UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Cristina Trovati

This is Cristina, she's originally from Russia. She progressed to Urban Planning, Design and Management BSc at UCL after the UPCH. Find out more about her experience of the UCL foundation year below.

Cristina Trovati, former Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate (international foundation) student


Why did you choose to study at UCL?

After coming back from London in summer 2015, I wanted to find out about the best UK universities.

UCL was the one of the top universities. I was intrigued by UCL’s approach in general, it was both scientific and creative. Some places were just either creative or scientific. I wanted the perfect mix of both, as I found just studying one discipline quite suffocating. It's an interdisciplinary university, so you hang out with people from different courses – it provides a more vibrant environment.

And of course the charm of living in central London is hard to resist!

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

Urban Planning, Design and Management BSc.

Initially I was planning to apply for architecture, but it was not multidisciplinary enough for me.

I’m really enjoying the multitude of subjects as there are so many different approaches to the same problem. The material is challenging in subjects like introducing planning systems; there is a lot of politics involved.

There are also quite a lot of team work tasks, which is interesting when you’re in a creative team as we’re all coming at it from many different views.

How has an international foundation like the UPC helped you in your undergraduate degree?

It helped a lot. The first thing that comes to mind is the referencing! We were challenged a lot with referencing. There were huge penalties for not using the appropriate type, and no one had any idea how to do it! Yet now it comes so easily.

The knowledge about the campus and London was also really helpful, lots of people have said to me “it’s good being friends with you, you know everything here!” I don’t get lost, and I can guide people.

The whole experience makes you more prepared mentally; while everyone is stressed about their first year of undergraduate, such as getting used to managing money, having a foundation year enabled me to concentrate on my studies and gave me time to help other people

What was the most enjoyable part of the UPC?

The most enjoyable part for me were the elective modules (GABE, Modern European Culture) – they were the best!

Before doing the UPC, I had lost my passion; in Russian schools, teachers aren’t interested about making subjects interesting, they just want you to pass your exams - it’s not the best way to teach.

Here I got the feeling that teachers care; they want to immerse you in a subject and actually enjoy teaching it. This helped reignite my passion and interest. The teachers were confident and friendly. Friendly with you outside of class, but it would never turn into bias when assessing your tests.

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

I stopped looking after myself. I got so immersed in my studies and only cared about the grades I got. I found myself sitting at 4am, proof reading an essay for the 4th time. I got amazing grades, but I didn’t have the balance. But as soon as I got the balance back, I was able to overcome it. I started working out and eating healthily.

I made myself realise I didn’t need to worry that much, and rewriting the essay for the 4th time because I missed one letter, it’s not worth it. There’s no such thing as perfection.

What did you do when you were not studying for the UPC?

That was very limited to be honest! We were trying to get around London, get to know places, museums, restaurants and bars.

We found some amazing places, like the Sky Garden and the Welcome Collection. Winter Wonderland was also a great experience.

I did end up joining the yoga society too. I wanted to join so much more, but on the foundation you just don’t have enough time. It was hard to manage to do more with the timetable.

What advice would you give to a prospective UPC student?

1) Don’t be afraid, this is just a rehearsal. Don’t worry if you don’t make enough friends, or do as good as you expected. This is just a test drive. After completing the foundation – you’ll have the experience of how to make friends and live at university. If you mess something up, you can try again.

2) Look after yourself. Your grades are important, but don’t forget about your own health. Don’t sacrifice your sleep, use the right time management. Don’t eat oat cakes at 4am, it won’t be good for you!

What is it like living and studying London?

Vibrant and constantly changing. It’s a cliché phrase: when one is tired of London, one is tired of life. You can rediscover this city millions and millions of times. You’ll never get bored, you’ll always find something to experience.

The whole education system is appealing, it's unbiased and as objective as you can get. Its academic, but not as strict as other places I’ve been. You can get the perfect balance of work and play. People know how to have fun, but also know when to stop. People are quite balanced here.

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

The student-teacher relationship. Teachers are quite biased about students, if you're the teacher’s pet or they hate you, they’ll give you what they want, not what you deserve. I had both experiences. All I did was draw in one class and I got an A, on the other hand, I had a history teacher who just completely hated me. And I didn’t receive the grade I should have got.

Here, if you’re messing up, you get what you deserve. They separate you from your written work. It’s a much fairer system.

The way subjects are structured is also different. You learn from your mistakes and you learn much faster. In Russia you are given guidelines, you turn off your brain and follow it blindly. You don’t think for yourself.