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Student Spotlight: Chemistry PhD

If you are interested in researching and matter interactions, Hotcourses interviews a Chemistry PhD student from Cambridge University who expands on his experience.

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Name: Pablo Aran Terol

Country of Origin: Spain

Course: PhD in Chemistry

University: University of Cambridge

Q. Why did you enroll on your course and how did you choose your university?

I have always been passionate about chemistry. I had previously finished my chemistry bachelor in Villanova University in the United States and decided to apply in a university with the prestige and recognition that Cambridge University boasts. Also, I found a suitable supervisor for my area of research (Alzheimer’s curing) in this University.

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

In research courses, predominantly in sciences, your supervisor is a key factor for a successful research. My supervisor is specialized in my area of interest, so I decided to follow him here in England.

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

Referring to Spain, I am not entirely sure as I have not had the chance to do research there. However, regarding Villanova University, American and British research styles are very similar and that is one of many reasons why they are leading countries in the research on Alzheimer’s disease.

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

The university has an amazing introductory programme for new students that really makes things easier. Fresher’s week, particularly, was very helpful as I could see what was on offer and which activities could help me to enjoy my time at university to the max.

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

I currently live in College accommodation and the university helped me loads to get it sorted. Right now I am in my second year of PhD and I applied to be a hostel keeper, which means that I live in a house with some undergraduate studies and I help maintaining the order in the house for a discount in my monthly rent. Truly recommend it as it helps to ease your budget.

Q. How did you integrate into the social scene at your university?

Living in College is a great advantage because you get to know your college mates and you are very close to where the majority of activities take place so you never miss out! I think I have integrated into the social scene very well.

Q. Did you experience any culture shocks when you arrived in the UK?  

Not really. Cambridge is a small city, so it was easy to find my way around and get to know people without major traumas. Although I must say that by living in small cities like this one, you only get to know the culture of the place and not of the entire country, so less chances to suffer any major culture shock I think!

Q. How did you fund your studies?

Through different bursaries and scholarships I applied for. Some of them are the Cambridge European Trust, the Wellcome Trust and the Downing College scholarship.

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

I think I had to face many challenges by myself as most of the research at this stage is independent. I had to get on with things and teach myself a ton of things at the beginning, but things always get easier with time.

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

UK universities are incredibly diverse with a bustling international community everywhere, so it is very easy to fit in.

Q. What are you planning to do after graduation?

The Post-Doctorate probably, it all really depends on the funding.

Q. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started your studies?

I learnt the importance of researching very well the topic of interest for your PhD before accepting a place at university. It is a very important decision and I have no regrets, however I have seen the consequences of rushed decisions by some of my colleges.

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

You need to make sure you don’t only stick around people from your nationality, take advantage of the difference of cultures that UK universities can offer.


To learn more about Chemistry courses, read Hotcourses' article on the subject.


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