UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Reasons to attend a SSEES Offer Holder Day

4 March 2024

Francesca Chan, a second-year Politics and Sociology student shares her experience of attending an Offer Holder Day at SSEES.

SSEES Building

"Welcome to UCL - we hope you love it here!" These are the words that stuck with me when I came to visit campus for the first time in February in my final year of secondary school. They had come not from a professor or staff member, not even from a student ambassador (though they too were very welcoming!), but from a student who had stopped without being asked to hold a door open as myself and ten or so other lost-looking, prospective students walked through the Wilkins Building that afternoon on our tour of the campus. Despite being such a small act that could so easily be forgotten, the moment has stayed with me as an example of the friendly atmosphere amongst the community at UCL. Perhaps it is just coincidence, but at no other university open day did any of the current students going about their day make an effort to engage or interact with me that hadn’t been explicitly asked to do so. Yet, at UCL, the atmosphere around campus was noticeably warm and inviting. This is just one of the reasons why I would so strongly encourage attending an offer holder day at SSEES. I’ll be honest, the initial appeal came from getting to skip a day of school and the promise of a free tote bag, which did not disappoint! But experiencing the campus in person had a whole host of other benefits.

Naturally, a significant advantage was getting to speak with professors, and listen to them explain more about the course - BA Politics, Sociology and East European Studies in my case. Given the incredibly vast options I had when it came to choosing a degree, I had always felt that simply reading course descriptions off university websites was not sufficient enough information to help me make a decision that would impact me for the next three or four years of my life, not to mention the lasting impressions beyond this. Attending talks about the course in-person massively helped me to gauge a sense of the curriculum and get a feel for the subjects that I would study for the next 3 years (and to consider the option of a year abroad). All the professors were lovely, and it was truly a pleasant surprise when I did select the course that in my first week as a fresher, one of the same professors came up to tell me that she remembered me from that very open day, and asked how me and my mother were (we had come to the open day together seven months before this interaction took place).

Of course, another key benefit of being physically present on campus was the ability to explore the surroundings. London is unusual as a place to study, given that the campus is located amongst a lively and buzzing capital city, making it unique from studying anywhere else in the UK. As well as being an easy commute - I live a two-hour bus journey away in Oxford, but I think it’s safe to say that London is an accessible city from almost anywhere else in the country - it was so exciting to see everything going on both in and outside of the university; never a boring moment! UCL has an impressive campus, but as a school student who hadn’t experienced any campus, it was really helpful when compared with other universities, for which I also attended open days. Being in the capital definitely has its advantages; I don’t think anywhere outside of London could match in terms of things going on and activities to do. But it was also interesting to see that despite being in such a busy city, there was a distinctive student atmosphere, the same that you might experience in campus universities outside of London.

Coming to the SSEES building was slightly daunting at first; admittedly, it is not the easiest building to navigate! But with lots of friendly guidance from student ambassadors, it was not hard to get to where I needed to be to attend the different talks, Q&A sessions and campus tours at the right place and time, everyone was very helpful and accommodating. Now that I’ve been a student here for over a year, I appreciate the SSEES building more and more each day. Yes, the architectural layout takes some getting used to and the lift has been a point of contention - though in a way this makes everyone united in their passionate feelings towards it - but having spaces such as the Masaryk common room with sofas, fridge and a microwave, and a library that almost always has a free seat, as well as being only a few minutes walk from Euston station so very central to campus, has made me very grateful, as my friends on other courses can’t all relate.

Finally, what had a surprisingly big impact when it came to making my decision about which university and course to choose was the experience I had talking to Riza, the student ambassador who had been assigned to give me a tour of the campus. She led us around not only SSEES but the whole campus very confidently, a feat given that there was a big group of us who were largely clueless in trying to navigate a bustling area of central London during a weekday lunchtime. As well as providing all the key information about the spots to know, advice on where had the best food, student deals, nicest bathrooms and so on, she was also super helpful in answering everyone’s course-specific questions, from the unfiltered and honest perspective of a current student. Nothing was sugar coated or falsified, but it was clear that she had a genuine appreciation of the university. She stayed to talk to answer all my questions, and then the second flurry of questions my mum was intensively noting down, and remained engaged and honest for all of them, despite the fact that some of my questions were definitely unnecessary (Is UCL better than Kings? Without doubt!). Funnily enough, she was also assigned as my student mentor when I joined as a first year, so has continued to bestow her wisdom of UCL upon me, which is what has now put me in a confident enough position to write this article, and hopefully inspire someone else to attend an offer holder day!

All in all, the benefits of attending an Offer Holder Day are, in my opinion, unmatched. To me, it’s a really great way to get a feel for a university atmosphere - something that doesn’t come across the same in a virtual tour - and to gain a deeper understanding of just what it’s like to experience a university lifestyle at UCL. Being present in person makes so much difference, whether it’s being able to ask a small question that might not feel substantial enough to email about but that holds a key weight in decision making later on, or getting to witness how other students interact with each other and watch the daily ongoings of the busy campus scene; to me it made a world of difference. And if none of this has convinced you - let me remind you about the free tote bag!