Hi, my name is Saki Shimada. I’m from Japan and studied at UEA for two semesters last year in the School of Biological Sciences. My university in Japan did not have any exchange programs with UEA and I did not know anybody there, so I could not imagine what my life at UEA would be like. Since it is less common in Japan for science major students to study abroad, I was worried that I might not be able to do well in the laboratory sessions. When I arrived in Norwich in mid-September, I was almost overwhelmed by anxiety.
But once the term started, it turned out that worrying was not necessary. It was not easy to learn new concepts and it took a long time to write essays and lab reports, all in English, a foreign language for me. So I was usually studying all day in my room, when I did not have classes. However, it was very exciting to learn things from a different perspective, especially in the field of bioethics.
I lived in the Ziggurats with thirteen other flatmates, all of them from either UK or EU countries. The biggest surprise for me was the amount of alcohol they consumed, I was always surprised by the number of empty alcohol bottles in the kitchen after pre-drinks. UEA has bars and a club on campus, another difference from my university in Japan. UEA campus is extremely spacious and beautiful. At the Shop on the campus, you can buy anything you need daily. The flat is right at the center of the campus, so the life was very convenient. The Ziggurat building was unique in design. The view from my flat was also very beautiful. I especially loved seeing clouds and fog in the morning by the lake. It was so mystical!
My experience was not just about studying. While I was in the U.K. and did not have classes, I traveled around Europe for three months in total. I visited 14 countries: famous destinations like France and Germany to less-known places like San Marino and Slovakia. Traveling to other countries was the most eye-opening experience during my stay. In Europe, you can go across national borders by train, which is something impossible in island nation, Japan. Climates are different from place to place as well as townscapes. Since then I have been almost addicted to travel. I was traveling as a backpacker with a limited budget, so I sometimes had to skip my dinner in order to pay for the hostel bills, but the beautiful landscape made me forget how hungry I was!
I will always remember my wonderful days at UEA. If you are wondering whether you should study abroad or not, I would absolutely recommend you to do it! Even if you are not very fluent in English, do not worry. I would recommend you even more strongly to study at UEA. It is such a wonderful experience to live outside of one’s own country.