UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Zhiyi Zhou

Meet Zhiyi, she studied the Pre-sessional English course online and is now studying MA Film Studies at UCL.


What’s your background?

I come from China and my undergraduate education took place in a university in mainland China. I also had an exchange-year experience in Korea. I studied Film Studies before – the same as my postgraduate programme. However now, I did film post-production rather than film analysis like before. So academic writing and research are brand new for me.

Why did you choose to study Pre-sessional English course online?

The main reason for me to choose Pre-sessional English is that I want to learn how to write in an academic manner.

I have enquired with other institutions before researching the Pre-sessional English course, those institutions told me that they can teach me to write academically, but the price of the Pre-sessional English was better.

Apart from this, I held a conditional offer at that time and I was struggling with the IELTS writing test. I thought it’s very hard for me to achieve the score beyond 6.5 in writing session of IELTS. So I turned to Pre-sessional English.

I chose an online course because I didn't have much time between receiving the results from my Bachelor's undergraduate degree, and I wouldn't need to travel at such short notice and could do the course from home.

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

Right now, I am studying an MA in Film Studies. I think the main challenge in Film Studies essays is a little bit different to what we have learnt in Pre-sessional English course. So it may take some time to get familiar with the illustrating tone in Film Studies. We may have to film sequence analysis during an essay contributing to the use of pronouns which might be something you wouldn't do in other subjects.

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

I have been studying my MA course at UCL for two months.

I have recently finished a 1500-word essay, and the most useful part of the Pre-sessional English was Reading into Writing, it really helped me with this assignment. We were taught the Harvard referencing standard and how to search for references, which was really helpful.

And also, the seminars in Pre-sessional English really made me more confident to speak in front of others, because we are encouraged to do so during the course, and I realised nobody will judge me or others when speaking in public.

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

During my time at UCL, I have joined the hiking club which has helped me to release pressure. It is also a very good method to gain some understanding of London's geography.

Also, I have watched some drama shows presented by the UCL Drama Society. They are amazing. I recommend you to enjoy the theater culture in London. It is another very good way to enrich your spare time.

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

Honestly, the UK education system is different to my home country. It takes some time to grow accustomed to these differences.

During this period, it is really easy to feel upset and frustrated as you may look down on yourself. I think if you were in this situation, you should be encouraged to ask for help from your personal tutor, professors and etc.

UCL is a very gentle place from my point of view. I was really nervous and anxious at the first month I arrived in London.

And the tons of readings for each week drove me crazy. Thus, I made an appointment to my tutor. She gave me some advice which is really helpful.

Where is your favourite place on campus and why?

I really like the cafés around campus. The main reason is that I am a coffee person. But the café is also a very good place to discuss questions or study alone.

The café I go most frequently is Print Coffee run by Students' Union which has very good prices, very tasty cakes and very good coffee. I also like the round tables there which can let us have a circle meeting or discussion.