By Dania Hammadi
It’s bigger, bolder, brighter.
That’s how I would describe my experience transitioning to Newcastle University from NUMed. Life is pretty similar; people are friendly, the teaching is amazing, the city is as beautiful as home. The only difference is that these things are all bigger, bolder, and brighter here in the U.K. And I’m definitely not complaining!
The move from Malaysia was definitely a tough one. I grew up in Penang, an island just northwest off mainland Malaysia, and this was the only home I’d known. Moving 10-hours away to Johor to start my degree in Biomedical Sciences was scary enough, but NUMed turned to be a home away from home. We’re such a small, tight-knitted community, and on campus we could bond in ways students in a larger university wouldn’t be able to.
“Choosing to begin my studies at NUMed has been the best decision I’ve ever made!”
Moving halfway across the globe for third year, however, is definitely another level of scary. That being said, it’s been the icing on the cake of my entire university experience, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Choosing to begin my studies at NUMed has been the best decision I’ve ever made!
Newcastle, the toon
“The city has a way of welcoming you”
Though I’ve never travelled beyond Asia and the Middle East, transitioning to Newcastle wasn’t something I had to consciously put effort into. The city has a way of welcoming you, framed with its charming buildings, lush green parks and crisp Autumn air.
The best part? You can walk anywhere! No place is too far for a little stroll, and the colder climate means you don’t even break into a sweat. When travelling further, the metro or buses are amazing modes of transport. Getting around was definitely easy to get used to, and makes sight-seeing much easier to plan. Places I would definitely recommend for relaxing strolls are Leazes Park (very close to the medical school!) and Jesmond Dene, both very beautiful parks with breath-taking sights.
Living in Newcastle
Newcastle has a very intricate balance of expressing its historic side while developing more modern parts of the city. This balance makes you feel like a tourist without ever worrying about finding shops for your needs!
From the open Grainger market to the huge Metrocentre, it’s a convenient mix of past and present to fulfil your needs. An added bonus is that Newcastle is a very student-friendly city, so shops are prepped with dorm supplies, stationary and student-friendly prices. Settling into my dorm room and making sure I had everything I needed was very simple, which definitely helped make the transition smoother.
Is the UK more expensive?
Budgeting was a worry of mine before moving to Newcastle, and I’m sure it’s a worry most students have. Here’s the real deal: living in Newcastle isn’t expensive. For one, most retailers and restaurants have student discounts, which helps you save a lot. Sales are frequent, especially online, and you’ll find clothes and shoes at very attractive prices. Groceries are fresh and very affordable, and my favourite place to shop is Grainger market on a Saturday.
How affordable is it though, I hear you ask? 5 avocados for pound, two boxes of English strawberries a pound and a bag of 10 lemons for a pound! Because local produce is so fresh and affordable, I’ve found eating clean much easier in Newcastle than back home. This has helped me get into the habit of meal-prepping, so I don’t worry about what to eat for lunch or dinner. There are endless recipes online, and when you don’t feel like cooking, there are loads of restaurants to choose from. Delivery services are common and very convenient for a night in.
As a Muslim, I was worried about finding halal food/meat in Newcastle, however, there are plenty of stores and mini-markets that sell fresh halal meat, frozen goods (think nuggets, sausages, patties), and plenty of restaurants that sell halal food. Surprisingly, even local, independent food outlets provide halal options, and all you have to do is ask!
With the rise of veganism, plant-based foods are widely available too, and more importantly, they’re delicious. The only trouble here is choosing where to eat, because of the vast options.
Adjusting to the British weather
Though I had heard that Newcastle can get cold towards winter, I wasn’t prepared for the drastic difference in temperature between here and Malaysia. The first 2 weeks was very pleasant, with sunlight, blue skies and an average of 15oC. As winter drew closer, the days became shorter, on average at about 4pm. This took quite some time to adjust too, since the night is now longer, and I started spending more time indoors.
Luckily, although it was difficult to adjust at first, it was not impossible, and by the start of December I’ve more or less become accustomed to my new evening routine. I’ve taken up hand embroidery as a hobby to keep me busy during these long nights, and I find it quite relaxing.
Teaching in Newcastle University
Probably the most important bit of the transition is adjusting to the teaching here, and this was also the easiest adjustment I had to make. Teaching is immersive and very interesting, because you’re studying modules that you’ve specifically chosen, and you’re being taught by researchers who’ve dedicated their careers conducting research in those modules. Though we’re in a much bigger class now, the lecturers are very supportive and are always happy to answer questions. I know this, because I ask a lot of questions!
The Medical School has a large library dedicated to medical/dental/biomedical students, filled with all the books you’ll ever need to supplement your studies. There are plenty of studying spaces in the common rooms as well as computer clusters equipped with printers.
My experience with the transition has been extremely positive, and although I wouldn’t worry about it if you’re reading this from NUMed, I know you will. As I write this post, my thoughts fly back to the past 2 years of my degree. I miss NUMed and the lovely community there very much, but Newcastle feels like home now too.