Studying at UCL

Regina Yip Pui Lam (’18)

December, to me, has always been a time to rest and reflect.  Two years ago, I embarked on my journey as a law student at University College London (UCL).  It seems like it was only yesterday that I first set foot in the newly refurbished Bentham House of the Law Faculty, looking forward to the adventure ahead with a faint stirring of insecurity.  At this juncture, as a final-year student who has stayed in Hong Kong for the past months due to COVID-19, it seems an ideal time to look back on my eye-opening, if not life-changing, experience at UCL and in London. 

Outside the entrance to the Law Faculty building, March 2020
In front of the Grade II listed Cruciform Building of UCL, March 2020
At the Winter Wonderland, December 2018

A new environment

While the idea of being a “foreigner” in London was initially quite daunting, the inclusive culture of UCL had facilitated my adaption to university life.  UCL prides itself on being the first university in England to admit students regardless of religion or gender.  Under such friendly atmosphere, I have been able to make friends with students from different countries.  An appeal of UCL, with its diverse student bodies, is certainly its cultural diversity and inclusiveness.

Nonetheless, just as other law students, adapting to the new mode of learning in my first year had been a bittersweet memory.  Contact hours being only 10 hours per week, students are encouraged to learn independently from reading textbooks, case judgments and academic commentaries.  Instead of dashing through the campus for back-to-back lessons, we spent much time sitting quietly in the Main Library preparing for classes.  As our Faculty Dean says, law students (quite literally) “read” law.  Although it took time to develop effective reading skills, this process has proved essential for our understanding of the topics, formulation of our own opinions and fruitful class discussions. 

Broadening horizons

My life in London went far beyond than burying myself in books and readings.  London is a vibrant metropolis rich in cultures and history.  There is so much more to the capital of England than its iconic red telephone boxes, double-decker buses and fish and chips.  I had spent afternoons and weekends strolling along the Thames, enjoying hot street foods in Borough Market, visiting some of the best museums in the world like the British Museum, and so on and so forth. 

During my stay, my favourite time of the year had been Christmas, when festive lights were lit, Christmas markets were opened and ice rinks were set up.  My friends and I had been a huge fan of the annual Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, which resembled a theme park.  It was where I had my first cup of mulled wine! 

Living in London had given me the opportunity to discover the city’s charm and appreciate its culture.  Needless to say, two years are too short for me to fully grasp its historic and cultural heritage; yet, I am grateful for this eye-opening journey which broadened my horizons.

A bumpy yet blessed ride

Studying abroad has contributed tremendously to my personal growth, not just intellectually.  My “real” classroom in fact lay in my everyday life, from finding accommodation and paying bills to learning how to cook and live independently.  There were times when I doubted my decision to study abroad, but eventually I realized adversities were blessings in disguise which had helped me grow.  Indeed, life is full of vicissitudes which makes it more stimulating and challenging.

Looking back, my experience at UCL has been a blessed ride where cherished memories were created and lasting friendships were developed.  2020 has been an unprecedented year; while the future remains uncertain, I wish everyone a blissful year ahead.

20 December 2020

Editor’s note:

Regina has received the Hong Kong Scholarship for Excellence Scheme award offered by the Education Bureau of Hong Kong, which covers the whole of her tuition fees at UCL Faculty of Laws.