Meet Anggi at University of the Arts (UAL) in London!
Name: Anggi Pande
University: University of the Arts, London (UAL)
Degree: BA Journalism
Year of Study: 3rd year
How did you choose your university destination and course of study?
I’ve always known I wanted to study overseas, but had some difficulty figuring out where to go. I set my sights on American universities for a while, just because I knew more about how things worked there from what my siblings experienced. I ended up deciding to go to the UK, as I signed up to take a short course in art during the Winter holidays at Central Saint Martins and thoroughly enjoyed that brief look into being a uni student in London.
When deciding on my course, I narrowed it down to writing or art, as English Literature and Art were among my favourite subjects. Ultimately, I thought Journalism was a good course for me as I wanted to develop my writing skills and storytelling. Also seeing UAL’s high percentage of international students, I thought it would be good for me to be in an artistic student community with people from various different backgrounds.
What have been the highlights of your academic programme so far?
Because of UAL’s reputation and having a lot of connections in the creative industry, there were a lot of guest speakers coming to our lectures; writers, photojournalists, and videographers. They all explained their jobs and gave students advice for our assignments and future careers.
Another highlight from the course is the uni always encouraging students to be creative. UAL has a range of campuses all over the city with their own special equipment and facilities that any UAL student can use. My campus has a kit room where you can use a ton of great quality camera equipment and book studios and the radio rooms where you can record or film your projects. Lots of people like utilising the facilities for personal projects, and although there isn’t any restriction with who can book what, some courses are prioritised to borrow certain equipment for their assignments. Although I specialise in print and online journalism, which is primarily writing, I was still encouraged to take photos and videos for my assignments. It’s great because I got to revisit a hobby with high-quality camera equipment that would otherwise cost a lot of money and investment, which I didn’t really have the time or space for.
What do you enjoy most about living in London?
The first thing that comes to mind is London’s public transportation. Growing up where you go around everywhere with a motorbike or car, having access to trains and buses is probably my favourite part about the city. It really gives me a chance to independently plan days out on my own instead of relying on driving everywhere. And with a bit of practice, memorising the London underground system is easier than you think.
Also, you almost never run out of things to do here! Especially as a student, use your uni ID to your advantage. Museums are either free or discounted, there are so many parks to go to, and pop-ups or events happen at any time of the day and any day of the week! Even walking around different parts of the city gives you so much to see and do, and the history behind each London borough is really interesting to learn about.
How supportive is your university to international students?
There are so many international students at UAL, so I think they have been moderately supportive in helping us get adjusted to living in London. Information on student visas or how to open your bank account in the UK are on the uni’s website. They also prioritise international students with getting student accommodation, and provide advice on where to search or help students with legal issues relating to housing which isn’t exclusive to international students. But based on what my friends experience, the legal support is very minimal.
Other than that, the university has plenty of resources for mental wellbeing. They provide workshops like calming yoga sessions, time management talks and art block workshops to get your creative juices flowing. In my first year, I signed up for a student mentor, usually a third year from the same course. They were really helpful in answering my questions about the course, finding work after graduating, and even advice with social life. They’ve since graduated, but we still keep in touch which has been really nice.
What have been 3 of the main challenges you have faced during your time at university?
- Rather than classes and the learning material itself, I’ve struggled with the added pressure of adapting to city life. I grew up in quite a secluded area of Bali and life there is just slower in general. I needed more time to get used to the fast pace and adjust to the completely new environment. In the first few months of moving in, I was pessimistic and experienced a lot of the negatives of city life at first. This is also the first time I have been away from my family for such long periods of time, so I was quite lonely. Eventually I learned to love the city, and with all the new experiences, the people I’ve met, the freedom and independence, city life became enjoyable.
- Another challenge would be confidence. Being introverted, I would have trouble warming up to my peers and doing tasks like taking phone calls to book appointments or asking questions to my tutors. This just takes a lot of practice, and since then I’ve gotten better at not overthinking my actions and what I say to people. Academically, it helped me to collaborate on group projects and gave my tutors a better understanding of my interests or what I struggled with. Overall, my communication with people has improved.
- Lastly, it would be time management for your uni work. I still struggle with finding the time to work on assignments (and actually making progress), and my physical and mental health really impacts my performance in uni. It’s easy to forget to take your vitamins or bundle up when the weather gets cold, and before you know it you’re holed up at home with a horrible fever and no motivation to finish any homework. I end up rushing some of my work closer to the deadline date, resulting in something that I’m not very proud of. So remembering to take your vitamins, eating your meals and taking care of yourself can really save you from a low grade.
What activities are you involved in outside of your academic programme?
Since I was online for the first semester (Covid restrictions existed at the time), I only got to learn about the university’s societies through their website and Instagram pages. I didn’t bother too much about joining, since I wouldn’t be able to attend any of the events the societies held anyway. Instead, I got to really get a good look at UAL’s societies in my second year like a lot of people so don’t worry too much about joining things late.
I had signed up for Indonesian society, as it was a way for me to get to know more people with a similar background and in the same uni. Outside of uni there is also PPI London, open to all Indonesian students in the city where they host a lot of social events. Other than that, I like to join a blanket knitting workshop that happens every other weekend where you make blankets out of scrap yarn for homeless shelters in London.
How easy is it to find accommodation? Can you describe your living arrangements?
For most universities, dorms are guaranteed for first year students, and UAL prioritises international students as long as you apply on time. There are also student accommodations not exclusive to one London uni, although they tend to be more expensive. Because I was unsure of when I could be in London, I didn’t get the chance to stay in a UAL accommodation and was in a general student accommodation. I was lucky that my flatmate was tidy and we got along, as she took me around London with her friends when I was first getting adjusted to city life.
The housing market is extremely competitive and expensive, especially after the pandemic as more people move into London and the additional cost of living crisis. As a student it’s easy to feel helpless when your options are scarce and estate agencies categorise you in the same “no” list as pets. I looked on websites like Rightmove, Zoopla, SpareRoom, and joined Facebook groups like my uni’s official housing group, “gals who rent”, and region-specific groups, like the Southeast London housing group, for example. I’ve heard people found their closest friends through these Facebook groups, so it doesn’t hurt to have a look. Unfortunately for me, my plan of living with a flatmate fell through at the last minute, so I am currently living with family friends who have a spare room. Things worked out in the end though, as their house was close by underground and bus stations that took me straight to my campus.
Based on experience: look a month or two earlier and know what you’re looking for, like specific areas in London, the access to public transport, what amenities are deal-breakers to you, etc. If you have a smaller budget, room with more people. Persistence is key, and have all your paperwork or information sorted out. It may feel like a near-impossible mission, but it is doable and I know plenty of people who found nice flats in the city with great roommates they met online.
Do you think your university experience is preparing you well for the working world and do they offer support with finding jobs and internships?
Definitely. Besides the uni encouraging students to gain experience outside of classes, there are workshops on CV building and portfolio advice. Some courses provide modules where you complete a short work placement over the Winter break, which is what my course did in the second year. My tutors were also very supportive in helping us write cover letters, give advice for job interviews, and would lead us to companies accepting interns.
In some courses, UAL also gives the chance for you to take a year out to gain professional experience. This opportunity has just been made available for journalism students. It is a bit more challenging to navigate, being the first batch of Journalism students to do this, but tutors have been very helpful.
Unfortunately, the uni can only do so much; in London everything is so competitive, and I have gotten a fair share of applications that ended in rejections or nothing as employers just stopped responding. My advice is to start with speaking to family friends, tutors, or third year students and alumni about connecting you to someone for internships.
What opportunities have you had to travel and explore during weekends and vacations?
I haven’t had the time to explore the outside of London! I admit, I feel like I haven’t explored all of London either since there are so many areas besides the popular tourist destinations. As long as you have the right visa and documents to travel into Europe, going out on trips with friends or to see friends is a very fun opportunity you don’t get very often.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would offer an international student thinking of coming to London and the UK to study?
- Don’t rush things. Take things at your own pace, which I wish I did when figuring out what to study. Taking a gap year to really think about what you want to do could be very beneficial. In the UK they also provide foundation courses you can take before applying to uni, and for some majors it is mandatory. And even if you think your course is not the one for you, it is never too late to switch.
- Be social! Whether it’s to make new friends in a new city, or networking with people who you could possibly work with in the future. It’ll be more difficult for introverts, but putting yourself out there will make your uni experience significantly better with a group of friends. Also, networking is like maintaining contact with your friends; message or formally email them every once in a while, maybe propose a day to catch up over coffee or food. You never know if you will find a lifelong friend, or someone who could help you in your career.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Being in London is like my first attempt at adulting; from budgeting, cleaning my space, finding time for uni/work and leisure, and taking care of yourself (!). I wouldn’t lie and say it has been tough on me, but it’ll get better with time and experience. I am (unfortunately) a bit of a perfectionist, so I hate nothing more than making mistakes. However, learning from things I’ve messed up on has been the most effective way to teach me life skills. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re struggling on something you’ve never done before, and don’t let the fear of trying something new scare you away.