What student life is really like at a UK university

Jia Wei, from Malaysia, is studying International Wildlife Biology.

What is Wales like?
Wales is absolutely gorgeous - such fresh air and the greenest trails. I have been exploring Wales by foot, train, bus and bike since I got here. The Taff Trail on a sunny day is absolutely stunning, and I always cycle to Cardiff. Cardiff is a very livable city. City life and nature are just a stone’s throw away. There are so many things to do. But I was unprepared for the rain. Back home, it rains for a few hours and then it becomes dry again, but here, oh no! We have sprinkles of rain that sprinkle for days! We get wet socks and shoes and that’s a bummer, but what an experience!

Student-lecturer relationship
It is incredibly different! Back home, our universities are large-scale and lecture halls are humungous. Here all the lecturers know everyone’s names, and they give absolute attention to everyone! I was so surprised. I didn’t expect that at all!

Lessons and seminars
I like how interactive the lessons are. We have mini games, live online quizzes against students and live online polls, which are really fun. We have great, experienced lecturers, who do research alongside their teaching and encourage us to participate. If we want more field trips or workshops they do their best to arrange it for us to get the most out of our learning experience. We can give feedback on an online system and the course leader takes our suggestions into account.

There is so much. The Wellbeing service, which offers counselling and stress relief; Nightline, a student support and listening service; a careers service, student money; student advice zones; immigration and international student advice, the chaplaincy; the Students’ Union; study skills; student mentoring…too many to mention! I have used most services and I have been impressed at how much they focus on making our experience here better.

Assessments and exams
I like how everything is digitised as much as possible, so we can reduce our carbon footprint. We submit our assessments online and the lecturers mark our assessments and return them with their feedback. Another online system allows us to discuss our assessments with our lecturers one-to-one if needed. We also get an exam feedback session which is amazing. Our lecturers discuss our papers with us one-to-one and face to face! The support is incredible, honestly.

Social life
There is a pub and a club on campus with weekly club nights as well as quizzes and karaoke sessions. Celebrations such as Eid, Xmas, Diwali and Chinese New Year are celebrated by the Meeting House. There are a lot of clubs, societies and sports teams to join - you need to find out about them at the Freshers’ Fair. For the local area, Pontypridd has tons of events going on from the Ponty Big Bang and St David’s Day celebrations to the Pontypridd Christmas Light Up - there are always things happening. There are lots of social clubs and volunteering opportunities as well. A festival called LINK FEST is organised during the start of autumn term if anyone is into local art and music.

I live between in private accommodation just off campus. I chose this because I have a bike, and it’s easy for me to get around. I live on a main road, and there are takeaways and grocery shops really close by, and also a huge supermarket, hardware shops and a bike repair shop.

Part-time job
It’s quite easy to find a job. International students on a degree course can work for 20 hours a week and companies are always looking for students to fill the jobs. I have a few jobs - I am a student blogger for the University, an event assistant in Cardiff (rugby, football matches and concerts etc) and work in a Chinese takeaway in Pontypridd. I got all these jobs through word of mouth.

The Christian Union and the Islamic Society are really active in this university. I have learnt a lot from them, being someone who takes all the goodness from all religions.

Living abroad
It has opened my mind even more on things. I love how university brings the world to you, and it’s up to you whether to embrace it or not, and get to learn this crazy potpourri of cultures right at your doorstep. I’m ever so grateful.