Table of Contents
Could you start by telling us who you are and what you’re studying?
Sure! My name is Santhosh, I’m 28 and studying for an MA in Digital Media and Society at the University of Sheffield, UK. This will be my third degree.
Santhosh at the University of Sheffield
What’s your background before coming to Sheffield?
I'm originally from a small town in South India called Krishnagiri. Growing up, I didn't have much exposure to the internet until I was 17, with most of my leisure time revolving around TV, cinema, and cricket.
At the urging of my family and friends, I pursued mechanical engineering at a graduate school in Kanchipuram. However, I soon realised that engineering didn't resonate with my interests, and I found myself at a crossroads.
During this time of uncertainty, my loved ones once again encouraged me to further my studies, leading me to pursue an MBA degree in India. Despite my initial lack of interest, I gradually found my passion while studying for my MBA, thanks to an internship at History TV in Bombay.
There, I was exposed to the world of marketing and social media, which ultimately piqued my interest. Following my MBA, I worked at a bank and then at a marketing agency, honing my skills in marketing analytics. I then found myself working at Edvoy, applying the knowledge and experience I've gained throughout my journey.
How did you decide to study abroad?
I had a very ambitious dream of working for a global think tank. I believe studying abroad will provide me with an edge and help me fulfill this dream. International degrees, particularly those from well-ranked universities, are highly valued and can offer a distinct advantage in the job market.
What was it that made you decide to study in the UK and at the University of Sheffield?
I chose to study in the UK because the degrees are shorter compared to those in the USA, and the cost of living and tuition are lower. Moreover, the UK has many universities with excellent reputations. I chose the University of Sheffield for its location and ranking, and because it offers a great commute to larger cities, potentially aiding in part-time job opportunities. I also applied to four other universities - the University of Glasgow, the University of Liverpool, Loughborough University, and the University of Leicester. However I chose Sheffield due to its location and ranking.
Also read: 10 reasons to study in the UK
Did you apply for any scholarships when applying?
When applying for my studies, I didn't specifically apply for the scholarships I received. The universities themselves offered me these scholarships after reviewing my background and experience. I didn't initially apply for any scholarships because I started the process a bit late, and looking back, I wish I had begun applying earlier. The scholarships I received include the "Citizen of Change" scholarship from the University of Leicester, which amounted to £5,500, a merit scholarship of £2,500 from the University of Sheffield, a merit scholarship of £4,500 from Liverpool University, and a £5,000 merit scholarship from Loughborough University.
Were there any specific requirements or criteria for the scholarship?
My counselor advised me to have a well-written Statement of Purpose (SOP) that included my ambitions, a five-year plan, and a roadmap for the future. They told me that a good SOP and CV could significantly increase my chances of securing a scholarship.
Also read: 3 winning SOP samples
How has receiving the scholarship impacted your studies and life abroad?
Receiving the scholarship had a significant impact on my studies and life abroad. It helped cover necessary expenses, such as buying basic amenities and booking my flight ticket. Essentially, everything got covered, which really helped me prepare. The university deducted the scholarship amount from my tuition fees, easing the financial burden.
What does it mean to you on a personal level to have received this scholarship?
On a personal level, receiving the scholarship meant a lot. I'd never received a scholarship or anything similar during my childhood, so it made me feel valued and significantly boosted my self-esteem.
Life as an international student in the UK
How have you found the academic environment and culture at your university?
The academic environment and culture at my university in the UK is completely different from India. In India, professors typically teach everything in detail and don't assign much reading. In contrast, the UK education system involves a lot of pre-reading, and the classes are more like debate sessions where we discuss topics and learn about different perspectives. One downside was that many classes were canceled due to strikes.
Can you share a bit about your day-to-day life as an international student?
During my first few months, I didn't have perfect accommodation and was living on the outskirts of Sheffield. I eventually found accommodation in the city center. I joined several societies, including a cricket society, which kept me busy over the weekends. I started a part-time job in March, working two days a week, and played for a couple of cricket clubs in Sheffield.
The cricket ground Santhosh plays at in Sheffield
I typically had classes four days a week during the first semester, and three days a week in the second. Most days consisted of one class and one seminar. I often hung out with friends at the Student Union in between classes. The Union also provided free food for students doing their dissertations.
Have you experienced any culture shock? How have you adapted to the new culture?
Yes, I experienced some culture shock when I arrived in the UK. For example, the cities are mostly silent during the week, and then they come to life over the weekend, which is quite the opposite of what I'm used to in India. The weather was another adjustment, especially the long winter nights and equally long summer days. The winter in the UK was quite harsh and affected my sleep cycle.
I was also impressed by the discipline people showed in following traffic and queue rules, something not as common in India. I adapted by observing and respecting the local norms and gradually incorporating them into my daily life.
What are some interesting cultural experiences or customs you've encountered in your host country?
One interesting cultural experience I noticed in the UK is how strangers would say hello, a practice not common in India, even in smaller towns. I found this to be a nice gesture that can lift your spirits on a bad day or when you're feeling down.
Advice for future applicants
What advice would you give to students who are considering applying for scholarships?
I'd recommend applying for scholarships at least a year before your course starts. There are many scholarships available that can provide a 100% fee waiver, or at least 20-30%. They often operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so it's better to apply early.
Are there any specific tips or strategies you'd like to share about the scholarship application process?
It's essential to have a well-crafted Statement of Purpose (SOP) and a clear roadmap for the next five years. Your SOP should specifically mention how the scholarship would be beneficial for your future endeavors. Counselors can provide invaluable assistance with this process. Avoid being too general; one of my friends didn't receive a scholarship because his application lacked specific details.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you knew before you started the application process?
In retrospect, I wish I had applied for scholarships earlier. Being prepared and timely is crucial in securing a scholarship.
Finally, what are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I am considering pursuing a part-time PhD. My dream institutions for this would be Oxbridge or UCL. The focus of my research would be in political science and sociology, specifically on the caste system in India. It's a subject that has had a significant impact on my life and the lives of many people I know. I believe it's an issue that needs to be addressed in India, and I want to contribute to that dialogue.