City Lights to Little English Villages: One Grad Student’s Account of Taking the Leap and Moving to England

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By Megan Brickley
Study and Go Abroad Fairs

Making the Decision to Move Abroad

Hilary Fagan had always wanted to study abroad. She’d passed up the opportunity during her undergrad in Ontario and eventually regretted it. So when she decided to do a master’s, she took the plunge and decided to study overseas. As a budding medieval archaeologist, much of her research was originated in Britain, so studying in the UK was a no brainer. And after careful research, she applied and was accepted to the University of Sheffield.

Hilary was intimidated by the thought of being away from home for so long, as she had never been abroad for more than a few months before. Her solution to these nerves? Being prepared. Before she left she made sure she had everything sorted. Her accommodation was set. Her travel arrangements were arranged. She’d even used university resources to help with her finances and documentation. And although it all took some time, when the time eventually came, she was confident and less stressed.

Starting an Adventure

Hilary quickly adapted to life in Sheffield. In her own words, it had “everything you could want as a student.” She thrived in the lively hustle and bustle of city life, but she could also explore the surrounding countryside. She enjoyed multiple day trips to the Peak District, where she would hike and visit small English villages. On occasions, she would take the train to visit other UK cities.

Although, for the most part, she settled into her new home quickly, it took her a few weeks to adapt to the teaching style at her new university. The UK grading is very different, so when the first grade came back she was shocked. However, then she realised how it worked, and she began to appreciate how her classes were more self-directed, meaning she could choose readings that she was interested in. She also enjoyed the conversational and friendly atmosphere, as the professors tended to be less formal than in Canada.

Making Connections

It was not long before Hilary had a close circle of friends in Sheffield: “I was very afraid of not settling in, and nervous about my performance at the master’s level, but I became part of a community and made life-long friends.”

She lived in a flat with five other students, all from different countries; Austria, Hungary, Japan, Pakistan, and China. She is still in daily contact with some of them, and many others from her course through social media.

Looking Ahead

However, Hilary’s study abroad trip was not just a fun experience. According to her, her study abroad adventure was the direct reason she landed her dream job: “I was able to get a job in the competitive museum industry back in Canada because of my experience abroad. It looks great on a resumé because it demonstrates independence, the ability to adapt, and a willingness to explore other cultures and people.”

She also said she grew as a person during her experience abroad: “When you are in a situation where no one knows you and has expectations of who you should be, there is a great sense of freedom to explore who you are as a person. This is important especially in the career world, because the more you get to know yourself, the better you can choose a career that suits you.”

She described studying abroad as an “amazing privilege”, and she would recommend it to anyone: “You will find out about different cultures while learning in world-class institutions, and ultimately learn more about yourself in the process.”

Hilary’s Top Tips For Students or Grads

  1. Do your research: You need to find the right place for you to make the most of your experience abroad, and this can involve researching many different options. This is important not only in terms of your education, but also for you personally. You will need to think about what you want out of the experience and research where you will be able to find that.
  2. Plan and Prepare: Make sure that you have everything you need in place before you leave and prepare for your time aboard. Not only is it reassuring to have everything ready to go, but you also never know what it is going to be like once you arrive at your destination.
  3. Be brave: Studying abroad can be as terrifying as it is exciting, but it is so worth it in the end.

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