Nurul Mohd Razali

Malaysia, BA (Hons) Architecture

“When I first arrived here, I was alone, just me! So what I wondered at first was - “how can I make friends?” So I decided to do one thing, join an Oxford Brookes society which really helped!”

Why did you decide to come and study in the UK?

I was back in Malaysia, and over there it is very different in terms of the culture, weather and the food, everything is so different. So I was very comfortable in Malaysia and the opportunity came and I was like, “Why not!” - I want to experience something different, so I came here and I'm glad that I made that choice because it's very nice and very cool that I can experience a new culture, new languages so I'm really happy that I made that decision.

Why did you decide to come to Oxford Brookes?

I wanted to study Architecture and when I was choosing a university, I came across Oxford Brookes University, and I never heard of it before, but then, I did a further research and found out that for the Architecture course is really good to study here and in terms of the ranking and how they carry out the modules, I was confident that this was my place so I decided to give a try and study here, and it turns out really well! I love it here, I love how they carry out the modules and it suits my preferences very well.

What has been your favourite thing about studying so far?

The best thing that I would say is the friends that I have made from different cultures, from different countries, I am learning their languages and what they’re like and it's very interesting to know about others as well. I did not have this option when I was back in Malaysia, as I was among Malaysian people only, so when I came here, I had the chance to know different languages, I am learning to know how other cultures live, so it's very interesting to have that cultural exchange with them. I am really happy and it is very exciting to have met new friends here!

What would you say is the best way to make friends at university?

When I first arrived here, I was alone, just me! So what I wondered first was - “how can I make friends?” I was a bit worried, because English is not my first language, so it could also become a barrier. However, I decided to do one thing, join an Oxford Brookes society which really helped, and also, during class I engaged with different activities. I also once joined the Disney Club, before I ended up in Malaysian Society, so that I could feel a bit closer to Malaysian culture. Now, I have a lot of international friends and Malaysian friends around me!

How have you found the British food? Have you managed to find any good Malaysian food here in Oxford?

It was funny because back in Malaysia, rice is my main food, so I always used to have, like breakfast, lunch and dinner with rice. And suddenly, I came to the UK and everything was like pastries, breads and sandwiches, and it was new for me, but I'm really glad that I got to try all these different foods. Then how can I taste Malaysian food here? It's so hard because I didn't know how to cook, so whenever I wanted to try and cook, I had to call my mum so she taught me how to cook best, so I can feel the taste of Malaysian food again, and I learned how to cook! So I have now been here for three years and I think I managed to cook a few Malaysian dishes that I never tried before!

What were your first impressions of Oxford?

Oxford is very beautiful and one thing that I like the most is that it is very student friendly. When I am at any of the Oxford city cafes, I feel like it gives me motivation to study more and more, and then the buildings around are very nice and beautiful, I just love them! So I have a friend that whenever we go to the city centre, we always sit around and do some sketching so that we can keep that moment with us forever, so I am very happy to be here!

Where did you live in your first year, and where are you living now?

When I was in my first year and because I didn't know anyone here, I decided to stay in student accommodation, called Crescent Hall. I had five flat mates with me and they were very different - one from Scotland, one from Germany, and I wanted to engage with them, so we celebrated Christmas together, we cooked together, this was the starting point of how I made great friends with them. Now I live in private accommodation, a shared house with a few Malaysian students that I met here. When we met, we decided to live together, so right now I’m living like five minutes away from University with three other Malaysian students!

What do you think of the campus and the facilities? What have you used a lot on campus?

I was a bit shocked by the campus because it's quite different from the city because it’s very modern. However, since I am an Architecture student, and we, of course, study buildings; in our first year, we studied about our campus first and it was very interesting to see that every architectural aspect has a reason behind it, it is not only aesthetically beautiful, so I love that! In terms of the facilities, I love how it's very friendly to the students. I normally use one of them very often, the printing service, and I love how it's not only in the architecture building, but it’s everywhere! So I can just go anywhere on campus whenever I need to print something, so it's very easy to access the facilities, and that is really helpful.

What would you say is the favourite thing about your course?

I would say the creative process! Because when I first decided to study Architecture, I loved how it really makes you think creatively, and also makes it functional too, so that is what I love the most! So yeah, I love the whole thing from the creative process through the design technology process.

What would you say a typical day for you would look like as a student at Oxford Brookes?

Because I have been here from before the COVID restrictions and after, the whole process has been quite different, but I would say that my mornings are just the same as any other students, get ready and go to the University, however, I used to spend more time in the studio before COVID restrictions. However, I really love how this study environment is one where everyone helps each other, so on a normal day, I spend most of my days in the studio. The studio might be like my first home and I only head back to my accommodation or my house for dinner or lunch. The study environment at the studio has helped me a lot because before I came here, I had no knowledge of architecture at all. I did Arts before this, so I had some knowledge, but the environment at the studio, having all people with different skills, it makes me very pumped, it makes me happy to end my studio day, going back at home and still going back to the studio the next day and repeat the same routine!

How have you found a shift to online study?

It is a very different environment. I just told you that I spent most of my time in the studio and then once the COVID restrictions came up, I needed to spend most of my time at home, so everything was through the computer screen. However, the support that was given by the University and my tutors has been wonderful, they helped me a lot! Before this, we had more contact time between the tutors, but then after COVID, we started to have less contact, but the way that they managed to bring back the studio life to an online way, it still amazes me! Because right now, I still feel like I am connected to them, and I still feel like I can get enough help from them so it is great!

What sort of stuff did you do as part of the Malaysian society?

Before this, I didn't know that a foreign country might have something like a Malaysian Society because Malaysia might be quite small. So I was very happy when I found out that there was a Malaysian society at Oxford Brookes University. Thanks to that, I have met a lot of new friends which makes me feel like home. We did a lot of events before the pandemic, we had some gatherings, potlucks and that was great and I was so excited about it, because there was lots of Malaysian food and we played Malaysian games. The best thing is that I can talk in Malay the whole day because when I am with someone else, we have to speak English the whole time. So yeah, I feel like I'm in a small Malaysian community so I'm really grateful to have that in Brookes!

How have you found having to speak English all the time?

Before arriving in the UK, I thought that my English was not very good, so I'm glad that I came here because back in Malaysia, of course, I speak Malay as my first language. So I came here and I was a bit scared in case they could not understand me, however, I am glad that I just gave it a try! My family was very helpful as they supported my decision, and understood me. Then I was surprised with native speakers, as I was surprised because they didn't even judge me if my English was bad or like, I couldn't speak fluent English, good English at all. So the way that everyone is accepting and helping me to make perfect sentences, I feel so touched! I was so scared because they might judge me, but here, they don't even judge you if you don't speak perfect English as long as you can deliver your information, as long as you can share your thoughts, they will help you along the way!

What would be your top tips for other international students that are thinking about coming to the UK or coming to Oxford Brookes?

I would say, definitely do it! Just come here, just bring your luggage and come here, and study here! Because it will be a very different environment - that's where you learn new things. It might go wrong in certain things but that's where you learn things, that's where you try to handle it on your own. Back in Malaysia, I lived with my parents for 20 years and I never stayed away from my family. So now, when I moved to the UK, I started to learn how to be and feel very responsible, independent. I think I became more wise and mature because I make my own decisions because they cannot help me to make my own decisions!

Can you sum up your time at Oxford Brookes, so far, using just one word?

I would say, challenging. I have faced some challenges and I'm proud of myself because out of those challenges, I've managed to be here for three years. So I wanted to mean challenging but in a good way as I become a new person where I'm more independent and I'm more responsible. There might be challenges that teach me to make a good decision, to make a right decision! So yeah, I would say challenging but not in a bad way, in a good way because out of those challenges, I am who I am today!