No one tells the story of our scholarships better than our current scholarship students and recent graduates. Here, Li, our 2018-19 winner studying with Queen Mary University of London shares his experiences – find out what he was most nervous about and what he’s most enjoyed so far.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Li Jun Lai. I am a Chinese from Malaysia and I like reading and playing video games. I also enjoy studying and spend quite a substantial amount of time everyday going through my studies. I am passionate about the English language, even more so than my mother tongue, and my dream is that one day I will be able to write something that is truly inspiring!
What made you decide to pursue an education in law?
Studying Law has always been part of my passion since my younger days as I have personal experience of social injustice. I hope I can do something about that in the future. Even though there is no guarantee that I will want to pursue a legal career in the future, I feel it could give me a great deal of insight as I slowly become more mature and aware.
How did you feel when you found out you had been awarded the scholarship to study in London? Were you scared, excited, nervous?
Without a doubt, I was extremely excited and nervous at the same time! Most importantly, I was surprised and confused as I had never heard of the Queen Mary Scholarship before prior to me being told about it! When I was given the choice of studying in London I was quite reluctant at first, as this was a huge change in my life. However, slowly I accepted this upcoming change and slowly it’s one of the most enjoyable experiences I’m having.
What did receiving the scholarship mean to you?
Personally and truthfully, I feel like this scholarship is important to me because it gave me the confidence and self-reassurance I needed. With law, you are not guaranteed to excel just because you “study hard”, as there are many other skills to develop too. When I received this scholarship, it made me feel more confident about my own abilities and skills, and it reassured me that I was on the right track in my life.
How did you prepare for life in London? Was it your first visit?
Indeed it was my first visit to London, or any other overseas country for that matter. The preparation was extremely tiring and stressful, I remember spending days going from places to places, collecting documents, preparing for my VISA application, getting a TB scan and planning my flight. A lot of preparation went into the process and, honestly, this itself was a challenge. Thankfully, my elder brother had experienced studying in England before so I could consult him. Considering the lack of time between me being told of the scholarship to my actual flight date, I was under a timed pressure most of the time. However, I am glad everything worked out at the end!
What do you like about studying at Queen Mary University of London?
The university has always tried their best to help me out. I think what I like most about it is that it is extremely inclusive of people regardless of race, gender and so on. I see many activities every month, most of which are raising social issues and promoting anti-discrimination. I am happy to see a university with a community that tries to have a mutual understanding and acceptance among one another.
Have you encountered any challenges?
Yes, I did encounter a lot of challenges, most of them relating to study techniques. In relation to non-academic challenges, I don’t think there were many I was really struggling with. When I first arrived in London I had a hard time fitting in and getting used to the new lifestyle, and that itself was a challenge. There were many other challenges too, such as learning to cook and do chores for myself. I think exploring, talking to my friends and family and asking for advice were among the best ways for me to overcome most of the challenges thrown at me.
Have you joined any social clubs?
Yes, I joined one. It is my university’s Pokemon Society. It caught my attention and at first, I thought it was something that interested me out of all the other clubs, seeing I had been passionate about Pokemon since I was a kid. In the club, I met a lot of new friends who are very supportive and helpful, and I don’t regret joining this club at all! Even though I did not join the Malaysian society, I did meet some new friends in that club and attended some of the organised activities. I may consider joining the Malaysian society when the new term starts.
How is it now different to studying on a distance learning degree?
The difference is mostly in relation to teaching styles and lifestyle in general. In London, more freedom is given to my studies, but with it comes a great deal of independence expected of me. Even though we still had a schedule for all the classes per week, I feel more in control of my time here than I did back home. When I was studying via distance learning, there were many times where I couldn’t understand certain aspects of a lecture and would choose to memorise it instead. Having now lived in London, it’s allowed me to see a new perspective especially when applying the law to everyday life.
How do you think this experience will benefit you in the future?
Overall, I would say the most important benefit of this experience has been independence. I could not rely on my family and friends as much as I used to and I have learned to cook for myself, do chores for myself, and make decisions for myself. Living alone in a foreign country has brought some of the good qualities like these out of me that I never imagined I ever had. Now I feel more confident in myself in general and I think this is extremely beneficial when I move on into my future.
What are your plans for the summer?
This summer, I will be spending a week in Paris on a trip with my brother. After that, I will be going back to Malaysia. I have not decided how I will spend the rest of my summer, but I figured there are many new things I am interested to learn, so I will dedicate the free time to learning those skills.