جامعة النجاح الوطنية
An-Najah National University

By Hedaia Ghannam

In 2013, the British Council in Palestine was tasked with selecting 20 students to win HESPAL ‎scholarship to get their MSc degree from England, and I was chosen. The scholarship was for 20 ‎selected universities, which I have to get unconditional offers from what I prefer.

I submitted my ‎application to two universities: New Castle University, and University of Essex. I was accepted in ‎both and the British Council agreed my admission to University of Essex.

Even though I was scared from the idea of travelling and staying alone, but my parents were so supportive and they didn’t allow me to entertain these negative thoughts and encouraged me to soak up every experience this opportunity would offer. So I decided to leave Palestine, were everything was familiar to enter the unknown of an entirely different place, culture and mentality. Get the privilege of learning from some of the best minds in the world and have access to unlimited resources, while being in the atmosphere of so many outstanding academics, both past and present.

In order to prepare for the English experience and university, the British Council arranged for a ‎pre-departure briefing in Palestine, where they gave us tips about living in UK, things we can do ‎and places to go, with a brief lesson on UK culture. Also, it gave us the opportunity to meet other ‎scholars.‎

Gazing out the airplane window, I had endless questions in my mind. Have I made the right ‎decision? What is the place like? Are people good here? Can I make it? Simply it was terrifying. ‎After 5  hours  my airplane landed  in  Heathrow.  I was  overwhelmed,  but  full  of  hope  and ‎excitement. I walked through the immigration gate with my luggage, and found the University ‎stuff waiting for foreign students. I can’t forget that moment when I entered my new room; ‎it was a special moment with big relief.‎

Studying in UK is a great learning curve. It is far beyond just getting a degree. It brought a whole ‎new dimension to my learning experience. It has put me outside my comfort zone, but in a very ‎enjoyable way. This opportunity opened the world to me and allowed me to grow as a person ‎while giving me a one-of-kind experience.  I got to experience this wonderful multicultural ‎society that exposed me to so much.‎

It’s not hard to mingle in and become a part of life in the UK. Good people are not hard to find, ‎and once you find them, language, accents or even cultural or religious differences don’t come in ‎the way. I made a lot of friends there, not only Arabs, but also from Kazakhstan, Malta, India, ‎Europe and Nigeria and we are preparing for a reunion this summer.‎

I have travelled a lot in UK, I have been to more than 10 cities, and I went to Scotland, and what ‎I noticed is that every city has its own special atmosphere, with its amazing old architectural ‎style which you can’t find it other parts of the world. In UK it is raining the whole time. So I ‎started appreciating the sun, and the joy and beauty it gives with it.‎

People were asking always about how can I cook by myself or stay alone in my room, it is more ‎than that, as there were times for me to feel lonely, getting to British accent and the ‎differences in teaching techniques and coursework was a big challenge. For the first couple of ‎weeks I spent my time wishing I am back home, but by time all these obstacles faded away.‎

Here the MSc is a one year course with just seven modules and a graduation project, so you will ‎be able to focus on your interests and go in depth with each module. I have to say it wasn’t easy, ‎as my life stopped during exams, as I was living in the library for more than one month. Later, ‎when I got my results, I figured out that this experience worth every second, as I was so proud of ‎what I have achieved, and prof to myself I can make it. This opened for me new aspects, I started ‎thinking about PhD, publishing papers and even beyond.‎

Finally, in any student experience, they always talk about the hard parts while you are away and ‎what are you facing in this year. However, for me the hardest part was when I booked the ticket ‎back to Palestine. Although, I was happy to see my family and friends back home, but nobody ‎can understand how much you changed in this year, my dreams, my habits, the way I perceive ‎people. It is like learning a foreign language that no one around you speaks so there is no way to ‎tell them how you really feel

In conclusion, I have to admit that I really appreciate living this experience, and I will never ‎forget University of Essex. So instead of crying because it is over, I have to smile because it ‎happened.‎

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