So in January 2013, aged 16, I left Singapore to come to London to do my A Levels. It was an incredibly tough decision leaving Singapore and the Raffles Programme. I do wish I had the insight that I have now and I thought this read may be of interest or help to anyone considering studying in the UK at a younger age.
Reasons for deciding to move and study in the UK
Hmm it’s really hard to exactly pinpoint why I decided to move. I decided to apply to a few UK Sixth Forms (UK version of JCs) not really thinking I would decide to go. I had a conversation with my parents after applying and decided that studying the UK may be a good opportunity. The best way that I can describe it is that I think I was personally feeling really tired of routine. I remember getting quite an impressive GPA but feeling really empty and not really enjoying learning. I felt like the only part of Secondary School life that I was enjoying was just my CCA (Indian Orchestra). I was feeling extremely lost and needed my space and time on my own. I rationalised that moving out would be the next step forward for me. As such, I also decided not to enter a boarding school in the UK. Rather, I enrolled in a school in London and lived in an apartment by myself.
The Good Bits
1. The space and time – needless to say, I had much more time and space to think about my needs and to do things that I enjoyed more. I was much less busier (as there was no requirement to do a CCA).
2. Teaching – the teaching in my school was in small groups and this was something I enjoyed way more. My teachers were extremely encouraging (reason why I even ended up applying to Oxford University). Because of the small groups, it was so much easier to ask anything I wasn’t sure of or to pace lessons at the speed I was comfortable with.
3. The independence – of course, I was definitely much more free to do what I wanted but that also brings me to the bad bits of moving…
The Bad Bits
1. The independence – I literally had to do everything for and by myself. It really made me develop such immense appreciation for my parents. I really did not realise how much they did for me until I moved. If I was out late or had a rough day, I didn’t have my dad to drive me back home. The only thing I had was a phonecall back to them.
2. The cost – I would say that the cost of Sixth Form itself (still high) isn’t too bad but living in London was really expensive.
3. The people and Singapore – there were so many people I left behind in Sinagpore. Most of my friends went on to Raffles Junior College and it was really hard at times as I felt like I was missing out on the JC experience. It was really hard keeping up with everyone given the distance and time difference. It was also very difficult having to halt my dance and violin classes especially when I was at a peak point where more opportunities were coming my way. Most importantly, it was really hard not having my parents there with me. There were many nights that I felt so alone without them and very lost.
Tips if you’re considering pursuing A Levels in the UK
1. Do your research! Look up all colleges that may offer an A level education.
2. Keep in mind the reasons you want to come to the UK. The exams are still hard. You definitely get much more support and time but you still do have to put in a lot of effort in order to do well.
3. Be prepared not to be pampered. My life was so much smoother in Singapore as compared to how I live in the UK. This was partly due to me having to manage all my expenses by myself.
4. Have an open mind set
5. Decide what sort of acccomodation style would suit you more (boarding vs apartment).
6. Have your parents fully on board
Tips if you’re considering reading at University in the UK
1. Search for scholarships way in advance
2. Again, have an open mind. Don’t expect things to be too luxurious
3. Don’t worry too much about ‘what after’. Go to university because you really want to read a certain subject. You can think about career options later on. I’ve spent useless nights worrying about this.
4. Talk to any seniors reading the course you’re interested in or at the Univeristy you’re interested in (this is more helpful than you think!)
4. Look at the course outline rather than the prestige of the University. In the UK, I have realised that courses (like psychology) vary so much across. As such, I would definitely suggest looking at the course outline and keeping this in mind when you choose a University.
(I’ll talk more about my university experience in another post).
I have been in the UK for over four years now and everyday has not been a smooth sailing boat. I think it’s so especially important to have your loved ones on the same page as you and for them to be as supportive of your decision to study aboard. My parents were amazing enough to provide me with the opportunity to study in the UK and I definitely feel very privileged. Throughout the 4 years, even during the hardest times, they have been there for me every single time (despite the time difference) and it has really made such a big difference. Despite the setbacks, I have really enjoyed my experience in London and Oxford and I’m really glad I took the tough step to move x