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Deepana Devadas, Insight Project: My International Experience of Higher Education

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

Insight Project will be publishing a series of blogs over the coming weeks. The second week's blogs focus on the experiences of its team transitioning through education.

This blog is written by Deepana Devadas, Insight Project Team Member

Abstract: “Take me out of my prime and put me in this new, strange city where I had to restart everything, now that took me out of my element for some time.” This blog post covers transitioning from high school into university and then again to further, undergraduate studies. It also takes the perspective of an international student into consideration, and the additional challenges that accompany that experience.

Transitioning to Higher Education (+ International Experience)

Moving across the pond, living alone, getting used to a new country, its systems, transportation, grocery shopping, the list goes on. Most importantly, University and the United Kingdom education system. Although I visit the United Kingdom every year, and have travelled all throughout it, and Europe, it was such a significant culture shock for me. This experience really did tilt me off my axis, as I’m sure it does for so many other people out there! Friends and family, in attempts to console me, encouraged me to give it some time and even pointed out that I knew England and have been there so many times. Well-intentioned advice but travelling for a visit and moving to a new country are by no means a comparison that can be made. Moving out a couple of hours away from home, versus across the ocean, is also not the same. The challenges I faced, came with a lot of personal and professional development, and I owe it to the decision I made to attend law school in the United Kingdom.

The feelings of unease, nervousness and fear of starting at a new university and having to go through the whole “first day” feelings was not fun. The first few days, weeks were very lonely. Although I had met great people and found other Canadians in Leicester, I was still naturally feeling homesick and uncomfortable. I was frightened by the lack of security in knowing I couldn’t catch a train and run back home. The reality of it all set in, and I was worried I had made the wrong decision. It was a huge shift in lifestyle and scheduling for me. I was the type of person that was kept busy at all times and running all around Toronto, between university, work, extracurriculars, socializing, and family and friends. Take me out of my prime and put me in this new, strange city where I had to restart everything, now that took me out of my element for some time. After what seemed like months (realistically about 2 weeks), I realized that I, in fact, was not alone. I had this community of fellow Canadians here, who were all in the same boat as me. Once that realization hit, it didn’t take me long to get comfortable and reignite my usual, “out there” self! The amazing friends I met, who are now like family; we have been through it all!

Covid-19 had other plans for my newfound home and lifestyle. However, it also strengthened the memories and feelings of gratitude I had for my first year spent in the United Kingdom. I treasured every day and night spent at the library, figuring out life in the United Kingdom, walks, outings, travelling, and everything in between.

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to become a lawyer because of the people that surrounded me and the environment I lived in. As I approached high school, I learned that law school was not a straight path. In Canada, before entering law school, an undergraduate degree must be completed. In high school, I found myself gravitating towards the grand field of business and particularly accounting. With that, I continued to explore the massive field of business, and decided to pursue a degree in Business for my undergraduate studies, prior to law school, and there came my first step into higher education at the university of Toronto, in Canada.

That was the best decision of my life, because those four years of my undergraduate university years were the best and most life-changing moments of my life.

The transition from high school to university was honestly refreshing. Naturally, my mind was racing initially with thoughts of fear, anxiety and feelings of lonesome. New place, new people, and a whole new step in life. Having my walls up, nervously and quietly sitting with the one person I knew from high school, in that grand lecture hall, I was beyond nervous but also so excited to see where this journey would take me. Fast forward to now, a graduate of University of Toronto, I reflect on the amazing time and memories that came out of that journey. I made lifelong bonds, amazing friends and a nice family. I was part of a small tight-knit community in my program and despite the common notions about competition-driven university life, it was so genuinely beautiful to be a part of this great family. I felt reassured and grateful that I made the choice I did, to come to this program, at this university. I was able to work my way up and hold leadership positions and lead multiple teams as President in numerous student societies/clubs. I was able to start with my current employer, 4 years ago, and build such relationships, that has given me this amazing opportunity to work in the Strategy and Marketing teams, to now work in the Legal department at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. I had the opportunity to work in various fields of business, discover the core fields I was interested in, and further find job/volunteer opportunities to gain experience in the fields of marketing and consulting. I am forever thankful for the relationships I have built there, the connections I made, the knowledge I’ve gained and the experiences I’ve had.

Applying to the University of Leicester as a graduate student, was stressful because of the timings I chose. I didn’t allow myself a break at all; I left to the United Kingdom about a week after I graduated (and I mean not the ceremony, but the final exams and confirming I met my requirements). I got my student visa and flew out the next day, and the following day was the first day of law school. It was an extremely stressful situation, because I was taking such a big risk, basing such a huge life decision on a conditional offer that couldn’t be confirmed until I wrote my final exams the month before I was due to start law school. Everything about living in the United Kingdom only actually came together in that one-week gap between when I got my final results and when law school started. This transition logistically was not easy at all, but that is a matter of my particular circumstances. Moving across the pond, and basically starting fresh is the motivation I had to keep going. I consistently reminded myself that, although the living alone experience would be lonely and challenging, I would take this opportunity to grow and discover myself and my potential. I knew this would be my big chance at reinventing and repurposing myself.

Any transition will be accompanied by its own challenges, and so the best thing I believe you can do, is to try and accept it for what it is and make what you can out of it!

University really is such a fundamental part of life, for discovering yourself, and how you function. What, within yourself, and in the environment and people you are surrounded by, makes you tick. What will brighten you up, even in your darkest hours, and the power of the practice of gratitude. It is a great time to invest in yourself, in your education, work experiences, life experiences, and relationships. I can honestly say, that through consistent self-reflection and checking in with myself, my needs, wants and desires, I have been able to build up my life portfolio thus far!

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