Preparing for an Architecture degree in the UK
Tse Huen Cheung (Daven) is from Hong Kong, and is studying Advanced Level Foundation at Kings London. We sat down with him to find out his reasons for choosing to study in the UK, how it's going, and his plans to study Architecture at university.
What are you studying at Kings?
I'm studying Advanced Level Foundation; I'm studying Art, Maths and Physics. I want to study Architecture, and I know Kings do Art Foundation but I thought that that was not enough, so that’s why I'll do A-level. I think maybe I can handle it!
How is the course going?
I love art! When I was a kid I used to play with Blu-Tack, it was something I could easily find in my home. It’s a fun texture to play with, I used to make dragons, sharks and dinosaurs.
Would you say that has inspired your art since then?
So I tell my mum I want to study art or something related to that, so she sent me to study painting and drawing. I learnt about 10 years. So I know about all different kinds of creating, like with Chinese ink and oil pastel and also like comics and Japanese manga.
Cool! Are you enjoying any other classes?
Yeah! I like Math, I don't know, other people say that I am strange. People don't think that people can like Math and Art at the same time, but I don’t agree, I think it’s pretty easy. Math is more logical and fixed answers, not like language.
And how are you finding Physics?
It's good, it’s pretty easy for me because I used to study Physics before in Hong Kong, and the level is similar, for HKDSE, which is harder than GCSE so it's great! And for the language, in Hong Kong you can study in Chinese secondary school or English secondary school and I studied in an English one, so the language is fine — not so difficult. It's a really good progression for me.
How have you found your experience of Kings so far?
It's really good, fun, because Kings have a different kind of club and activity and the teacher are nice.
Do you think it's different to your school in Hong Kong?
Yeah, because it's more free. Back in Hong Kong we had to go back to school Monday to Friday before 8.30am, and if you don’t come on time you are counted as late for the whole day. And there are no free periods, it’s a full timetable, it's packed.
Now with A-levels I can choose how to plan my days. Actually it is good because at university I think it will be even freer, it's a good middle point.
What do you think is the best thing about the school?
It is hard to say… maybe being in an international school is wider than Hong Kong. In Hong Kong maybe there were exchange students from the USA or France or UK also, but they only stay for one year and they always stay in one class, so we don't talk much with them. Here it's pretty much fun to interact with people from different places. Their mind, the way they think — it's really kind of different. I'm really interested in this aspect of things. I think language can affect someone, and also how you think and that's really cool.
Where are you staying here?
I'm in a homestay, and I love it! My first reason for choosing this is to get to know about culture, about British people or local people and how they live because at university I won't get a chance to do this. I find it quite interesting. Also I need to learn maybe step-by-step how to be independent so it's great for me. I have a host mum, host dad, and a host brother, and I live with another student. We have dinner together at about 7.00pm and talk about our days.
Do you think you've learnt anything about British culture?
Maybe, yeah, like what TV programmes they like or don't like, maybe sometimes some political expert of things. Because reporters say different things, so back in Hong Kong I read about politics things and also some natural disasters but you learn much more from the people here.
Have you taken part in any of the extracurricular activities at Kings?
Oh so many! I've done Photography Club. I love it, I love take photo of nature. I love trees so much I got a million pictures on my phone.
Have you had any fun assignments?
Olga asked us to take pictures of autumn leaves and now that it's getting closer to winter to take pictures of leaves and compare them. And also I do Debating with Louisa.
Were you in the Debate Night last week?
Yeah I was! Well the topic was not so controversial, but I do like debating, it's fun to work out how to criticise things, then to evolve the argument, and I do enjoy the progress. I think it's how you can cooperate with others because you’ve got, like, 30 seconds. My English is improving too because you need to learn about more technical terms. We get new structures for arguing.
Any other clubs or activities?
So many! Wednesday is badminton or tennis, because I don't like heavy sports like football or basketball. Badminton is good because it is maybe physics-related and it's fun to play with and easier to control. You have to learn how to control your strength and build your skills.
And you do Book Club on Thursdays?
Oh yeah! I think at first I wanted to join it because I’m not a book person, not a book reader, but I needed to improve my reading skills because, no matter what, you need to read some things, maybe articles or documents. I will enjoy Book Club to increase my interest in reading.
Now I started it, it's fun and it's easy to catch up or follow. I think it make me want to read more. And also we can talk a lot so we need to share ideas, so it's also practising my other skills. And to come back to my point, we can learn more about how others think and feel.
Have you made any friends at Kings?
Yeah, really! It's my first time in such a multicultural place. Some friends from Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, mostly within Asia but also some from Belgium and Germany too.
Is London what you imagined it would be like?
Everyone else says there are so many people, but I think it's not so many people. In Hong Kong there are many more people and we are packed! So for me it’s nice with the open space. And the most thing that interests me are traffic! People are too nice! They just wait for you to cross the road. In Hong Kong they never do that.
What extra benefits has studying at Kings given you?
I think it has given me a boost because it is a good middle ground between school and university. Here we have to organise our time and organise our lives so it's a good experience for me.
In Hong Kong I was kind of lazy and didn't study hard, so for me this is a second chance, and I have to learn how to plan my time so I have more freedom than there, but it's still more protected than university because I have my host family and the small classes and nice teachers.
What has been the advantage of studying in the UK over staying in Hong Kong?
Well I think I could have just stayed in Hong Kong and I did apply for university there, but I wanted a gap year. My mum told me I had to do something useful in my gap year so I decided to come here.
For one thing, here I want to improve my grades compared to my Hong Kong grades and, although I could have applied for university in the UK from Hong Kong, it is easier to do it here and I have more support. Jasmin [UCAS tutor] has been so supportive and really helped me with my UCAS Statement and filling in the paperwork, and Kings has helped me with my university choices.
Another thing: I could study Architecture in Hong Kong, but I don’t want to. There, architecture is so restrictive and everything is just tall narrow buildings, even though we do have a lot of parks, because it is a small island.
In the UK, I think architecture is more creative and innovative. There is a wider variety and more artistic and experimental work. I want to work all over the world so I think this is a good choice for me to have the skills to create all kinds of buildings for all kinds of spaces.