Carolina, a Social Sciences BSc student (class of 2020), shares how studying at the IOE both reminds her of home and is simultaneously very different.
Carolina, tell us what were your first impressions of UCL?
I remember thinking there were so many people here! But actually my first impression of the IOE had more to do with the building itself. The architecture reminded me so much of Brasilia, where my family is from. I love brutalist buildings.
What do you enjoy most about your degree programme?
What I love about Social Sciences is that a lot of my classes have provided me with a critical lens to understand the world with. I like that what we learn in our course makes us constantly think and question the things around us in everyday life. The topics we talk about in lectures and in seminars definitely aren’t confined to the classroom. I find myself constantly thinking about them.
“I feel like classes like Sociology of Gender, London Lab and the Sociology of Social Movements really encouraged us to take what we’ve learned into the real world."
I also love that a couple of modules have pushed us to look at the intersections of social theory and the arts. For example I remember doing a film review of Ladybird in Social Psychology and writing about a short story by Jhumpa Lahiri in Families and Society.
How do you think the system of learning at UCL differs from that in your home country, of Brazil?
I’m originally from Brazil but I’ve moved around a lot over the years. What has stood out for me about our degree, the IOE and the university is a general focus on research-based teaching. I enjoy that our lecturers often talk about their own research and encourage us to carry out our own. Another positive about the teaching here is that I think you’re definitely rewarded for thinking creatively and thinking for yourself, which I like. Learning shouldn’t be a passive experience.
What is the biggest challenge you face while studying?
I think the initial stages of writing an assignment are always quite daunting for me. I have a lot of ideas at first and it can be hard narrowing them down at times. Getting past the blank Word document stage is definitely the hardest part for me.
Are you receiving any scholarships or bursaries to study at UCL? If so, what impact has it had on your studies?
I’ve received the Faculty Undergraduate Scholarship for the past two years and I’m really grateful to have been awarded the prize. It has definitely motivated me to keep working hard, and I think it’s also made me want to push myself academically. When I’m working on assignments, it definitely motivates me to keep thinking outside the box and do work that’s innovative and interesting, and doesn’t just tick the boxes.
From your point of view, what it is like to live and study in London?
I love London. There’s so much life here. I love how vibrant it is, and I’m always amazed by the idea that there will always be something new to explore. I also love how culturally diverse it is, as well as how much there is to do.
“I also think London is an interesting place to study social sciences because so many of the concepts we learn about in theory – migration, inequality, multiculturalism, conviviality — are present in an urban context."
Personally, I’m interested in urban sociology so being in London definitely helps my research interests in that sense.
Where do you prefer to study?
I use the library a lot! It’s a great place to study when you need a quiet place to work in or if you’re like me and can’t focus at home. In terms of resources, I’ve really found the library catalogue to be extremely helpful when I’m doing coursework. It gives you access to so many journals and publications. Finding papers and getting access to them is never a problem.
What do you do when you’re not studying?
The usual, I suppose! I love talking to friends and just walking around. I love that you can do that in London. I still find it crazy that depending on where you go, it can feel like you’re in a different city.
I’m also a volunteer with Latin American Women’s Aid (LAWA) and at UCL, I’m pretty involved with student media. I’ve had a show on Rare FM for the past two years and organise social media for the station. I also write for publications on campus. There are definitely lots of opportunities for you to get involved with media at UCL if that’s something you are into!