Society, Photographic Society and Economics Society. They organize plenty of events such as the recently concluded Oriental Festival, photography workshops, talks by investment firms and even simple social dinners for participants to mingle and meet new people. In fact, being in hall could be counted as a social activity as well. I was assigned to Hiatt Baker hall this year and it has been a fantastic experience. The corridors are always lively with activity and there is a constant barrage of things to do.

From spending the day out at the Downs power-kiting to a staying in on a quiet night with a movie and good company, Bristol has just the right qualities for offering a brilliant university experience and I am glad to be here.

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