UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Lorena Espinosa Olguín

Meet Lorena - she studied the 15-week Pre-sessional English Course in 2020 before progressing to Human Rights Law LLM at UCL. Read more about her UCL experience below.

Lorena former UCL Pre-sessional English student

What’s your background?

I am originally from Chile.

Before the Pre-sessional, I worked as a Researcher Lawyer in the Justice Studies Centre of the Americas (JSCA), an international agency of the Inter-American system whose mission is to support justice system reform and modernisation processes in the Americas.

Why did you choose to study at UCL?

Following extensive research, I decided to only apply to UCL (quite risky at the time though!). It was the only place which met all my expectations. It not only had a very high academic excellence, but it also offered a very diverse and integral approach to my subject, which was decisive.

Additionally, I had read landmark papers from UCL’s professors, so I knew I would be taught by recognised authorities in my area.

What course do you study now and what is it like?

I’m currently studying an LLM with a specialisation in Human Rights Law, at the UCL Faculty of Laws. It’s been a great programme where I’ve learnt rather sophisticated and interesting approaches to my field, with such a deep focus as well. I’ve been asked to read a lot, and that has been certainly challenging.

I really like the seminar methodology of teaching, in which we’re encouraged to develop critical thinking and to reach our own opinions and conclusions. We’re not only learning content, but also developing autonomy and responsibility for our learning and critical thinking processes.

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

From my experience, the Pre-sessional was much more than an English course. I learnt key academic skills that enabled me to properly face my Master’s degree challenges from the very first moment.

Selecting sources

First of all, I was taught about the process of looking for and selecting good quality and relevant academic sources, which is, in my view, an essential skill for succeeding in your tasks. I managed to select good sources for my final essay, without the excessive amount of time I used to previously spend in that task.

Strategic reading

I also grasped strategic reading; an outstanding tool I wish I’d learnt before! I realised that there are different types of reading depending on your questions and your objectives, as well as specific techniques on how to assess and approach a paper. Namely, what to read at the beginning and how to decide whether you need to read that work in-depth or just some sections.

Writing academic papers

Coupled with that, it was crucial to have an accurate and clear understanding on how to write an academic paper. For example, how to structure your thoughts, express them coherently and cohesively and, on top of that, develop a strong argument and support it in a concise, clear and convincing way.

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

One of the aspects that challenged me the most was the stage of defining my thesis statement for my final essay. In the beginning, I did not quite understand how to put into practice what we had learned about the features that an argumentative thesis statement should have.

I would say that I also struggled with narrowing my ideas down. All of this was reflected in me changing my thesis statement many times and getting very frustrated at some point. However, over time I realised that it was part of my learning process.

Given the pandemic context in which I studied, I also found it challenging to cope with the disappointment of not being able to study in London and to just meet my classmates online.

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

You should know that this is not just a language course, so it’s not as easy as you might expect. However, that is not to say that you can’t enjoy it! Although it’s a demanding course, it contributes to your career and personal development to a great extent.

I’d recommend being structured with your studies and very open-minded to all the things you’ll be receiving from a wide perspective. You’ll be learning English, and also other cultures and approaches to life! So, speak your mind, enjoy it and make the most of it!

What is it like to live and study in London?

I always wanted to have the experience of living abroad, and I think it couldn’t have been better than here! London is amazing and exciting, a very big city with a lot of things to do, to see and to explore.

I love the diversity and variety of people and things you can find in every nook and corner. I felt very welcomed and people are very warm. I love all the parks and the musical background you can find here.

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

Unfortunately, given I’ve been living here during the Covid situation, I haven’t been able to do as much as I would’ve liked. However, as I arrived here before the situation became worse, I was able to study in the UCL library. I loved it! UCL is a pretty place and you feel a real belonging here.

During the first few weeks, I visited all the parks of London! My favourite ones are Hampstead and Regent’s Park. Close to my place, there are smaller and very lovely parks as well. I also love Camden! I’ve been there many times. Living here is brilliant.

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

I’d say that the main difference is the autonomy you have. In my country, we’re often more guided by the Faculty in everything, and professors are usually in charge of delivering the main content to you. Here, unlike in my home country, you have to be more autonomous and is up to you to really engage with the materials.