Sarah (BA Comparative Literature with a Year Abroad)
At Queen Mary, there are loads of great opportunities to study abroad, whether it be for a summer, semester or year abroad. A lot of my friends chose to study abroad at universities around the world, including New York, Miami, Australia and Seoul. I personally chose to spend a year abroad at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, a small liberal arts college formed through a partnership between Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Although there are many reasons to study abroad, here are my top 5, based on my experience at Yale-NUS:
Yale-NUS is home to 900 students as compared to over 27,000 at Queen Mary. This exposed me to a totally different style of learning- my classes had a maximum of 15 students and some had as few as 9! Additionally, at Yale-NUS you are marked for class participation and all classes are discussion-based. Although I missed the large and vibrant community at Queen Mary, it was great to be able to experience a completely different style of learning. It was pretty daunting at first, but it improved my confidence and communication skills hugely. Also, it was pretty fun to have the occasional class outdoors under the warm Singapore sun!
I also was able to study areas which I hadn’t previously been able to. For example, I took Bahasa Indonesia at the National University of Singapore during my time abroad. Not only did I get to learn a language I would not be able to back home, but I also got to attend two different universities during my year abroad, making new friends in both institutions and even further diversifying my educational experience.
Living at Yale-NUS was a huge contrast to living in London. In Yale-NUS you are assigned to one of three residential colleges and you live in ‘suites’ shared by 6 people, without a kitchen, with sky gardens on each 3 floors. Instead of cooking, students and staff eat in Hogwarts-style dining halls, sharing meals together. Many members of faculty live on campus, so I would always bump into my professors and their families at the dining hall or in the lift. It’s not uncommon for your professor to sit and chat with you and your friends during meals. The community at Yale-NUS was extremely tight-knit, with everyone essentially knowing everyone.
At Queen Mary, I was exposed to a much more independent environment, which I personally love. This made my year abroad hard to get used to at first- going from the independence of Queen Mary to a smaller community was a big change (it was impossible to dodge your professor if you handed an assignment in late)! However, it was greatly beneficial for me to experience a different way of living, as it allowed me to meet amazing people from around the world, has made me less nervous to reach out to my professors for help, and I got to take a break from the responsibilities of life in London!
Additionally, if you are commuting into university, but want to experience living away from home, studying abroad could be a great opportunity for you- a lot of my friends who commuted from home during their time at Queen Mary used studying abroad as a chance to experience living away from home and in a campus atmosphere for the first time.
Although COVID-19 stopped some of my travel plans short, I was able to do quite a bit of travelling! Batam, Indonesia was only a ferry ride away, so I went a few times for a much-needed study break, and to get some delicious vegan Indonesian food. I also went to Jakarta a few times, which I absolutely loved. The highlight of my travelling was a trip to Japan I took at the end of my first semester- I managed to find cheap last-minute flights and stayed in capsule hotels as I travelled from Osaka to Kyoto to Tokyo. On a more local level, I spent many of my weekends exploring Singapore, wandering around the various national parks right at my doorstep and hiking the coast-to-coast trail. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to do some travelling and explore the world!
Singapore has over 100 hawker centres packed into an area under half the size of London, so great food was never far off- there were even several hawker centres on campus! Hawker centres are like food courts, except filled with street food vendors selling incredibly delicious and cheap fresh food. You can get a huge meal for less than the price of a meal deal, and some of these cheap eats even have Michelin stars! In my opinion, getting to eat amazing local food is in itself enough reason to study abroad!
Last, but definitely not least, studying abroad gave me the opportunity to make loads of new friends from around the world. I made true friends for life during my year abroad, and the time I spent with them was definitely the best part of my year abroad. Whether it be exploring Singapore together, drinking bubble tea, mutually agonising over essays, forming the world’s worst ukulele band, grabbing burritos after the last class on Fridays, or just walking around and watching the sunset, I made a lot of great memories with my friends.
Studying abroad was a completely life-changing experience for me, and others who have taken study abroad opportunities have similarly had amazing experiences. I would highly recommend taking advantage of a study abroad opportunity in order to make the most out of your time at Queen Mary!