UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Jeongmin Lee

Meet Jeongmin Lee, former UPCSE student and 2019 UPCSE Progression Scholarship winner. Jeongmin went on to study Biomedical Science BSc at UCL.

Jeongmin Lee (former UPCSE student)

Nationality: South Korean 
Previous course at UCL CLIE: UPCSE (2019)
Current course: Biomedical Sciences BSc 
Current university: UCL

Where were you before coming to UCL?

I was in Korea before joining the UCL foundation course. I had spent my entire life in Korea, studying in public schools in the district called Bundang, the residential city which is near Seoul. Bundang is known for a high standard of education as most of the students who grow up in Bundang go to high level universities in Seoul.

As I graduated public school, I learnt a common certificated Korean education course including Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Language and so on. I was personally interested in British parliamentary debate since middle school and participated in several competitions held in Seoul.

Why did you choose to study at UCL?

After finishing Korean SAT, I got in to a fairly good university but decided to look for a better education that suited me and gave me chance to improve myself after a gap year.

I got to know that the UK has foundation courses and chose UCL's foundation as it provides an organised and qualified course compared to the others. I feel like it is a huge advantage that I could use the same area as UCL undergraduates, including lab facilities and libraries, especially with UCL being a high ranked global university.

As I aimed to study Biomedical Science at UCL, the UPC gave me time to adapt to the environment in advance to undergraduate and chance to build basic capability to study various contents in English.  

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

I am currently studying Biomedical science under the life science division. We have a total of seven compulsory modules in first year: Physiology, Chemistry for biologists, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Anatomy, Genetics, Cell Biology. All classes are held in Bloomsbury campus and labs are held in Cruciform Building’s wet/dry lab and the Chemistry Building.

My general feeling of our course is that it is more intense than I have thought it would be as overall class time is relatively longer than other courses. Moreover, it seems that every single student on my course has received a high quality education which makes a passionate atmosphere when we study altogether. Teachers are also warm and welcoming but it is quite hard to get close with professors in person as the lectures are mostly joint lectures with other courses (Pharmacology, Biochemistry etc.).

How has the UPC helped you in your undergraduate degree?

Course content

What I have learnt in the UPC helps me significantly throughout the course I’m studying right now. Most of the modules in biomedical science are based on biology and chemistry, and as a student who has never studied a lot of content in English before, the UPC makes the things I learn now so much easier to digest. The content is more complicated and advanced as it is divided more specifically, such as Developmental Anatomy and Biochemistry, and it would have been very difficult if I didn’t know the basic principles.

Lab experience

Although I sometimes regretted choosing Biology and Chemistry for my UPC modules, as these two subjects are most challenging due to labs and assignments, now I feel like it was lucky for me to have chosen those two. Each module in Biomedical Science also has 3-4 labs per term and again, some overlaps with the lab I had done in UPCSE. Recently I had a Biochemistry lab about transamination using TLC method which I had done before during the foundation lab, which helped me complete it. 

Research experience

Apart from Biology and Chemistry, I really want to emphasise the helpful side of research projects in UPC, as essay writing is desired ability in the majority of courses. Writing preparatory and research projects helped me to build fundamental knowledge on how to research reliable resources and form persuasive argument based on these. Recently I had a Physiology essay test about secondary active transport and frankly speaking there were not many useful resources provided about how to write scientific essay. However, I wrote down the essay based on what I have learnt in UPC and achieved one of the highest grades that our personal tutor gave.  

What was the most enjoyable part of the UPC?

The most enjoyable part was the Biology field trip. At first, I didn’t have many expectations about the field trip because I was so occupied with all the assignments and deadlines. It was a decent getaway from the hectic city to the green countryside.

Field work was a useful experience to learn how to apply the real numerical data I’ve got from various sorts of environments such as sand dunes, the sea, and meander sites to analyse and bring a conclusion.

On top of that, I could get to know more friends by sharing a room with them and working as a team on the field. Eating an ice cream cone in front of a windy beach during break time with friends is a great memory!  

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

The most challenging part was time management. Biology and Chemistry had a lot of assignments every week such as coursework, lab report and mid-term tests and relatively denser timetable due to lab. Academic English and Science and Society also had challenging assignments such as a preparatory project, research project and poster project.

I had my own struggle finding the balance between personal studying and revising time, resting, and handling all the things when living alone.

As the foundation course covers two years of A level content within one year, it was really time intensive to catch up on each lecture, including the unfamiliar content (i.e. Organic Chemistry). First term was therefore a bit chaotic, but after I got the sense of how to manage time efficiently, second term was more calm and manageable, although the content was sometimes way over my head. Also the fact that the predicted grade is decided based on the scores you get at the first term, the pressure was quite stressful. 

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

I usually tried to take a short nap every day after class and go for a night walk to Trafalgar square and London eye with my boyfriend.

Usually when it comes closer to the winter season, the sun goes down really fast around 4pm. My class finished around 5pm when I had lab or Academic English class and it was easy to feel down because of this. Home cooking, working out and watching late night movies helped me feel better and take a break from studying.   

What advice would you give to a prospective UPC student?


As living alone is really different from being looked after by your parents, it is really important to know how to take care of yourself regarding health, foods and mental and especially when you get sick. I recommend cooking home country foods and contact parents whenever you feel homesick to remind yourself there are people out there who supports you unconditionally, but at the end it is important to know that it is our choice to come to London and focus on what’s in front of us. Personally, going to a park such as Primrose Hill and Hyde park during free time really helped me relax and breathe.

Time management 

In terms of studying, I think it is important to always get back to the studying rhythm after taking a rest and trying to finish given assignments in minimum few days in advance by using a spare time between classes wisely.

Helpful resources

For Biology, reading the textbook Advanced biology (Michael Kent) together with lecture and tutorial notes helped a lot to grasp the context. For Chemistry, reading chemguide free online page with lecture slides and Moodle pages were helpful as Chemistry teachers provide a lot of helpful resources.

Study techniques

Both of the tests are a combination of long descriptive, short answer and multiple choice questions with high proportion of descriptive ones. The method I used was to write predicted questions or past paper questions on the empty A4 paper and practice to write the answer to the extent I know. After finishing writing, I compared my answer and model answer teachers provided to fill the insufficient parts with different colour pen. I repeated this at least 3 times per question until I could write almost same answer as the exemplary one. Drawing diagrams and flowcharts in various forms is also helpful.

Prepare for your personal tutorials

For Academic English and Science and Society class, it is important to communicate well with your personal tutor to ask them where to put your focus on each assessment. I have seen several friends who don’t really prepare questions before individual personal tutoring time, which makes it difficult for their tutor to give helpful information regarding each evaluation. 

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

In general, the UK education system makes students more actively participate in what they’re studying by interacting with students one by one. Korean education normally doesn’t have small tutorial classes that can focus on individual students and is mainly composed of huge lectures.

On top of that, the exam questions are over-complicated in a way that it shifts the focus on minor issues. I was impressed by descriptive questions that directly points to the principle and major parts of what we’ve learned rather than composing all the questions with multiple choice questions. For example, the final Biology test asked us to write a short essay about the mechanism that we are confident to explain. The Chemistry test also asked to draw a diagram of cascade mechanism. Both modules were directly pointing out the important parts of content: in order to write a short essay and draw a diagram, genuine understanding of the subjects should be followed. 

Most of the Korean education focuses on passing final Korean SAT test. Therefore I could not continue enlarging my interest on debate and improving my English skills after I went in to high school. It was very intense and made me feel exhausted. I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that I am wasting a lot of my given abilities, pushing myself to meet the strict standard which overgeneralises and standardises the distinct characteristic of students. 

What is it like living and studying London? 

As English is not my first language, speaking and studying in English everyday improved my speaking and interpretation skills a lot. As I am well aware that my English is not as perfect as my Korean, it gives me motivation to study more. I tried to understand English itself rather than translating it into Korean to get the sense of language. In general I believe it impacted me positively to study more passionately. 

Also, the fact that I’m living in one of the most famous cities in the world really makes me proud. The British Library, Oxford Circus, Covent Garden, Kings Cross and so many other famous places are very close to UCL, which makes my school life more vibrant. 

What is your top "must see/do" in London? 

China town in London is an amazing place to get good foods, and it’s also close to Piccadilly Circus as well. Also if you want to feel Christmas vibes, I recommend going to Winter Wonderland in Hyde park! There are so many thrilling attractions and lots of decent food (eating churros after taking a roller coaster will definitely get you massive adrenaline rush!)

If you like calming and healing places, Kew Gardens, which was the first UPC field trip, will bring you peace. I actually suggest to go Kew Gardens several times when the season changes to see fall foliage, snow and spring blossoms. 

Have you lived in UCL accommodation? If so, which residence did you live in and how was your experience?

I have lived in Ian Baker House which is inside the Ramsey hall. The part that I really liked about Ian Baker House is that it’s very close to campus, taking only a maximum of 10 minutes to walk there. I usually studied until 2-3am in Cruciform Library or the Student Centre as my accommodation was so close to school.

Also I used to cook by myself, rather than using catering service, and Ian Baker House had decent kitchens for cooking. It was also beneficial that I could use the Ramsey Hall facilities too.

Warren station and Euston square station are also in vicinity so it was perfect location to travel around in London as well. 

Can you recommend somewhere to eat around campus?

I recommend the Brunswick area near Russell Square which has ‘Hare and Tortoise’ (fusion Japanese / Malaysian dishes), Nando’s, Fuwa Fuwa pancake shop and so on. Near Goodge Street station there are a lot of good restaurants and pop up restaurants opening during lunch time. I personally really like Sanxia Chinese restaurant and Franco Manca pizza!  Near the British museum, there’s a Korean restaurant called ‘Biwon’ which serves quite authentic Korean dishes!