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Q&A with Matilde de Sousa Antunes

Matilde is a first year student in the Education Studies BA. She tells us how a chance visit to UCL won her over as the London university to apply for.

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Hi Matilde!

What were your first impressions of UCL?

It is quite funny how impressions can change. When choosing universities, I would always shrug the idea of applying to UCL. I couldn’t quite grasp what it was, but it just didn’t seem right for me. The October of the year I was applying, I came to the UK to visit universities and had one day in London. I was visiting my London university option before I locked down my choices on UCAS. I was quite disappointed when visiting it and was starting to think my desire of studying in London was not going to turn into a reality.
At the end of the day, I had scheduled to visit a friend at UCL. I remember entering the Main Quad and immediately falling in love with the grand and beautifully polished main building. The sun was setting as I waited for my friend at the Portico steps and I was in awe of the beautiful view of the Cruciform. I was engulfed by the peaceful atmosphere of the place and, while walking around Bloomsbury, couldn’t help but imagine myself walking around such quaint Victorian buildings. I sat in the benches in front of Euston church and saw the students passing by. Their bubbly faces reflected their happiness in being there.

From that moment on, I changed my London university option to UCL; I couldn’t stop watching videos on student life. I would advise all students, if possible, to visit as many universities as they can before applying. This might change your plans, but it is worth it because you will know where you feel more at home.

What do you enjoy most about your degree programme?

What draws me to the programme is the link between the content taught and education in the real world. My first year modules, such as Living in a Schooled Society and Foundations in the Sociology of Education, reflected educational issues occurring as we learnt, in real time. I was fascinated that we were not only taught theory, that can be difficult to understand, but also how inequalities were being perpetuated within educational institutions or how education affected much more than the student.

It really showed the applicability of the course in our future careers, especially understanding that education is everywhere and can be used in multiple ways.

Many modules address humanitarian issues, such as minority discrimination and harmful practices to children, as I want to tackle topics like this in my future career."

What do you hope to do after completing your degree?

I hope to have a humanitarian career, working to fight human rights violations in NGOs such as the UN. This degree has opened that door, as we are constantly taught the power of education in every aspect of life, especially in tackling social inequalities.

I am still debating whether I want to pursue a Master’s in International Development or Human Rights or whether I want to enter the job market right after my Bachelor’s. Right now, I am looking to apply for a Summer Internship at the UN in 2021 to help me gain the experience needed for my professional career.

How do you think the system of learning at UCL differs from that in your home country?

In my A-Levels, I studied at an Oxford-based tutorial college that had a branch in Portugal. It really prepared me for the independent learning that is essential for the university experience, as I mainly had online lessons and a flexible schedule.

I believe the British system of learning and, consequently, UCL’s, privileges the development of evaluative and critical skills. This means we are pushed to apply what we learn to the real world. In the Portuguese curriculum, learning is more theoretical and students aren’t pushed to be critical as much."

How are UCL's academic facilities for your studies?

I have always enjoyed studying in libraries, as it is easier for me to work when seeing others around me doing so too. UCL has so many library facilities and I enjoyed exploring all of them, so as to change my studying spot so I didn’t get bored. I was also pleasantly surprised to find there is pretty much any book you can imagine in the whole of the UCL Library collection. I particularly enjoyed exploring the IOE library, as it had so many interesting books beyond our scope of study, as well as having PC Labs and laptop borrowing facilities.


What is it like to live and study in London?

Having always lived in a calm suburban town in Portugal, 20 minutes by car from Lisbon, I had never lived in a city centre before. Living in Central London has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have particularly enjoyed the London Bridge area and the Borough Market, the Primrose Hill neighbourhood and Regent’s Park and Maughan Library. Everywhere I look in London there is something to see and there are so many distinct neighbourhoods/areas with completely different atmospheres.

Some interesting finds near UCL have been the café out of a Telephone box in Russell Square with amazing brownies, Long Acre in Holborn as a calmer and more pleasant substitute for Oxford Street (there is a shop solely dedicated to travel there too) and the colourful and eclectic Seven Dials neighbourhood."

Something I have taken advantage of a lot are the various activities you can do in the city: such as attending a free show in the Comedy Club where people like Trevor Noah and Amy Schumer performed, getting £10 tickets to Royal Shakespeare Company shows at the Barbican Centre and seeing deer herds at Richmond Park. Living in the middle of such a bustling city has allowed me to manage my time much more efficiently. I can now juggle being with friends, studying, taking advantage of London and living independently. In my A-Levels, I struggled to do anything more than study!

Have you felt supported while at UCL?

I had one-on-one meetings with my personal tutor and he gave me fantastic tips on university and academic life. In my first weeks of university I was so overwhelmed by the amount of reading we had to do that I stayed up until 2am to do so. I asked my tutor for advice on how to sustainably complete my readings and we had an extensive meeting on how to do so. I felt he was taking his time to give me the best advice possible. In the second term I was struggling with how to plan for a specific essay and asked for his help on how to do so. This support has been paramount in allowing me to manage my tasks and has made me feel accompanied through my university experience.

I also had beneficial meetings with my transition mentor, a second year student assigned to help us integrate into UCL. Her experience of the first university year really gave me a realistic view of what I could expect from lessons, seminars and workload. Furthermore, she gave us extensive tips on how to manage finances, and independent living. She really helped me make some important decisions and ensured my transition into university life was smooth.

What is the biggest challenge you face while studying?

Being a first year student, I am still trying to adapt to writing university essays. It can be quite challenging to get it right in the first few tries, especially as independent learning takes on a bigger role in your life. I struggle with grasping the right structure for them. However, I have found the feedback received after my first term assignments to be extremely useful, as module and seminar leaders extensively review our work and give us points to improve on. Further, the Academic Writing Centre has weekly workshops to help us overcome our difficulties in that area and I am grateful that I can get extensive support for improvement.

What do you do when you’re not studying?

I am often preparing or organising work in the societies I am part of. In my first year I joined the Book Club and became Events Coordinator in October. This means I prepare the polling systems that decide the theme/read of the week, I do the food shopping for the session and I host the session, moderating the conversation. I also joined IDEA Society, a social development society. I joined its events team in October and received training on how to organise an event before preparing our own event within the society. We researched and contacted potential speakers, had various meetings with the speaker we chose, prepared the content, purpose and schedule of the event and, on the day, I hosted the event.

I am also constantly with friends, for lunches and dinners or just really nice long walks and outings. You will meet amazing people at UCL and I really recommend taking advantage of your Fresher’s Week to get to know people in your accommodation and going to societies because you will really find like-minded people that can become your closest friends. I am also constantly travelling to Cambridge, Northampton and other parts of the UK to see my boyfriend and family. I get to see the amazing British countryside on the train all the time!

Have you lived in UCL accommodation?

I lived in UCL’s Campbell House East and I think this was the best option for me. I was 3 minutes away from the IOE at a fast pace, and 5 minutes away at a normal pace, which was great to be able to get to my lectures and seminars fast. I was close to every facility at UCL, such as Gordon’s Café, Mulley’s, the Bloomsbury Gym and a multiplicity of study spaces. The accommodation was a 3-minute walk away from Euston Station, with trains and underground, and Euston Square Underground Station. This made my travels within and out of the city very easy.

I also loved the facilities such as the big laundry room, the common room spaces and the kitchens. I loved the layout of the rooms, as we were in corridors. This was beneficial as we weren’t sharing flat spaces with people we had never met before. I believe the sharing of kitchens was a simple way to ease into communal living and made amazing friendships with my kitchen mates during first term. My room was the smallest room, less than 9 metres squared, but it didn’t feel small at all! I was also able to fit in my many many clothes in my wardrobe and that was also bigger than it looked! As I was sharing bathrooms with other people in my corridor, the sink and mirror in my room allowed some privacy; I liked that that was an available option. I even had a very spacious desk with lots of storage space and additional shelving! The cleaning staff were essential to the good experience within the accommodation. Further, they were so amicable and would always be available for a chat!

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experiences at the IOE?

I would finally like to advise all students at the IOE to take advantage of the multiplicity of opportunities it has to offer. Immerse yourself in its community and you will have an amazing time here. I would also like to add that the staff will greatly improve your experience here. All my teachers were available to answer questions, helpful and kind. The programme leader, Dr Rachel Wilde, was attentive to our needs and constantly asked us students for our opinions on different issues. I have felt incredibly supported throughout my first year in my degree and wish the same experience for you too!