Studying A-levels in the UK to prepare for university life
Kings London A-level student Keegan Ferreira, from India, talks school, studying and spectroscopy in a fantastic interview about his time so far at Kings, and his plans for university.
Hi Keegan. What course are you studying here and why did you choose it?
I am doing a two year A-level course, and am in Year 2. I did my GCSEs in India and it was a dream since I was a kid to come to London. Mum decided, why wait til university? — and she suggested applying for a college. A quick Google search threw up Kings Education, so I applied here.
And did you and your mum find the process for applying difficult or straightforward?
It was straightforward. Of course there were obstacles, but nothing too much. The school really helped out.
What subjects are you studying?
Physics, Chemistry and Maths.
Is there one that you are enjoying more?
Chemistry — the one I'm going to major in at university.
What is it like to do those subjects at A-level? What kind of things do you do in class?
Well, over the course of a week we would probably do a bunch of topics, and a practical based on them in the middle or at the end of the week. For both Chemistry and Physics.
Do you enjoy the practical or theoretical work more?
The practical, for sure.
Which universities have you applied to for Chemistry?
I've applied to Edinburgh, Bradford, Brighton, Belfast and York. I’ve got offers from every one except York. Edinburgh was the one I really wanted. York may be higher ranked but I think Edinburgh is more suited to me. I spent a few days there by myself and I loved it, so I would like to live there.
What part of Chemistry are you particularly interested in focussing on?
Astro-chemistry and Spectroscopy.
Did you go on the Kings trip about spectroscopy to the University of Greenwich last year?
Yeah, we went to the Medway campus out in Kent. One of the three most popular types of spectroscopy is mass spectroscopy. We went into a lab and saw a mass spectrometer and its autosampler and saw how it worked in person. Learning it from a diagram in a book doesn't really get to you until you’ve seen it in person and the mechanism and analysis going on. Another type is proton and Raman and we to a small extent took part in it. We did a small sample.
The most we did was in infrared spectroscopy. We did both the old method and the new, modern method. The old one being the more cumbersome one, but we did this just to show us how it works — the basic principles.
It must have been a great experience!
Yes, it was!
How would you describe your experience at Kings London so far, and what would you say are the best aspects of the school?
Well I have had a pretty good experience. The best aspects: the Kings activity leaders have some good day trips, trips up to the football stadiums in London. Also we have some really good trips related to the curriculum. We went to Langley Park High where we had a gamma radiation experiment to do!
The teachers are really friendly, everyone is really friendly, all the staff. The diversity is great, you meet people from all around the world.
Have you joined any clubs and societies yet?
Yes, I joined Spanish Club! Also Photography, I did Football for a bit and also Tennis and Badminton Club – every Wednesday. It’s a good way to relax. We do tennis in the warmer months, badminton in the winter.
Have you made lots of friends, and is this the first time you've studied with people from other countries?
I've made a lot of friends. I only ever studied with Indians before. Having friends from other countries, you not only pick up the lingo from other countries but you learn stuff that you would never learn in a textbook.
There are so many cultures here, so many different kinds of people. You don't feel left out because you're not the only one who is in a strange country a million miles from home.
How is the accommodation and where are you staying?
I'm in a host family, who are amazing. They have practically included me in the family. I go on family outings now!
What kind of things do you do together?
Well we've had day trips to places like Kent — visiting Charles Darwin's house, the biggest one we had was to Canterbury for the whole day. I’ve been to BBQs and family parties, and I've become very close to their pet.
It must be nice for your family back home to know that you are being well looked after by another family here.
Yes, my mum and my host mum have become good friends now!
Is London how you imagined it would be, and what do you like most about Beckenham?
London is better than I imagined it would be! The only thing that bummed me out was not getting to see Big Ben! It's the icon of the city and to not see it is odd! (Big Ben is closed for renovation work until 2021.)
Beckenham is nice. It feels very safe — I have never felt unsafe. It's quiet, especially at night, which is good. It's a very pleasant place. The loudest thing I've ever heard is an emergency vehicle. Mumbai is a noisy, noisy city that never sleeps!
What are you most looking forward to in the next few months?
I'm not looking forward to the exams! I am looking forward to the university open days though — I'm going to travel to Ireland — me and my friends have made each others' open days into small trips. To Brighton, Belfast, Manchester…
What advantages do you think there are to doing A-levels in the UK, rather than your home country, before going to university?
Someone once put it very well. When you’re in school you're in a sort of bubble. When you're at university you're still in a bubble but it's a much bigger bubble. You're exposed to the world a lot more, so this was a good kind of intermediary. It allowed me to adjust before university. There is still a change, but it won’t be too big a leap from school. If I'd have gone directly from Mumbai to university it would have been a huge leap.
It's allowed me to get a taste of life at university, and to make new friends. I've also been able to get to know the country well before I start university.