April 17, 2014, by International students

A mature international student’s experience at Nottingham

Felix Obi and friends

Felix Obi (third from left) with friends on his graduation day at Nottingham in December 2013

This blog post by Felix Abrahams Obi, a recent Nottingham graduate, is adapted from an article in Africa Health, Volume 36, Number 3 (March 2014), entitled “Studying abroad: a mature student’s experience”.

A rare opportunity came my way in April 2012 when a representative of The University of Nottingham visited Nigeria to hold counselling sections with prospective students interested in postgraduate studies in the UK. Although my initial focus was on doing a PhD, I decided to apply for an MSc degree in Psychology and Health so I could study how social and behavioural factors impact on health at individual and society level.

The university representative had encouraged me to also apply for the Developing Solutions Scholarship. My excitement hit an all-time high when in June 2012 I was offered the scholarship which covered 100% of the tuition fees. All I needed was to secure funds to cover my living costs, and that wasn’t going to be a major constraint as I had some personal savings.

When starting my studies at Nottingham, I would later realise to my shock that most of the courses were to be assessed through coursework essays, and not written examinations as in Nigerian universities. Most international students from Africa for the first time in their life had to do assignments that required them to research and critically review journal articles and papers as part of the essay writing. Irrespective of the discipline (science, engineering, medicine, law, etc), all the students are required to apply critical thinking to all their coursework essays and assignments. Thankfully I took advantage of the resources available at Nottingham’s Centre for English Learning and Education (CELE) which ran courses on various aspects of academic writing throughout the academic year, and I found them very useful.

While the academic life was far more exciting than I ever imagined, the university environment also offered a bouquet of socially enriching experiences owing to the prevailing multicultural and international atmosphere. Students are spoilt for choice as to which of countless societies to join which are managed by the Students’ Union. Due to my interest in creative writing, I joined the Creative Writing Society. I also attended some interesting social events organised by other societies, through which I met students from other departments and cultures. A UK charity called Friends International held regular events and excursions though which international students met and interacted more with English families and visited historical sights. I felt privileged when an English family invited and hosted me as their guest during Christmas at a small English village over the winter.

While studying in UK for a postgraduate degree can be quite demanding and utterly stressful, the reward comes with the assurance of earning a certificate that potentially gives you a leverage in your career when you return home. Graduates from the UK and other top international universities appear to exude a certain sense of confidence and pride in their degrees, and this joy and pride is palpable during the colourful graduation ceremonies, when students are awarded their hard-earned degrees to the delight of their families and friends.

I recall the night before I left Nottingham for London when some friends had come to say cheerio and give me goodbye hugs. I never realised how emotional it would be to leave a place I had called home for a year. I was going to miss the numerous friends from England, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Poland, United States, Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, France, Italy, Cyprus, India , China, Korea, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and several other counties I had made within the short time.

I was sure going to miss my dedicated tutors and professors, and the lush green and ambient university environment where I studied for a year. I nostalgically reminisced over the amazingly splendid experience I had in the UK, and I recalled how it began with the submission of an online application, and then the scholarship. I must admit that studying in UK is one hell of an experience I would treasure for a lifetime. I still have my eyes on doing my PhD, and it will likely be the UK again!

Felix Abrahams Obi is a Nigerian physiotherapist and public health professional who studied MSc Psychology and Health at The University of Nottingham during 2012-13.

Posted in AcademicCultural integrationFriendsScholarshipsSocieties