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Alumni stories: Experiencing everything with Sasha Shen

How globally minded Sasha Shen found her fire for education at UCL.

Sasha Shen headshot

3 May 2021

Sasha Shen (MA Higher Education Studies 2019) comes from Nanchang City in southern China, and is now an Education Consultant in London. A true global citizen, she works with students from all over the world on a daily basis, helping them to shape their own futures. 

It was at UCL that Sasha gained the confidence to live and work abroad, as well as experiencing how a multicultural environment can make you a more rounded person.

“As an adult, it’s essential to have a global outlook on the world,” says Sasha. “It allows you to understand different cultures. This broad worldview is what I built in my time at UCL.” 

Discovering the world

By the age of six, Sasha was already well on her way to mastering the English language. “My parents encouraged me to do anything I wanted and to follow my interests. They supported me to learn the language I love,” says Sasha.

Becoming an English teacher was something she saw in her future. But after joining the Gengdan Institute of Beijing University of Technology for her undergraduate studies, Sasha’s eyes were opened to the global side of higher education. As a student ambassador, she visited Taiwan and the USA, then after she graduated, she stayed on at the university as an International Officer, dealing with partners in the UK, Canada, Australia and more. 

Sasha says: “These experiences showed me that if you encourage students to be more independent and to travel, their insights will be broadened much more than if they just stay in their home country.”

Learning from others  

At an education fair in Beijing, mid-way through her undergraduate degree, Sasha began her relationship with UCL after meeting a member of the Student Recruitment team – who would also go on to support her as a UCL alum.

This experience inspired Sasha to take the plunge and move to London to study for an MA in Higher Education Studies at the UCL Institute of Education. 

“From the induction day, I really understood UCL’s international environment,” says Sasha. “I had coursemates from Russia, South Korea, Chile, America and the UK! And we all shared our insights on higher education in our own countries.

“The interesting thing was that my coursemates varied from recent graduates right up to those in senior positions in higher education – so we were surrounded by fresh ideas as well as deep insights into higher education systems.” 

Getting the most out of UCL 

Alongside her studies, Sasha built on her experiences from Gengdan and embraced the extra-curricular side of UCL. 

Volunteering at UCL gave me my first impression of what working was like in a western country compared to my previous work in China. So that really helped me,” says Sasha. 

She threw herself into supporting her coursemates in a student representative role, organising informal gatherings to help people from different cultures bond and designing questionnaires for UCL to see feedback. She also became a student ambassador, supporting other students moving from China to London. 

Sasha says: “I believe my communication skills, my organisation skills and my people skills were much improved by taking on these roles. This volunteering experience helped me feel confident that I had the work attitude to start a career in an English-speaking country – and that led to me staying and working in London.” 

Since graduating from UCL in 2019, Sasha has been working as an education consultant in London. In her role, she works with prospective international students to choose the most suitable programmes and universities for their needs – and she gets to stay in touch with UK universities by liaising with their admissions offices. 

Keeping up relationships

Since graduation, Sasha has maintained a close bond with UCL, volunteering in various capacities as an alumni representative. During lockdown, she created video case studies for new Chinese students, to help them to stay connected through the online network UCL Bentham Connect and to help them understand how to reap the benefits of UCL’s career services. 

Sasha says: “There are lots of benefits to staying part of the alumni network. I can stay updated with the great things that are going on, and continue to promote UCL to prospective students. I have lots of contacts from my undergraduate university days who want to apply to UCL, so as an alumni representative, I can show them what life is like at UCL and in London.”

Reflecting on her time at UCL, and her ongoing connection, Sasha is extremely positive. “Studying at UCL was a totally life-changing experience for me,” she says. “I really had a fabulous time doing my Master’s. And as an alumna, I feel very proud that I am part of the UCL community.”

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