Don't worry about the UK

After a wave of bad publicity and a climate of ‘negative rhetoric' among the UK Government, studying in the UK might not seem very appealing.

Hadeel Mufti, a Saudi Arabian student studying in the UK

Hadeel Mufti has had a great experience studying in the UK and wants to share it with you.

I had never experienced a jubilee celebration before and didn’t know what to expect - from the party or from the British people – during Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. My British friends did their best to describe it to me and I couldn’t wait.

When the time came, I wasn’t disappointed. 

Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee

My friends and I decided to visit London during the river pageant event on the Thames. The crowds on Tower Hill, by the Tower of London, were unbelievable. Even though we were there several hours in advance we could get nowhere near the river – an estimated 1.2 million people had had the same idea as us! Eventually we found ourselves in a pub in Covent Garden with TV screens showing the flotilla’s progress.

The following day, I watched the concert on the telly. Once again, the crowd amazed me. 20,000 people gathered outside Buckingham Palace and all along the Mall to cheer the likes of Gary Barlow, Paul McCartney and Tom Jones. The concert in particular showed the Royal Family’s willingness to keep up with modern times. 

Ben Ben as seen from Trafalgar Square on a sunny London day

“The atmosphere in London was electric and I will always be able to say I was part of this prestigious and rare occasion”

The splendid river pageant, the concert, the Queen’s balcony appearance, fireworks, street parties and RAF fly pasts - I found it thrilling to be in the UK during this rare occasion.

It was clear everywhere you went that the event was bringing people together. The atmosphere in London was electric and I will always be able to say I was part of this prestigious and rare occasion and that I took part in something that will go down in history. 

In a normal year, to have one event of the magnitude of the Jubilee would be remarkable, but London also hosted two further events that captured the imagination of the world: the Olympic Games and the Paralympics.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

The British people mobilised to support the Games in impressive fashion. In the build-up, many people (including personal friends) began volunteering as ‘Games Makers’ and to take part in the opening ceremony. 

Before long it was the talk of town - every newspaper, TV show and website featured something to do with the Games. Posters for Olympic themed parties and events began appearing as did souvenirs and Olympic mascots, the torch visited every corner of Britain cheered on by what felt like the whole country - a clock counting down the days even appeared in Trafalgar Square. Although I couldn’t get a ticket (I was not alone in that respect!) I was able to tour the iconic Olympic Park at Stratford.

By the time the Games started, London was at fever pitch.

Tower Bridge, London

“The Games took place all over London and it was a truly inspirational time to be in the city”

Like the rest of the country and half the world, I tuned in to watch the opening ceremony on television. The spectacular events featured so many of the ideas and institutions that anyone who has lived in Britain will recognise and large sections of the public hold dear to their hearts. The industrial revolution and birth of modern Britain and the NHS, for example, and the British sense of humour with actors such as Rowan Atkinson - as well as the Queen’s parachute jump!

But the best moment for me was when the 204 counties made their way into the stadium and among them were girls from my own country, Saudi Arabia, for the very first time in history. I was delighted and so proud; this was real progress for Saudi women within the world of sports.

The Games took place all over London and it was a truly inspirational time to be in the city with the streets given over to events such as the marathon and cycle races. The rowing teams actually had their accommodation at Royal Holloway, the university I attend.

During the Paralympics I was taking a PELP month so I was around during the time the Games were on and I walked around campus to find extra gyms and additional disabled access. This showed the university’s strong support for the games. This support was shared not just with Team GB, but by all participating countries.

It was remarkable to see the support for the Paralympics, with all venues as packed as they were for the Olympics and disability itself presented in a completely new light by competitors rising to the challenge of achieving their goals. 

A wonderful, welcoming place...

Throughout 2012 there were stories and events to inspire everyone from every walk of life. It left everyone with the feeling that enough hard work and dedication would always win the day – in work and study. 

Britain, and London in particular, is a truly multicultural society and this was highlighted by the uniting power of the events of 2012, which brought people from different backgrounds together to celebrate very different occasions - bringing unity through diversity.

To be in London during the year of 2012 was a privilege and, even though 2013 has an impossible act to follow, it remains a wonderful, welcoming city and a place I will never forget.

Hadeel Mufti is a 20-year-old student from Saudi Arabia, studying Drama and Theatrical Studies at the International Study Centre at Royal Holloway, University of London.