For me SOAS is unique for its academic excellence and its enormous diversity in every respect.
I chose to come to SOAS because of its reputation for the academic study of Buddhism. First of all I did a part-time MA in Buddhist Studies starting in 2007-2008. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to retire from my employment in order to spend more time studying. Once I'd finished the MA in 2010, I spent a year as an associate student following courses that I hadn't been able to fit into the MA. After that I couldn't bear to stop, hence the PhD!
Before I started in 2007, I worried a bit about sticking out as a mature student. As soon as I come through the main door of the college buildings, I feel a great sense of being in a special place and I needn't have been concerned because there really is room for everyone at SOAS.
The Department of the Study of Religions is the perfect place to do my PhD which traces ideas about asceticism in one of the early Buddhist schools in Ancient India. Backed up by contact with people from Languages and Cultures, I couldn't ask for a more supportive environment. I get enormous inspiration from my fellow-students, some of whom have come from half-way round the world and who pursue difficult courses of study in what is often their second language.
One of my fondest memories of my time here is from the end of the first 3-hour "sit down and write all you know" exam of my MA course. Our lecturer was waiting anxiously outside the exam room for us and he then took us all out to lunch. The relief of finishing a difficult paper and then the camaraderie of the meal sticks in my mind as the first of many high-spots.
SOAS has changed my life right round and I would describe my time here as some of the happiest years of my life. Seven years ago I never thought I would have given up (paid) work and be happily back at university pursuing a fascinating topic and learning 4 languages. I see these as activities that have the potential to keep me occupied long after the PhD is finished. Seven years on, I just love being at SOAS.