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Shalaj from India, MEng in in Mechatronics Engineering

Indian student Shalaj and friends in the Peak District

Shalaj Lawania, 19, from India
Master's in Mechatronics Engineering (MEng) at the University of Manchester

"To my little Indian family it was just like a Bollywood movie – their son heading off to foreign lands (the United Kingdom) for further studies.

They believed he would return a much smarter, wiser, fairer and heavily accented individual. They had seen such stories on the television screen multiple times, and heard of it from other folks, but never dreamed it might happen to them as well.

Unlike all dreams, this wasn’t just green fields, rainbows and bright sunshine. Having spent my entire childhood in the brutal heat of Muscat, Oman and Dubai, UAE in the Middle East, I was entering a climate that was chillingly different. It was hard to imagine not being able to wear shorts and slippers and walk about without jackets or coats on a daily basis.

Being a vegetarian, prayers were sent out daily to the food gods that I find healthy and delicious vegetarian food on a daily basis. Like any other young man, food was as important to me as Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

So I walked into Manchester with all these worries residing somewhere in my mind, and within a few weeks realised the most important thing about moving to a completely different environment – you don't need to change at all. All you need to change is your perception.

It's important to embrace the environment you enter, so you and it can maintain a mutually happy life. If you're heading to a country like the UK, you have a lot to embrace. You grow accustomed to the cold and rain – so much so that you start relishing every bit of sunlight and noticing the beauty it brings with it. The beauty that lies within the old architectural style prevalent throughout UK cities is hard to find in the nest of high-rise buildings in other parts of the world.

You appreciate the warmth of your home, the warmth of company and the warmth in a good mug of hot chocolate. You start adapting to the cold, and wearing shorts doesn’t seem that far off when winter starts to wane.

Students come here to learn – not just their courses, but more about life, other people and their countries and cultures, and a lot about themselves. It’s an unending learning process, one that is filled with great friends and unforgettable experiences.

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.

All you have to do is embrace the world given to you, and in turn it will embrace you."

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