Choosing to study abroad is a massive decision no matter how far you’re travelling, but for Student Ambassador Wen Heong from Malaysia travelling halfway across the world to a country she knew absolutely nothing about wasn’t an easy one…

About Studying Abroad 

I decided to go to university abroad when I was in the middle of high school. The main reason I wanted to do this was mainly because I was curious about the world outside of the protection of my family and the places I’m familiar with. I never knew what would I need for studying abroad, all I knew was, I had to get a good grade to be eligible to go to university in another country. So, I studied hard and tried my very best on my final exam which directly defined my opportunity to study abroad. 

A long journey (photo: Wen)

From the UK to Ireland  

Just like many other seniors, Ireland was not my first choice. The UK has always been my dream city to visit and to live in. However, the cost needed to study in the UK exceeded what my family and I expected. We tried as many ways as possible and did as much research as we could, then, just like a hint from destiny, we found Ireland.  Ireland was a place we never thought of, we did not know a single thing about this beautiful country. Just like a newborn, we learned about Ireland with a fresh perspective. 

Taking in the views (photo: Wen)

The Decision to Study in Ireland  

Ireland is a more affordable country to study in in comparison to other countries which use English as the educational language. From the experiences shared by seniors, I learned about the friendliness and kindness of the people in Ireland. They are always open-minded and welcoming to international students, and always keep a nice balance between study and life.  

From living in a high pace environment for so many years I wanted to try something new, and maybe something that is good for both my mental and physical health to have a balanced lifestyle.

On my own… (photo: Wen)

Arriving in Ireland…

It was the first time I came to a foreign country alone, without my family or friends. I could never forget the moment I stepped down out of the aeroplane to the ground of Shannon Airport. Fear, excitement, anxiety, bewildered but elated at the same time. I walked past the immigration customs, got my bags, went on the bus organised by my university and just started my journey with 14 days of isolation. I know it sounds boring and maybe funny, but yes, being alone in a room for 2 weeks was how I started my “new life” in a new country. 

A Fortnight of Isolation 

The two weeks of isolation were not easy for me. I enjoyed being alone, having all my time to myself, but I never knew homesickness would be that bad. I was never a high dependency child when I was living with my parents and I never realised how much I love my family before my isolation, or maybe before I came to Ireland, a country without a single thing I was familiar with.  

I had my 19th Birthday in isolation, with my family on the laptop screen, they blew out the candles on the cake for me on the other side of the earth. If I’m being honest, I spent 50% of the time in isolation crying and missing the people I love, 30% on struggling to be strong and optimistic, but the rest of 20% of the time I was truly happy and proud of myself for being able to achieve the first step of my dream to study abroad.

Isolation celebration (photo: Wen)

Beginning my new life in  Ireland…

Along with starting classes, I moved into my accommodation and starting to meet new people in my life, people from different countries, with different cultures. It was hard for me at the beginning trying to get along with people. I was never good at making new friends and socialising. My inferiorities kept me safe inside my comfort zone, but even I knew that was not the life I wanted to have here.  

Then I met a new friend who changed my life immediately, the appreciation I have for him is so much more than words could ever describe. He introduced me to new friends, pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, guided me along to enjoy the true study-life balance living style. I got to live my life to the fullest and be sincerely happy with where I am now. I grew up and learned more than I ever thought was possible in just a few months, and now, I am still doing my best to live my life industriously, to have as few regrets as possible in my life. The day I stepped out of my comfort zone, was the day my life started. I would never learn about myself if I had never come to study in Ireland. There’s still a long way to go in my life, but at this changing point, I am truly gratefully proud of myself. 

Friends for life (photo: Wen)

In 2020, I learned and got more than I deserved. I am genuinely grateful for the people and every occasion in my life. It was a challenging year for everyone, including myself. But undeniably, it was also a year full of gratitude. The opportunities we got from all the changes and the inspiration we gained from the time lost are all that we should be thankful for.  

Here’s a small piece of personal advice: if you can dream it, you can do it. Have courage, and go for it. 

Wen is pursuing a Bachelor degree in Business Studies at the University of Limerick.