Updated: Sep 27
By Shaara Ahmed
Hi guys! My name is Shaara Ahmed and I'm a third year medic studying at the University of Nottingham, and I'll be sharing some slices of my very unorthodox foray into medicine!
I'm perhaps the only Maldivian medic in Nottingham (reach out to me to correct me if I'm wrong!!)
My biggest culture shock happened the moment I stepped off the airplane at Heathrow Airport in 2017; 15 degrees Celsius weather was the absolute coldest thing I'd ever experienced to that point, and I couldn't believe the amount of people who wore shorts and didn't have a single goosebump (or a care) in sight!
I was born and grew up in the capital of the Maldives, Malé but my both my parents are from the southernmost atoll (Addu City, district Hithadhoo) so I take the occasional trip every alternate year to visit my extended family at the island.
I get frequently mistaken as Indian because I'm brown but in actuality, all my traceable generations have pure Maldivian blood so yes! I am a true Maldivian! 😩
I'm Muslim and don't eat pork or drink alcohol!
I took a year out after high school to work at my local hospital and A'Levels in the Maldives meant that chances of studying in Europe were reduced to grade-based scholarships (unless you were wealthy), so I'm much older than my classmates!
And finally!!!!, I enjoy eating out at random cool finds, taking pictures of places from my cellphone, walking in the rain, window-shopping, wasting time in the library, travelling around England (Schengen life means more work apart from homework so I've been procrastinating on that for now...) and watching k-dramas in my free time.
✅ Extra fun fact: For some inexplicable reason, a lot of people think that Maldivians live in either (a) resorts (we don't) (b) huts next to the beach (just on a floor of your average five-storey apartment, next to many, many other 5 floor apartments) , fish for their own tuna (we go to the fish market and buy them) and swim everyday (I WISH!!!!!), only few know that Male' (the capital of The Maldives, where I live with my parents and younger sister) is one of the most densely populated cities in the entire world! In fact, you could place almost 11 Male's inside Nottingham comfortably so it's safe to say I was majorly mildly alarmed when I first moved to England.
So, what do I love about Nottingham?
Nottingham has a brilliant collection of restaurants, street food and bars so trying out new cuisines and hotspots are foolproof ways to unwind and relax! Head to the City Center and explore around on foot alone or with friend because each time is always different! Wollaton Park!!!! Nottingham Castle, Lace Market... the list goes on and on. Make sure you explore all the campuses (especially if you do Medicine, both University Park and Jubilee Campus have their own individual charms that you need to see for yourself.
Some of my favourite places in Nottingham for meals would have to be:
Zaap Thai: Introducing the streets of Bangkok to Nottingham, Zaap Thai has some wonderful Thai cuisine for when you want sme heat and spice.
Sarangchae: My ultimate Korean food fix! Try the bibimbap bowl for a brilliant hearty meal after your placement visits.
Doughnotts: The perfect cure to satisfy your sweet tooth!
The Pudding Pantry: I've been here so many times with friends and housemates to share a brunch with on weekends. Highly recommended!
Turtle Bay: Want to surprise your friends who are coming up/ down to visit you? Take them here to introduce them to a great Caribbean joint that'll leave them wanting for more!
Coco Tang: Insta-ready aesthetics, amazing Vietnamese food and lots of good coffee. What more could you want? Heavenly Desserts Just like the name, for all things heavenly and divine.
What if I want to try Maldivian Cuisine..?
If I miss Maldivian food, I just head over to the nearest Lidl or Tesco and buy some tuna cans in brine (or sunflower oil is good too) and eat it with some crunchy theluli faiyy (fried moringa leaves, with onions, garlic and dried chilli) that I always make sure to bring from home, encased in microwaved tortilla wraps. My drink of choice would be a cold glass of Milo!
A traditional, hearty Maldivian lunch includes the side dishes fresh chillies, lime and onion wedges, some homemade chilli paste, theluli faiyy, rihaakuru - that I also bring from home (a tunabased, brown colored paste made by hours of boiling tuna broth), with the main stars being a clear broth of fish (we call this garudhiya).
🤗 My advice for freshers?
Stick around through the soggy times
Create a consistent routine (lots of trial and error here)
Make sure to take some time out for yourself every week for fitness/ personal hobbies!
Get your 8 hours of z's!
Don't keep things in or all to yourself if you're feeling poorly. It's a clichéd saying, but it honestly always gets better! From my personal experience, it's honestly very okay to have an unconventional start. Feeling homesick or lonely is perfectly normal and expected- you just made a big move so don't be so hard on yourself. Speak to your MedSoc supporters at the University or your personal tutor or take it up with Student Services- guidance is always confidential and they're there to help make your university experience as bump-free as possible.