How many times over the years have I heard people telling me that British food, especially British home cooking, is not what you would call “quality food”, with the exception of fish and chips of course. Being the food lover that I am, the potential 6 week long gastronomical nightmare was the one thing I was worried about in the weeks leading up to the departure date for my summer programme 2010 in Warwick University.

By the end of the first day with the host family assigned by Warwick University, I knew I was wrong. Of the 28 of us enrolled in the summer programme, I was among the lucky two to be assigned to a host family where the male host was a terrific cook.

A few days later, when I was talking to the only native English speaker in the group, Brian Isaacs, I again discovered some startling facts. It came as totally unexpected, but he actually encountered communication barriers with his host family. Apparently, American English and British English are quite different, especially when you’re not expecting them to be.

One part of the summer programme was a three-week placement with a charitable organisation. I was assigned to the Council of Disabled People, an organisation that provides information, advice and guidance to disabled people. It was a real eye opener. I learned that disabilities can be both visible and hidden (like long term diseases). I learned that disabilities can seriously affect how you live your life, but in most cases won’t stop you from living it. I learned that the economic downturn changed in more than one way how non-profit organisations operate, as funding became limited, but fresh university graduates eager to volunteer for job experience so they could find a paid job became abundant.

The learning journey made me realise that sometimes, you have to see it to believe it (or to find that it’s actually not true). I was afraid I was not going to like the food there thanks to over-generalisations made by people around me. But it turned out that I had the best six weeks (foodwise) since I had left Malaysia for Hong Kong. I wasn’t too satisfied with having to pay to go to UK for a placement with a voluntary organisation. But it turned out that I was lucky to even have a placement in UK to start with, seeing that they could have easily filled my spot with a university graduate.

As a footnote, the one time I had UK’s famous fish and chips, it was the worst meal I had during my stay.