UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Chiaki Kawachimaru

Meet Chiaki - she took the 8-week Pre-sessional English Course in 2020 before progressing to International Banking and Finance LLM at UCL. Read more about her experience of the Pre-sessional below.

Chiaki former UCL Pre-sessional English student

What’s your background?

I am a lawyer based in Tokyo, practising for five years. I specialise in shipping, international offshore oil and gas projects and finance law matters.

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

The Pre-sessional course has taught me fundamental academic skills for my studies.

Until I attended the Pre-sessional course, I was expecting its main focus to be about improving English skills, but it was not true.

Not only does it improve English skills, but the course also teaches you how to academically read, write, listen and speak (give a presentation). For example, you could learn how to write an academic essay, evaluate sources, citing and referencing, learn academic vocabularies and so on.

These skills you learn from the Pre-sessional course will significantly help when you attend lectures and write an essay at university.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your time on the Pre-sessional?

The biggest challenge for me was to not get too frustrated. In normal times, Pre-sessional students are offered a short-term visa to stay in London, attend face-to-face lectures, meet with classmates and start getting used to a new life in London.

Due to COVID-19, summer 2020 classes were held entirely online. Considering the situation, I could understand it as a reasonable decision.

At the same time, it was very disappointing as I was very much looking forward to making new friends in person through this course and enjoying my time in London. However, although we couldn’t see each other face-to-face, our study group became good friends and we still keep in touch.

What advice would you give to a prospective Pre-sessional student?

As you will be given so many materials in the very short space of time, you may sometimes wish to set aside the skills or materials you were provided and come back to them later.

However, it is very common for many foreign students to get overwhelmed by the university workload, and you may not have time to review the materials you were provided. So, I strongly advise to DO IT NOW. (This is a lesson I have learned for myself.)

What is it like to live and study in London?

London is one of the beautiful cities in the world. You could find the beauty of this city on any common street corner or park. There are historical buildings and statues everywhere. When I take a break from my studies, I truly enjoy exploring this fascinating city even during the lockdown for a short walk or cycling to the campus.

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

Socialising event for LLM students using an online service called Wonder was interesting. It is a virtual space online where you can move your icon around and if you bump into another person’s icon, the breakout room will be created and you can enjoy the conversation with that person. These kinds of online services may be new ways of socialising with others under lockdown.

Have you lived in UCL accommodation?

I lived in St Pancras Way Hall for the first three months. My flatmates were all postgraduate students studying at UCL and they were very kind and friendly! We shared kitchen cutlery, dishes, seasonings and enjoyed cooking together once in a while.

It is great having someone to talk to, even for a small chat in the shared kitchen, especially when you are new to London amid heavily restricted situations due to COVID-19.