Studying for an Architecture degree at Oxford Brookes
Ana Sofia da Silva Ferraz from Angola completed both the English Plus Art and Design programme and the Advanced Level Foundation with us at Kings Oxford before winning a sought-after place to study Architecture at Oxford Brookes University.
We met up with her recently at her university campus to find out about her experience so far, and how her time at Kings best prepared her for university life.
What degree course are you doing here at Brookes and how are you finding it so far?
I’m doing Architecture. It’s hard, but I like it a lot because it’s really what I want to do. We have a lot of work, that’s just how the course works…
What modules do you have?
In the first year it’s all compulsory and then in second year we’ll have a mix of compulsory and elective modules.
We were talking earlier about how your degree is a BA, rather than a BSc – what’s the difference?
With a BA we have a lot more hours in design than technology – with a BSc they give a lot more attention to the technical aspects of the profession.
How much help did you have from Kings with deciding on/applying to university?
I had a lot of help. My teachers knew that I wanted to come to Brookes. They did lots of research on my behalf and invited some of the lecturers to come and talk to us in the college.
Every time I came here I would have lots of support from my art teacher, when I had to do my portfolio as well (to prepare for my interview) they were very helpful.
Was that a lot of work, to prepare your portfolio?
It was because it deviated a bit from what we were doing in class, so they had to guide me a lot in the direction that I wanted. I had some extra lessons from Jo, my teacher, who would help me a lot and go through things with me. It was great to have that kind of support.
Were you doing the Advanced Level Foundation with art as a module? Have many of your classmates gone on to do the same thing?
Yes, that’s right. One of my classmates was coming to Brookes too, but then went to another university. She had exactly the kind of support that I did.
What were your other modules on the foundation?
I did CSS and Data, which are compulsory, then business and maths.
When I came here (to uni) I had to write lots of essays, and if I hadn’t had CSS classes I would have been lost. At the time I thought they were a bit pointless, but I was wrong!
Many of my classmates, who did A-levels, didn’t know how to do these things and here we don’t have time to have extra modules to learn these skills. I think I was lucky because it really has helped a lot.
You did the English Plus Art and Design course before you did Foundation at Kings – how long was that?
It was 3 months, a little bit longer, then I went on to Foundation. When I started I was upper intermediate.
Is it correct that you hadn’t really studied art back in Angola?
That’s right – we had compulsory art until year 7, and then we have either technology or arts and I chose technology because I wasn’t sure if I was going to do architecture or engineering. Then I went on to do Physics and Chemistry so I didn’t have Art during the last 3 years of school.
So your time at Kings really helped in that respect?
This is your third year in Oxford, as we said, what is it that you like about the city?
I was born in Lisbon but raised in Lawanda, which is the capital of Angola, and it’s an extremely busy city. We don’t have much freedom, like we do here. In Angola we only move by car, but here we can walk or take the bus. At the same time it’s quiet and not as crowded as my city.
Obviously Brookes is great for architecture, but was part of your reason for applying here that it was in Oxford?
Yes, it was. When I first came to the UK I was supposed to go to Manchester, but then my cousin was studying at Kings and recommended it. I fell in love with Oxford and just don’t want to go anywhere else.
What was your experience at Kings like overall?
It was very good. I made lots of friends that I talk to now. We were kind of a family there, we would do everything together and now that everyone has gone off to university we keep on talking to each other and try to visit each other as much as we can. Some friends are here in Oxford, some are in Leeds, some in Manchester – all over the place.
It was good because we were all in the same boat at Kings – we were all international students and we know how it feels to be in a completely different country away from our family. The support was completely different to here, my friends here can go and visit their parents whenever they want, but I have to wait maybe three months before I can visit!
Presumably your time at Kings, getting used to living in the UK, has helped in terms of not having to acclimatise to a new culture at the same time as starting university…
Yes. And the workload as well. I had a lot of work for the art module and it helped me get ready for what I was going to face here.
Is there a particular type of architecture that you see yourself specialising in?
I would quite like to specialise in naval architecture because my country has lots of oil and lots of companies go there to explore. That would be something I might like to do. Also, I’m interested in urban planning – my city came out of a civil war quite recently and I feel like my job would really help to rebuild my country and help the people there. That’s really what I want to do.