UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Marieta Valdivia Lefort

Marieta Valdivia Lefort, former Pre-sessional English Student

Nationality: Chilean
Previous course at UCL CLIE: 12-week Pre-sessional (2017)
Progressed to: Public Policy MSc at UCL

Why did you choose to study at UCL?

I was accepted to study Public Policy in Chile, but I didn’t want to do it there. The UK was my dream.

UCL is recognised for its diversity and you have more freedom to choose what you want to do. I was really persuaded by the different modules on offer here and I could focus on my interests. I wanted a multidisciplinary approach to my studies and this course gave me a range of different perspectives.

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

Public Policy MSc

The first term was very difficult, it focused on understanding how the political system is organised, based on the US and UK. I knew something about US politics but didn’t know much about the UK and EU. Although the modules were difficult, it was really good preparation.

The second term was more flexible and focused on my interests. I picked global ethics, this was more about political philosophy covering topics such as social justice. Other modules included contemporary political philosophy, qualitative methods and agenda setting. These all gave me the tools that I needed for my final dissertation.

Today I think about things that a year ago didn’t even occur to me. I’m really happy to have had my mind opened. We don’t have the same problems or questions as we do in Chile, so it is fascinating to be exposed to them.

I love my department, I have very warm and very intelligent people in my course. They’re quite young and they really love politics. The teachers we have are highly-skilled and open. I like the level of discussions that we have.

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

A lot! I benefited from learning how to read and write properly. It was useful to practise this a lot and learn how to do it in a very efficient way. I can look at things with a critical approach rather than just read it passively. It really developed those skills that you need for a Master’s

My listening also improved as the course helps you to get used to different accents in English, such as Chinese, British and Latino. When you learn English in a university in a different country you’re always exposed to the language so you can pick up different things from different experiences.

What was the most challenging part of the course and how did you overcome it?

I was really bad with structuring my essays. We have different writing styles in Chile – I basically had to learn how to write again! When you have been writing for a while you have your own structure. You are very concise here in the UK, you write the main idea and develop it. In South America, we mix everything, it can be complicated to understand. The paragraph is like a tree, different branches with different ideas. Here it is much more organised.

What did you do when you were not studying on the Pre-sessional?

I went out a lot and met lots of different people. I also dated a British guy so I got used to the accent and the slang terminology.

I attended dance classes in urban/contemporary at the London School of Contemporary Dance and I’m also part of the dance society at UCL.

What is it like living and studying in London?

I really love it, I have a personal connection with London as I came here when I was 15. I told myself I was going to live here one day – so here I am! I’m living the dream. It’s one of the best experiences of my life and I’ve learned so much, including about myself.

As an international student you can sometimes feel loneliness. It was hard for me at first as it’s a very demanding university. At the beginning I didn’t understand anything during my Master’s course. I cried a lot! But it got better – you just need a good attitude and feelings about life. You have to know it’s going to be difficult at times, but you can get through it.

I’ve never been discriminated against in this country. I’m happy, I have friends and a social life! London is exciting and can teach you a lot about life.

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

The higher education system is so different here – I prefer my own system actually! There is a lot of self-study in the UK and sometimes you have to teach yourself.

Having said that, one of the teachers in my department - Avia – is so good, very intelligent and a really good teacher. She really cares about students and the teaching/learning process.

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

Enjoy the process, don’t feel like you have to be the best. Don’t worry about the tasks, enjoy London and try to talk a lot. Try to say something that is coherent, but don’t stress about your accent - you have your own one that’s unique to you!

Also, do your homework – it seems obvious but lots of people don’t do it. You need to push yourself to do more and take responsibility for your own learning.