UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Xudong Yang

Xudong Yang, former Pre-sessional English course student

Nationality: Chinese
Previous course at UCL CLIE: 12-week Pre-sessional
Progressed to: Computational Archaeology MSc at UCL

Why did you choose to study at UCL?

When I applied, I was considering UCL, Harvard and Edinburgh. I was advised to apply to Cambridge and Oxford, which are famous in China but not as good for Computational Archaeology.

I was drawn to the UCL archaeology department through Stephen Shennan and Mark Lake – both famous archaeologists and both lecturers here at UCL. UCL also has some famous alumni who were pivotal in establishing Chinese archaeology – for example, Nai Xia. I wanted to get closer to these important people. I see their names in academic journals, I wanted to study with them, rather than the people you’ve never heard of.

My previous university has a close relationship with the Institute of Archaeology; I see a lot of my former teachers.

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

It’s very intimate! There are only 3 full-time students and 4 PT students. One of them is in his second year, so there are only 6 new ones. I feel like I have 2 classmates! Its good for me, as we have a large lab and computers, so there are plenty of resources, and we can discuss questions together.

The most interesting thing has been programming – as archaeology students you don’t usually program, and in this course you have to! To teach a student who has never been associated with programming is hard, but the teachers are very nice – they provide us with a lot of instructions and they have a lot of patience! We have very powerful computers too –so we don’t have to worry about technical issues.

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

The most helpful was the writing development. Teachers say it’s most important – so we spent most of the time on that. I improved my academic writing a lot, particularly vocabulary and knowing how to use it in my essays.

It was also important to learn how to structure the British essay. They’re different to European essays and very different to Chinese essays. In China, we propose the questions ourselves, such as rhetorical questions in the essays, but that doesn’t happen in the UK. I notice that Chinese students who have never been on the Pre-sessional tend to do this still.

What was the most enjoyable part of the Pre-sessional English course?

Getting on with students – for the students on the Pre-sessional, we had a shared goal to improve our English. We had a long time together so we became very close friends, meeting 5 days a week. This was really enjoyable.

The teachers were also really good. I had a Canadian teacher, he told us a lot about differences between Canada and US. He was very outgoing, I liked his personality.

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

I hated presentations! We were asked to do several of them during the course. At the end, the presentation was part of the assessment. Because I’m afraid of them, I can’t memorise my words and panic. But I spent a lot of time on that. I practised a lot – I think that is the key. By the end I felt like it was ok, I didn’t forget my words.

For the exam, I finished my slides 2 weeks before and practised every day. We had the chance to practise in front of the teacher, which was helpful to get feedback.

I haven’t been asked to do more now in my current course, but know I know how to do them.

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

I visited many places in London – I went to London Bridge, South Bank, a theatre established by Shakespeare – the Globe. I went with friends to see Romeo and Juliet. It was pretty cool, it was redesigned as a modern version with lots of dance and exciting music. I’ve never seen a drama in English in a theatre established by the writer! The script was original, they just changed the music and stage.

I also went to many parks – Hampstead Heath, Hyde park, Regent’s park; I love all the parks in London.

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

Avoid speaking your mother tongue in the class and daily life. You have to get used to the second language you are learning. If you want to maximise your language ability, you have to use it anywhere anytime, even when you’re speaking with people from your home country. If all of you come from China, you can still speak in English.

What is it like living and studying in London?

I like London, the life in London is cool – it’s similar to Beijing.You have so many plays, musicals, operas, famous restaurants. You can find anything you want. I feel welcome here as there are so many international students.

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

UCL really adores fairness – people from different races and religions, you have equal rights to get an education. There are lots of movements like Black Lives Matter, I feel like there is more opportunity to achieve here, regardless of your differences. For example, we don’t have to write our names, we just use a code so our assignments stay anonymous. We don’t have that in China.