UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Haixiang Sun

This is Haixiang, he's from China. He progressed to Computer Science BSc following the UPC. Read more about his experience of the UCL foundation year and his undergraduate in Computer Science below.

Xiaxiang Sun, former Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate (international foundation) student
Nationality: Chinese
Previous course at UCL CLIE: UPCSE (2017)
Current course: Computer Science BSc
Current university: UCL


Why did you choose to study at UCL?

My main reason for studying at UCL was that it’s a top ranked university. It’s in the heart of London and it’s an international city. It’s a special experience studying in London itself.

The UPC is also the best preparatory course I can think of – the only course that allows me to progress to top universities like Oxford and Cambridge.

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

I’m studying Computer Science BSc – generally its good, it’s just quite difficult! Currently, we are collaborating with other teams to create a bioreactor that produces TB vaccines. In my view, this kind of experience can’t be provided by most other universities.

You don’t get as much personal attention as you do from UPC teachers, you need more self-discipline, but there is much more free time. UPC is more like a transition between high school and university.

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

The Science and Society module really taught me how to do research and present results, this was really helpful.

More importantly though, it gave me the chance to study on my own. Self-study is so important at university in the UK, which is very different to China – you are in class all day 6:30am-10pm and supervised by teachers.

What was the most enjoyable part of the UPC?

I have to say it was quite an intense experience; all of the enjoyable parts will come after!

We still had some fun on the UPC, there were some parties in our free time and we took the tour around the Thames and went round London.

I enjoyed the small groups of classes; I got on well with people and made some Russian and Japanese friends. I always wanted to study in an international environment –I wanted to make friends with students from other countries. The whole world is getting more international so it’s really important to get on well with people from different cultures. I realised that Japanese people are even more conservative than Chinese and my friends from Europe wanted to party! It’s helpful to meet those different types of people.

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

Studying on my own and trying to focus on a research project. I had never written a research project before. It took me a long time to think of a research project idea! I came to UPC early so I was one of the youngest students, some were 3 years older, so they didn’t need to study as hard. It was hard as some things were completely new to me and in a different language!

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

I explored other parts of the UK, such as Cambridge and Oxford. Cambridge is very quiet, not as modern as London, there weren’t many people on the street. It’s very easy to get around the UK as transport is very straight forward to use, it is easy to take the train - just buy a ticket at the station.

What advice would you give to a prospective UPC student?

You need to get more self-discipline. Force yourself to study in the library, as it’s the only place to not access a computer! Force yourself in a place where you can’t be near entertainment.

You should contact your mentor for help too. I didn’t really contact mine, but I’m a mentor and here to help and answer any questions. It’s quite common to not even make contact so take advantage!

What is it like living and studying London?

Living in London met my expectations – it’s really international, I don’t feel like a foreigner, even though I am. There are a lot of events and opportunities here, so you’re never bored.

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

The whole environment is different in China – it’s a far more competitive environment. For example, after each exam, the marks are posted on the walls. This does help you to get motivated for the tests. Here you develop much more on your own.

Coursework and exams marks count here, it’s not like in China where only final tests count. This means you need to concentrate throughout the year. You don’t have to study all night for the final exam. You’ll find it starts easy but it’s also hard to concentrate, you’ll be quite tired by the end of the year!