UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Zihao Chen

Meet Zihao - he's from China. He graduated from the UCL International Pre-Master's in 2021 and went on to study Culture and Society MSc at LSE. Read more about his experience of the IPM below.

Zihao Chen former UCL International Pre-Master's student
Why did you choose to study at UCL?


UCL is one of the most prestigious universities in the UK, even around the world. The IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, enjoys the highest ranking in the world. Its teaching facilities are top-notch and all academic resources are very accessible.

Discipline-specific skills

The International Pre-Master’s does not just teach language, it also teaches the academic skills and research abilities which can provide an excellent opportunity to adapt to the learning pace of the UK.

In particular, they have a preference to teach language/academic skills in each subject you would like to study. For example, they have special classes separately for arts and humanities, STEM, social sciences etc (module three). That is exactly what I needed.


Last but not least, the UCL campus is in the best place in London, which is surrounded by the most remarkable sites, like the British Library, the British Museum, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park etc.

So studying at UCL is often accompanied by a good opportunity to learn about the UK. Even during the pandemic lockdown, Hyde Park and Regent’s Park could also keep students healthy, they are nice places to relax away from the intense studying.

How has the International Pre-Master's helped you in your Master’s degree?

I am studying Culture and Society MSc, which is in the Department of Sociology at LSE.

As a subject in social science, reading tasks are the top priority and most challenging. Every course often has almost 100 pages of reading materials each week. The skills like writing a bibliography and synthesising texts taught by the Pre-Master’s helped me a lot and significantly improves my reading efficiency.

When I need to write my reading report, I can handle it very easily. In addition, those skills in making notes and synthesis make it much easier to deal with the open book exam in UK universities.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your time on the International Pre-Master's?

2021 has been an extremely difficult year because of the pandemic. In order to be better immersed in an English language environment, I travelled from China to the UK, even though all the Pre-Master's modules were delivered online.

It was a high level of lockdown at the time I arrived in the UK. All stores, shopping malls, markets etc were closed. London was like a ghost town. Under the pandemic, it was hard to see vitality in people’s faces. That made me very upset, I feel homesick every single second.

Fortunately, my personal tutor Alison gave me a lot of encouragement during that time. I often walk around the city, particularly to Regent’s Park for jogging, which made me feel better. The UCL Student Centre is a good asylum for students to stay. Everything in there is good, it's a quiet place, which helped me concentrate on reading and study.

What advice would you give to a prospective International Pre-Master's student?

I highly recommend all those prospective students to come London, even though it could be under risk of Covid restrictions. As an old Chinese saying goes: "People cannot stop eating due to choking".

You will experience a lot of amazing things in London, at UCL, or anywhere in the UK. Meeting new friends from all over the world will be the most exciting thing in the world, talking to each other, learning about different cultures, playing football, studying on campus, or maybe find your own romance.

But, please remember to bring your umbrella and shades, nobody knows if it will be rainy or sunny in the next second.

What is it like to live and study in London?

Cities in the UK are not like those in East Asia, they are more peaceful and not that many skyscrapers - except London.

People are allowed to walk on the lawns, which is the most joyful part for me. You can sunbathe on the grass, do sports on it. Most people here are friendly, the shop assistant in Waitrose will call you ‘lovely’, which made the chilly winter become warmer.

How is the UK education system different to your home country?

The UK system needs students more relying on self-study. Students are required to have autonomy in study. That is quite different from China, where students are taught most the knowledge from school.

Actually, here the study is very intense, particularly for social science subjects. Students always have a lot of reading, so you have to make a plan to consider which is the priority. That examines students' self-discipline and planning abilities, which are important academic skills.

How was your UCL accommodation?

I lived in Garden Halls, which is a mixed hall belonging to the University of London. The facilities are brand new and fancy; the only drawback was the small room. It is located in the city centre - expensive but very convenient. You can walk to campus just within 5 minutes. It's close to King’s Cross, Euston, and St. Pancras stations, where you can access the rest of the UK and even Europe.