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THE UK: Subject Guides

Student Spotlight: Philosophy and History of Art

Maria Borshchevska

Name: Maria Borshchevska

Course: BA Philosophy and History of Art

University: University College London, London

Country of Origin: Ukraine


Q. How did you enrol on your course and how did you choose your university?

Philosophical texts and discussions have always interested me – the tacit ideas of books on library shelves seemed to me extremely intriguing. Hence, I decided that studying them at the university level would be a great step towards understanding and adaptation to the constantly changing environment of contemporary society. Having started my course in Philosophy and History of Art at UCL, I realized I was not mistaken.

UCL offers one of the best philosophy courses in the UK. Furthermore, living at the centre of global cultural life of the British capital promised unforgettable experiences of student life.

Q. Why did you choose the UK as a study destination?

This was the best route after my high school I could possibly think of - I have always wanted to experience living in this country, and its language and culture were familiar and interesting for me. The academic aspect of this choice certainly appeared no less attractive – British Universities are world-famous for their educational programs. Finally, when I met my relatives, living in London, I made my final decision to study here – their enthusiasm and respect for British education was extremely convincing.

Q. How did you feel in your first month?

This period was surprisingly pleasant and carefree. Of course, homesickness is inevitable for any student studying abroad; yet, I tried to accept it as something essential for adaptation and focused on new people and impressions. Understanding that the academic requirements will very soon start taking most of your free time makes you value it infinitely more.

Q. Did your institution help you settle in to university life in the first few weeks?

Certainly. I think that the loud stream of energy, gushing out of the university doors during the first weeks of the term will not pass by even the most asocially-minded first year. Endless introductory meetings, parties and fairs leave no free space for homesickness and boredom in the first year’s schedule.

Q.  Where did you live and how did you find suitable accommodation?

I spent my first year of the university program in the UCL halls. A vibrant place to live in during your first year, the halls are accessible to all freshers – one should only look out for the dates and deadlines. During the second year, however, finding a room in the university accomodation is much harder - students are expected to look for a room or flat by themselves. Thus, I ended up sharing a flat with a girl I met at one of the university socials. Although London is not a cheap city to live in, it is still possible to find a reasonably priced accomodation... it may take some time, but it is worth it - it is the place where you are going to spend your student years after all.

Q. How did you fund your studies?

My family is kindly helping me.

Q. What were the biggest challenges that you faced in your first year?

One of the main challenges I encountered during my first months of studying was, quite surprisingly English language. Surprisingly, because I was quite fluent in it before I came to the UK. What seemed like a real problem in the beginning of my studies, however, was a great gap between written styles of English and Russian, which is my mother tongue. Such problem, being quite popular among international students, is particularly relevant for those specializing in humanities, as such subjects require articulate expression with clear and concise sentences. Numerous complicated structures and epithets, normal for Russian are completely alien to conventional English writing. As a result, I had to master the style of English academic writing almost from scratch. Special courses in the universities, one can take and long reading lists are often extremely helpful in overcoming this problem in a few months.

Q. How does the English teaching style differ from that in your home country?

The main difference lies in the fact that education in British universities conforms to the idea that ‘the student is studying by himself’; average time spent in the lecture halls or classrooms is significantly less than in Russian universities. Instead a student is expected to spend long hours in the library, researching and expanding his knowledge on the topics, brought up or sometimes only 'scratched' by the lecturer - undoubtedly invaluable experience of effective time-management and self-organization (which are of course handy transferable skills for your CV).

Q. What are the best things about studying in the UK?

Probably huge number of new people and opportunities. International atmosphere, largely imbuing English universities transforms one’s outlook. I think it is perfect and essential for creating free intelligent individuals. What I also find great about education in the UK is the broad career perspectives that open in front of the university graduate. In fact, one's career choice is not influenced by the university degree or subject of specialization in 80% of cases - one is free to take almost any career path and change it as many times as he wants.

Q. What are you planning to do after graduation?

As many others ambitious graduates, I will be looking for a job in London.

Q. What advice would you give to other new international students?

I would say, try to find out as much as you can about your program, university, and city. You’re probably quite prepared for moving to the different country and studying in a completely foreign culture already; yet, the knowledge, gathered beforehand will help you feel more confident and quickly adapt to the new environment. Sites like Hotcourses Abroad, career fairs in your cities or impressions of students, who were in a similar situation several years ago are often extremely helpful.

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About Author

Maria Borshchevska

Aspiring journalist and Cambridge University graduate, Londoner 'by adoption'. Tweeting for @hotcourses_Abrd


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