Q&A: University Abroad
I've been getting questions about university / applications / living and studying abroad for a while now and I've never really known how to answer them save for the occasional tumblr ask and reply; in general I get asked a lot of things a lot of things I don't know enough about, and I feel clueless about everything in my course currently as it is to I've always figured you guys would be able to find someone smarter and better equipped academically to help you out.
However, I've realised that even if I cannot necessarily tell you how to get into your top-choice university or cure your homesickness, it always helps to know what someone is going through when they're studying or living somewhere that you would like to be in the future, or kind of to just make a simple PSA that I don't have my shit together either but I try (kind of). I hope these answers will help calm your post exam/ applications (etc.) nerves or just spread the word that its okay to be stressed out/homesick/socially awkward (the list goes on) in the first place.
Here are the basics: I graduated from high school in Hong Kong and am in my second year of studying the Law LLB Undergraduate program at Kings College London; I did not take the SATs, ACTs, LSATS (nor did my school ever use the GPA system) and only took the LNATs for my university application.
Part 1: Academics, Applications and Studying Abroad
Why did you choose to study law?
Most people studying law at uni will attribute their choice to a clear career-oriented mindset (i.e. I want to be a diplomat/ barrister) or to having been extremely passionate about the law/ justice/ human rights (etc.) No one in my family studied or practiced law and I wasn't particularly informed about it growing up, but I can say that when it came around to applications, I knew I was interested in it, and that it would be a challenge. It doesn't sound like much to go on (especially considering the program's three year duration) but I tried my hand at work experience in a legal working environment and was intrigued by the field, and thought that it was something I could potentially be good at. Not a very 'cool' answer but its true, and I haven't regretted choosing Law so I think I made a good decision.
I know a lot of people expected me to go into fashion/ art after high school but I wanted to try something new and really challenge myself; I really cherish how my blog allows me to immerse myself in the fashion industry but wanted to study something at university which would give me a new perspective.
What is it like studying law in university?
A lot of it is just going with the flow. For both my first and second year I felt pretty lost about the topics we were learning until revision before exams, when a combination of pressure and class notes helps everything (kind of) come together, and I'd be lying if I said I did even half of our recommended reading but I think I will be okay (fingers crossed).
The people in my program are super driven, vocal and intelligent and most of the time I feel out of the loop but when you're interested enough in the subject and keep up your attendance its still a good time. Theres a lot of reading involved and one thing I really liked was having some really great teachers and lecturers who are the authors of the textbooks you're using to study; its surreal to have them teach you about the topics that they're experts in.
One thing I've realised is that even though I'd say the (other) people who study law generally have their shit together, everyone is human and even if they seem on top of it, they're probably freaked out too.
Any tips for applying to schools abroad?
Start your applications early. I didn't apply to the US so I can't say anything about the Common App but applications were pretty stress-free for me as I only had to write a single personal statement, which I polished over time. Note that (even if you are applying to the UK) your statement should be unique as admissions probably read the same justice-themed statements 100 times a day.
Also, chill. The university you get into doesn't mean you are a better or smarter person (smarts-wise maybe only a tiny extent). University applications are not the biggest thing that will ever happen to you; you are simply applying to a school and you really don't need to be stressed out about it. It sounds easy, i know, but when you grasp the magnitude of all the challenges you will face in the future it should be easier to understand. Getting into a great school helps and can open the door to a lot of opportunities but that school is not the only school that you can thrive at.
How were the LNATs?
Fine. I did the practice test just to see how it would be like (do it!), and I think that having a tutor/studying for the LNAT isn't really necessary, its not really something you can study for.
Why did you choose to study abroad in London specifically?
I knew I wanted to study abroad as I wanted to become more independent and step out of my comfort zone. Studying law in the UK is a lot more straightforward than studying it in the US, hence why I didn't take the SATs/ apply to any American schools. I knew I would like studying in London specifically because I get bored easily and like cities.
What have you learned about yourself through university and studying abroad? How did you grow as a person?
I've learnt that I'm a lot more shy than I previously thought; being put in a new environment will tell you a lot about your social behaviour and I've always been very comfortable in Hong Kong and my friends there so it was very new and different being in London by myself. At the same time, I've gotten a lot more independent and comfortable with being alone and that's really important to me.
Best and worst part of studying law and studying abroad?
Best part of studying law: It's interesting and you learn a lot, really quickly.
Worst part of studying law: You can never read/know enough, and its very competitive.
Best part of studying abroad: You learn how to enjoy being alone, and you learn a lot about yourself.
Worst part of studying abroad: Missing my mum's cooking.
Do you have any study tips?
Like I said, I'm not the best person to ask as I don't have the best study habits. The best thing for me is doing practice exams and choosing a few topics to be really good at. Writing things out is good for memorising, and for cases I like to make case lists in a table format (topic; case name; facts; ratio).
Part 2: London Life
What is your daily routine like?
Second year has mostly afternoon classes, so I'll usually wake up at 9-10am, fix a good breakfast, and either go to class and then the gym or gym before I go to class if I want to exercise that day; if not I'll just watch Youtube videos until I have to go to uni and grab a coffee on the way. After class if I'm not going to the gym or meeting up with friends I'll go grocery shopping for dinner and cook something, and work/ Skype Ran/ browse the internet on my couch. On weekends I like to read/ do my laundry/ eat with friends/ see movies or travel if we have a holiday.
How was it like being away from home and how do you cure homesickness?
I wouldn't consider myself especially prone to homesickness, but I do find myself missing random bits of home. I Skype/facetime my family sometimes and we Whatsapp regularly so we talk often. I'm not the best person to ask about homesickness though as it wasn't an issue for me throughout uni, but I'm sure hanging out with friends and having some good food will help a bit.
How are you able to balance university and your other interests?
Compromise: like I said, I don't do all my reading, but sometimes I can't make an event because I have to go to uni lectures. Its all about knowing what your priorities are and finding time to rest to avoid combusting, I'm one of those people who get really stressed out when I have a lot of things to go to so I like to keep everything relatively chill so I can function efficiently.
How difficult was it to fit in socially? Do you ever feel guilty for not socialising enough?
I'm an introvert, and the happiest when I am alone or hanging out with a few friends who I do feel comfortable with. I'm not going to lie and say that I have a ton of friends at uni or that meeting people is easy, it isn't easy for me. But at the same time, it makes it so much better when you do meet and connect with people, and as long as you keep an open mind (no matter how shy you are) this isn't impossible. I think it's pretty unhealthy to feel guilt for not socialising as you should be doing whatever makes you comfortable, and if this includes staying at home alone with takeout and netflix then you do you.
How do you stay motivated?
I feel the least motivated when I'm not actually doing anything. If I can muster up even the tiniest bit of motivation to at least start, say, an essay, it becomes a lot easier to continue writing it. Also helps to make a good study playlist and study with people who are motivated, in an environment where people are working.
How do you manage your finances?
Save money by walking everywhere; buy a student oyster (/metro) card if you can; become a loyalty card member of your nearest supermarket; and cook as many of your meals as possible. Take advantage of student discounts and remember to pay your bills.
Part 3: Everything else
What kind of food do you cook at home?
I love to make oatmeal for breakfast with banana, blueberries, granola and peanut butter (or yoghurt with muesli if I'm lazier); sometimes I'll fix lunch and take it to school (rice/ pasta/ salad) but I usually buy lunch elsewhere; for dinner I love baking salmon and vegetables, or easy things like kimchi fried rice and pasta. Youtube videos are your friend :)
How do you stay fit?
I'm a member of my nearest gym and try to go 2-3 times a week but sometimes I get lazy. At the gym I'll usually run and do classes every once in a while. I try to walk where I can if the weather is okay.
If you have any other questions I'll try my best to answer them in the comments. I hope this helps some of you, and will make another study playlist soon!