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THE UK: Subject Guides

Student Spotlight: English Language

Hotcourses interviews Andrea Gavilan, a graduate from Argentina, who studied English in the UK

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Name: Andrea Gavilan

Course:   English Language

Study Level:  General

Institution:  Islington English School

Country of origin:  Argentina


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

I chose my English school partly because it offers good course content at a very affordable price and partly due to its convenient location, near home. Many English schools are based in central London and if you live far away, it is not very convenient.


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

 Actually, I didn’t choose it, the reason why I am here is for my husband, who is studying his postgrad at UCL.  Learning English for me is a necessity in order to develop my life in the UK. However, London has exceeded my expectations and I am glad to be here.


Q. How did you feel in your first month?

 At the beginning I felt a little lost. My first teacher was American, and it was a bit complicated for me to understand her accent, but after a month I understood everything and I started gaining confidence at speaking, (with a little of American accent!). The classes are very practical and dynamic and allow us to speak a lot, so after a while it was very easy to adapt to the group.


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

The English school organises days out with all the students and teachers every week. I personally didn’t go much, I think I found my way around by myself and, as everyone is very friendly, in a very short time I made lots of friends and nowadays I am also friends with my teacher!


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

Fortunately, I didn’t have to look for accommodation by myself because I live with my husband in Arsenal. However, I understand that looking for accommodation could be a complicated process for which you need to start well in advanced before you find yourself without a place to live.


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

I am a very talkative person and that always allows you to socialise easily wherever you are. It wasn’t difficult to make friends, despite the fact that at the beginning we all spoke not very clear English.   


The people I have met in my school have been very important for me. I think for any foreign person coming to the UK, taking an English course is not only a learning tool but a way for socialisation because there you meet people that are in your same situation, with the same problems and difficulties as yours. In a place as big as London, where no one realises your presence, finding a human group that keeps you afloat is pivotal.


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

I have noticed many cultural differences between my country and the UK: the amount of different nationalities living here, the organisation everywhere, the transport, the underground, many green areas in the city, each person carries with them a diary where they have notes with their daily commitments, everything seems to have a logical order and nothing is left to chance, everything starts very early and nightlife does not exceed 2am.


But what has shocked me the most is the indifference of some Londoners, seems to be a very tight closed group of people, difficult to access. I always tell that I have been attending the same gym class for about 4 months and the teacher haven’t even noticed my presence! However, I have also met very nice people that have helped me lots, so all this is part of the contrasts that you find everywhere in the world.


Q. How did you fund your studies?

 I paid my course with personal savings, gained through very hard work as everything here is very expensive compared to my country.


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

Even though I have been in London only for 6 months, I can say that regarding my English course everything has been a real challenge. But I have tried to have fun as much as possible whilst I learn. I think the biggest challenge of them all has been the job hunt. I know it is not going to be easy because I don’t have any experience in this country and my English is not 100% yet so I do not feel very confident for an interview, for example. But I haven’t lost the hope yet, it is important to keep going.


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

In my country, English teaching is only focused on the grammar side of the language, but no one teaches you to speak or listen. When I arrived in this country, I thought I spoke a bit of English, but then realised that what I knew wasn’t enough to communicate with people. Here in my school I found a more practical approach to teaching English, far more focused on the conversational skills. Even though we have had extensive grammar classes, these are always applied in conversations during class.


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

The best thing is that the teachers are English native speakers in their majority, which makes learning the correct pronunciation of words very easy. The most important thing is that learning a language where it is widely spoken is highly beneficial as you practice in day to day life, so you learn faster.


Q. What are you planning to do after graduation?

Now that I have finished my studies, I am planning to look for a job for the time being. In the future, I would like to validate my bachelor’s degree here in order to be able to work in my area (chemistry).


Q. What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since you started your studies?

The most valuable lesson is learning to recognise each of my classmates’ accents, all of them are from different countries and each of them speaks with a particular accent in English. I think this is the best lesson I have learned because being aware of these differences allows me to communicate not only with native speakers but also with any person that speaks English.


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

Learning English in the UK is the easiest way to really learn English because you live in a surrounding that challenges you every day to learn and get better. Every time you go out you learn something new! Also, London’s diversity allows you to meet different people, and why not? Find long lasting friendships.


Did you find this helpful? If so, you may also be interested in these:


Studying in London

Beginner's guide to studying in the UK


You can also check out an interview with an English Language Tutor on Hotcourses, you can also search for English Language Courses in the UK, or anywhere else in the world.

Study in the UK


'Study in the UK' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the UK into one handy digital book.

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