What’s it like to study on an online summer pre-sessional course? Three Master's students reflect on their experiences on last year’s pre-sessional course and on living in London.

Liya Zhao – MSc Environmental Technology

Liya Zhao portraitIn China I did not have many opportunities to practice my spoken English, so at the beginning of the pre-sessional course I was really afraid to talk. I was very afraid of making mistakes and I worried about my grammar. But I had many opportunities to communicate with teachers and my classmates throughout the pre-sessional course, which helped me to become more confident.  At the end of the course we had to give a final presentation in front of a lot of people. I had never given a presentation in English in front of so many people, so this was a huge challenge for me. But I did it - I was really proud of myself for getting through it and I think it really built my confidence.  Now I’m not afraid of any kind of presentation at all!

It was quite a busy course with a lot of homework, but by the end I felt much more prepared to write essays and participate in group discussions. I also learned notetaking strategies that are helpful for avoiding plagiarism (as a non-native speaker, I find that sometimes I may not even notice that I have copied others’ words) and how to think more critically, which has been really helpful on my degree course where we have to write a lot of essays and have a lot of group discussions.

When I came to campus in November 2020 and met people in person for the first time after weeks of  only seeing them online, it was a really interesting experience. When you get to know someone in a small square, and then you finally see them in person, you find that  - wow,  they’re so tall  or they’re so short!     

My advice to this year’s pre-sessional students would be to take this course very seriously because it really can teach you a lot of things. But also, don’t worry about the grade too much – enjoy the course.

Jasper Wang – MSc Advanced Materials for Sustainable Infrastructure

Student portraitAt the beginning of the course, I was really excited because it was my first time studying abroad and everything was new and interesting. It was nice to be able to see new faces, make friends from different places and have the opportunity to talk to them and to learn something before coming to campus.

But I also felt anxious about how I would manage all the new information on the course.  It’s a very comprehensive course with classes and lectures to attend, presentations to prepare and writing assignments. But the organisation of the course – the procedures and the Microsoft applications – were very helpful for this. I was able to preview the slides before the class, and could review the lessons afterwards. And the teachers were all good and nice and patient, pointing out the issues you have and how you can improve.

Before I came to campus in October, I had never been to the UK, so my expectations of London came mostly from movies and TV series like Sherlock Holmes. I was a bit disappointed that 21 Baker Street was nothing like in the series, but I found many things to like about London. It really is a metropolis where  we where can find everything we need. And  I found the weather here pretty nice actually. Yes, it rains, but I can also see the sun and the blue sky here, and the parks are very nice.

My advice to this year’s pre-sessional students is to grab every chance you get to talk to your teachers and classmates - it’s really special how much you can learn from each other.

Zhi Luo – MSc Molecular Medicine

Student portraitBefore the pre-sessional course started I was really curious about what the online course would be like. I quite like online learning because you can find all your materials  in one place and  you always have a chance to  play back recorded material if there is something that you have forgotten.  At first I was quite nervous about being able to pass the course, but I think all of the things I needed to learn happened naturally by following the course requirements.

So much of what I learned on the pre-sessional is still relevant to me now on my MSc course. I learned how to write in a scientific way and practical strategies for avoiding plagiarism. I learned to do poster presentations, which I experience a lot these days on my MSc. But I think the most important thing I learned on the pre-sessional was how to communicate with a range of people at different levels - how to make people from 5 years old to 80 years old understand what you’re talking about. This is something I really used on my MSc course, where one of my assignments was to write both a scientific version and  a lay version of a grant proposal. I really used what I learned from the pre-sessional course for that.

When I arrived on campus last September, I found the lifestyle in London was pretty easy to adapt to. Many of the conveniences I was used to in China are available here too - when I’m hungry, I can order food with my phone, when I need to travel someplace far I can take an Uber.  And there are public bikes that we can use, so many things are quite similar to China.

My suggestion for incoming pre-sessional students is to engage yourself fully with the entire course, and don’t be shy to take part in the social activities.