UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Sihao Chen

Meet Sihao, he studied the Pre-sessional English course online and is now studying Corporate Law LLM at UCL.

Simao Chen

What’s your background?

I spent my entire childhood in Guangzhou, a southern city in China.

After high school graduation, I decided to see other parts of the world. I went to Beijing, the capital of China, to study law at the University of International Business and Economics. I was lucky to be admitted to the experimental class programme and benefitted from its intense focus on students’ global vision.

In the undergraduate-level Comparative Corporate Law class, I found my interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The main idea is for corporations to be responsible to the society in a world dominated by large corporations (‘Corporate social responsibility’, 2023).

After graduating with a Bachelor of Laws with Honours, I want to further my understanding of CSR in postgraduate study at UCL. Now I am studying Corporate Law at UCL.

Why did you choose to study the Pre-sessional online?

A significant characteristic of the Pre-sessional English course is its emphasis on practical skills. Students are taught and assessed in the course by a similar method widely used in most UCL courses. It enables smooth transition and adaptation of study methods. For example, 'reading into writing' is an imitation of formative essays; 'Listening into speaking' is a simulation of tutorials; 'Research project' is inspired by the research essay. These tests illustrate what your lecturers and professors expect from every student.

In contrast, IELTS is not designed to reflect or simulate an academic environment, so it cannot alleviate any adaptation issues. For example, supporting an argument by citing authority is vital in academic writing, which is nowhere to be seen in IELTS writing.

Which degree are you studying now and what is it like?

I am doing an LLM (Master of Law) in Corporate Law. I am pursuing my interest in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well as expanding related fields such as financing and takeovers.

A primary concern of this field revolves around business ethics in everyday commercial transactions. We are exploring the possibility of addressing social concerns in management’s agenda. As Graham, one of my professors, says, studying these hard and challenging topics is fun.

Preparing for those courses by reading materials is undoubtedly challenging. We are discussing hundreds of pages of essential materials for every LLM course in every class. Finishing most of the further readings is essential if you aim for more than a pass. Before you panic about the workload, it is worth noting that you must realise your full potential this way, the hard way.

How has the Pre-sessional English course helped you in your degree?

The Pre-sessional English course is an introductory course of the UCL education method. Before going straight into the intensive classroom, it prepares you both physically and mentally. You can quickly transfer the skills it teaches in the everyday study, including reading, tutorials and formative essays. It also makes you feel more confident and prepared when you realise that your professor is expecting largely the same from you. Meeting your future cohort also helps you to fit into the UCL environment. Some of my Pre-sessional classmates have become my friends in other courses I am studying at UCL.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your time on the Pre-sessional and how did you overcome it?

For me, intensive online group work may pose a serious challenge, especially when showing your work and exchanging opinions are required. Instead of exchanging laptops with their classmates directly, everyone should copy and paste their work into a shared file. The collaboration may soon collapse without a pre-set standard. Fortunately, with the help of Microsoft Teams and the sufficient training provided by UCL, the experience is as close as face-to-face lectures. My group agreed that we should take turns sharing our work and opinions during everyday study. And our lecturer will join our group discussion from time to time. Improvisation and persuasiveness are the keys to solving the problem.

What is it like to live and study in London?

London is for everyone, and everyone can easily fit in. I am constantly amazed at the rich history and culture of London. There are historical stories in its world-renowned museums and art galleries, even hiding on every street corner. For instance, London Tube is celebrating its 160th birthday as the oldest underground transportation system this year. As a frequent commuter of the Piccadilly Line, I could not help but notice that Russell Square Station has a notice board informing its history. Featured by its iconic oxblood terracotta facades, the station is carefully retained to reflect the style of Leslie Green, the designer, from nearly a century ago (‘Piccadilly line’, 2023). If you like hearing stories, London is the place for you.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with at UCL so far?

I like playing the piano as a leisure activity, so I joined Chamber Music Club. I could use the Practice Room with a Yamaha upright piano in good condition as a member. I could also attend concerts organised by the club. I enjoyed the Christmas-themed concert, which involved everyone singing famous Christmas carols like Hark! The Herald Angles sing together. I felt the warm and loving atmosphere of the concert, even though I am from a country with no Christmas tradition. The director also introduced a fun fact that Gustav Holst, the musician who wrote the Planets, once studied Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language, at UCL (Beeson, 2020).

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

The difference in the education system can be regarded as the divergence between the common law system represented by the UK and the civil law system represented by China, my home country.

Back in China, the black-letter law is primarily codified with its rigorous logic. The lecturers focus on interpreting the law theoretically and applying the law in practice. With that in mind, scholars have devised a detailed curriculum and supplemented textbooks.

At UCL, the black-letter law is represented not only by codes such as the Companies Act 2006 but also by numerous important cases that guided the subsequent judgment of similar cases. Lecturers are concerned with the analysis and interpretation of case law. As a part of legal training, students are also presented with both sides of the argument and encouraged to provide a more persuasive argument of the case.

Where is your favourite place on campus and why?

I recommend Practice Room, which is available for Chamber Music Club members with a piano. It is hidden from plain sight that not many people have set foot in. I felt a sense of achievement after figuring out where it was (in the basement of the Wilkins building) (Practise Facilities, 2023). I have spent every weekend in term 1 in the room, rain or shine. It is quiet and away from the disturbance of the world, where I can focus on my piece of music and find peace and tranquillity in myself.