UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Mariia Kuzmina

Meet Mariia - she completed the UPC in 2020 and now studies Mathematics BSc at UCL. Read more about her experience of the UCL Foundation Year, the Students' Union and London.

UCL Foundation (UPC) student Mariia Kuzmina

What’s your background?

I come from Moscow, Russia. I graduated from a top Moscow school where I was studying in a class with a specification in mathematics.

Why did you choose to study at UCL?

I chose UCL because it provides the highest standard of education. I enjoy studying in a competitive academic environment, and UCL is certainly this kind of a place.

Also, UCL has an amazing student union which lets students engage in various extracurricular activities and meet new people easily, which only enhanced my aspiration to study at UCL.

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

Currently, I am studying on the BSc Mathematics programme at UCL. It is a challenging degree that provides insight into many areas of mathematics, both pure and applied.

This term, apart from more advanced school-like maths, we have been introduced to mathematical modelling - for instance, how mathematical models of epidemics are created and, in particular, why it is difficult to model the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the pressing workload, I find the degree exciting so far.

How has the UPC helped you in your undergraduate degree?

In my experience, Academic English and Science & Society UPCSE modules were very helpful in preparation for my undergraduate studies.

Academic English boosted my written English and Science & Society taught me to conduct academic research and both of these skills are crucial for almost any degree. Also, I gained a broad range of lexis from discussed texts and lectures.

Additionally, the UPC taught me to study independently having the teaching strategy similar to the one of the undergraduate degree.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your time on the UPC?

It was instant stress that occurred when first arrived in London due to living far away from home for the first time. It affected my concentration and social life. However, within a month, I immersed in the academic process and met my future friends. I got my life back on track and started enjoying the UPC.

What advice would you give to a prospective UPC student?

Do not be scared to move away from home - London is amazingly welcoming and UCL will bring you new friends and wonderful experiences.

Make sure you are genuinely motivated to study because the UPC requires a lot of independent study and it would be impossible to power through the challenging moments if you do not enjoy the overall academic process.

And do not let your defeats discourage you for long. Almost everyone feels frustrated about a demanding new programme at first, and the first bit of feedback you receive might not be excellent. But you will learn a lot from your mistakes and be able to move forward and focus on your next assignments.

What is it like to live and study in London?

London is extremely cosmopolitan and welcoming, it is easy to feel like a local here. People are polite and attentive - you would easily get directions or any other help if needed. Also, London is a beautiful place to be: it has a lot of parks and fascinating architecture.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

I joined the UCL tennis club, and it was extremely exciting. We met up once a week and went over to the courts to play. There was an opportunity to apply to the UCL tennis team, but, unfortunately, my workload did not let me allocate any more time on it.

It was a very fun social and sportive experience, and I am certainly going to attend those sessions again when things are back to normal.

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

In the UK, independent learning is of greater importance than it is back in Russia: your studying does not stop after your lecture or tutorial. Students here spend significantly more time on home-studying and revision.

Also, compared to Russian teachers, UCL academic staff are noticeably more respectful towards students and generally treat them equally, which creates a comfortable and encouraging academic environment.

How was your UCL accommodation?

Yes, I lived in Ramsay Hall during my Foundation year. It is a UCL student hall located close to Warren Street tube station: such a central location makes the commute to UCL truly convenient (5-minute walk) and also provides its residents with numerous cafe options.

The great thing about this hall is that, due to shared canteen and common room, it is unusually easy to make friends here, which is essential in the new city.

Can you recommend somewhere to eat around campus?

Sure! Cafe at Waterstones bookshop (across the street from Malet Place) is fantastic and the coffee is great. Also, I like UCL's Refectory Cafe: good price point and delicious food. Another amazing option is Bloomsbury Farmer's Market which normally opens every Thursday:fresh doughnuts, falafel roll or burgers just around the corner from Birkbeck.