Letters from the dorm: A first month at Cambridge University has been a time of life lessons, Chinese food and redefining the meaning of 'home'

The key to enjoying your studies abroad is managing your expectations and being comfortable in your new environment as you are at home

Belinda Ng |

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Starting university, especially in a foreign country, is a daunting challenge. As I sit here writing this, it is hard to believe that mere months ago, I was buzzing with nervousness and anticipation as I packed my suitcases for Britain.

In the short month that I have been here, though, I have learned some invaluable life lessons, and grown as a person in an environment that has continuously pushed me out of my comfort zone. Here are two of my key takeaways:

Don’t be too tough on yourself

I vividly remember setting goals for myself before arriving in Britain. Things such as eating healthier, doing more exercise, and trying extracurricular activities that I had never tried before. Creating expectations for uni life can be good, but it is also important not to be too tough on yourself.

So far, I have avidly taken part in as many things as time would allow me to, which has given me the opportunity to meet and learn from some incredibly diverse and talented people. I have also faced situations where I have underestimated the amount of time I would need to manage the workload, and hadn’t had enough sleep as a result.

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Uni life is a constant juggling act and you can find it hard to strike the “ideal balance”. Yet I have increasingly come to realise that any expectations I set for myself are reflective of my goals to better adapt and grow as a person. So make your expectations suit the given context, manage them, and you will grow as a result.

Home is where the heart is

When I first dragged my suitcases into Christ’s College, the very buildings intimidated me. How could I ever settle down in a place that seemed so grand? Contrary to my expectations, it really didn’t take me long to begin to identify my new college as home. Whether it was nights spent chatting with new friends in one of the cosy rooms, or the numerous conversations held over dinner in the hall, these memories have cemented themselves in a manner that has transformed the way I view my college. In fact, I find myself often inadvertently breathing a sigh of relief having to return “home” to the college after an evening outside.

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What’s more, “home” manifests itself in many of the home-cooked meals I have with my friends, particularly from the memories evoked when eating Chinese food. When I enjoy Chinese food with my new friends from around the world, there is a distinctive feeling of my two homes, Hong Kong and Cambridge, colliding.

Overall, uni life so far, though hectic, has been immensely fulfilling. Who knows what the future will bring?

Edited by M. J. Premaratne