Achieving my goal of university the UK
This week, we spoke to former Kings Oxford student, Nguyen Thi Thuy Lien (Natalie) from Vietnam. Natalie joined Kings Oxford to take our accelerated one-year IGCSE course, before progressing on to a two-year A-level course. After 3 years of hard work, she was awarded a place at prestigious UCL — University College London — to study Natural Sciences.
We spoke to Natalie to find out a bit more about her experience at Kings Oxford, and the beginning of her journey at UCL.
Which courses did you take at Kings Oxford?
I took accelerated IGCSE and A-level courses with Kings. My A-level subjects were Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Biology.
Why did you choose to take your GCSE and A-level course with Kings?
I really liked the cities that Kings’ schools were located in. Oxford is a university city with all the amenities for students and a big student community.
The student outcomes from Kings were also very impressive, and the brochures, materials and website gave the impression of a welcoming and friendly environment.
That’s great to hear. Did you find that portrayal was accurate?
Yes, even more so actually! I was surprised that I felt even more welcome and happy there than I thought I would.
Did you always want to study in the UK?
Yes actually, it’s been a dream of mine from a young age. I went on a trip to Cambridge when I was at primary school which inspired me to come to the UK in the future. I was particularly aiming for Cambridge University, but my overall goal was to pursue studying in the UK.
How does Kings help students achieve their goals?
First of all, it’s the attentiveness of the teachers and staff towards many aspects of the student experience, as well as their academic journey.
Their academic journey is one thing.
"The teachers are very, very attentive towards how their students are doing."
They would make sure that their students understand the knowledge during class, and they would be willing to answer any questions that the students have. They would make sure that there are no knowledge gaps.
Also, the staff are responsible for the students’ extra-curricular activities, well-being and university applications.
I think those things are among the many things that help students achieve their goals and enjoy their time studying.
What did you enjoy the most about studying at Kings Oxford?
I would say, two of the most enjoyable things to have achieved at Kings are… To have enjoyed my time being taught by the teachers there, and also enjoying the time spent with the friends I have met there.
How did Kings support your university application process?
They organised university fairs and university talks to help students have an idea of what courses they can pursue at university and how different universities differ from each other. It’s very helpful for international students to have an idea of what fields and universities they want to apply for.
They also help a lot with the UCAS process, including the Personal statement which is an important step, and also interviews, which are needed for medicine, law, or Oxbridge applications. They have helped a lot.
Did you have a firm idea of where you wanted to apply before you came to the UK? Or did the information you received whilst you were here change your mind?
Definitely the latter! The university fairs and talks had a big influence. Even after those, my university choices have constantly changed right until I hit the submit button on UCAS. I would say that the university fairs and talks helped me shortlist the universities, and the teachers provided me with further details and advice about which field I actually want to pursue.
What did you enjoy about life in the UK?
"I greatly enjoyed the diversity of cultures in the UK for one thing."
I think Oxford is a diverse city because t’s a student city, so by being in Oxford I had the opportunity to encounter many people from different backgrounds and cultures, and I have learnt that each and every one of them has something great for me to learn from.
And of course the cuisines! I came to international food markets and each week I could try a dish from places from Greece, Iran, Italy…
Do you think it was beneficial to complete your A-levels in the UK rather than Vietnam?
Absolutely, yes. I’m very happy that I decided to complete the IGCSE and A-level courses in the UK rather than carrying on with a Vietnamese high school programme. I would say the IGCSE and A-level certificates are more widely accepted so I would have more opportunities to apply to universities in the UK, and even in Europe or the US too. I think it will provide better credentials for my education.
What degree subject will you be studying at UCL? Will you be starting your course remotely?
I am going to study Natural Sciences at UCL. Natural Science is quite an interesting field to me because of only studying Biology, Chemistry or Physics separately, I will be able to combine modules from different scientific disciplines. For example, I could combine Life Science Biology modules with Physics modules, or Astronomy and Material Sciences. The course is highly flexible, and that’s what I enjoy about natural sciences. You can be innovative and creative with the combinations of modules that you choose. It’s good for someone who initially doesn’t know the exact field that they want to specialise in - they can study a range of modules and then narrow it down.
Will you be starting your course remotely?
I will be studying my first term from home and hopefully joining in-person from January. The core curriculum materials for our first and second term will be taught online, including online discussions, seminars and recorded lectures. Hopefully the lab work will take place on campus in term 3.
How will it work with the time zones?
Fortunately for me, the online discussions will take place in the morning in the UK, so they will be in the afternoon and evening (Vietnam time).
Have you started your course? How’s it going?
I started yesterday actually! It was a bit difficult to adjust to this new format, but it was not bad at all because all the other students were like me. They were all getting used to this new online meetings - people were shy but we were all nice to each other so it was enjoyable. I hope as we get more familiar with it, it will get easier in the next few weeks.
What are you looking forward to about living in London?
I look forward to meeting new friends face-to-face, and also exploring around London. I can’t wait to explore! I haven’t been in the UK for so long and I really miss it. I have been to London a few times when I was living in Oxford, but I often ended up in the same areas, so I’m looking forward to getting back to the hustle and bustle of the capital and exploring even more.
Do you know what your plans are for the future after you graduate from university?
I don’t know in which order these will arrive, but I’d like to take a subsequent Master’s degree, and then one or two years of working in the UK, and in the end I will go back and work in Vietnam within scientific research, or STEM related fields.