Juan Carlos Guzman Chacon studied the Advanced Level Foundation and is now at the University of Leeds (#11) studying Zoology.
He talked to us about how Kings helped him get here.
Is university life how you imagined?
My first year was a rough because it was all new for me. I come from a different country with a different educational system, different grading system. That was the most difficult part for me because it’s way different so I didn’t know if I was doing good or bad — apparently I’m doing good!
This is a big place and I’m not used to that. Back in Mexico my high school was a quarter of the size of Leeds University so that was a big shock for me. The subjects are difficult but very interesting – I like them. The professors are awesome, they teach us many things; we can do practical things in the labs, which are my favourite part of the university. There I can interact with bacteria, with insects, see their anatomy, how they work, and do experiments.
That is what I was looking for, a place where I can do experiments. Instead of only being knowledge from books, I can put things into practice. One thing that got me hooked on coming here was the practicals. Going to South Africa and Australia when I can put my knowledge into practice doing surveys and ecological based practice. Also it will give me opportunities to get internships to get a taste of the real world and improve their skills. I think that’s a great thing for students to do. It’s practical plus knowledge.
Leeds is the university I imagined when I was a kid. I imagined it to be big and prestigious. It’s something I can be proud of, and my parents can be proud of.
“Leeds is the university I imagined when I was a kid. I imagined it to be big and prestigious. It’s something I can be proud of, and my parents can be proud of.”
In what ways do you think Kings best prepared you for your degree?
At Kings they gave us five subjects and I think the most useful of those was CSS (Communication and Study Skills) because it taught us how to write essays, how to take notes, many practical skills. It was very useful because before coming to Kings my writing was very bad. Now my essays are passable! I’m proud of that. They have teachers who helped me to improve my essays, they told me what I was doing wrong and gave me practice essays.
Also it taught me a lot of things I didn’t know back in my country, they taught me the British way. It was a good experience to get used to it and adapt to the British educational system. Also they expanded my knowledge in Biology, Maths, and Statistics. If my country is an island, Kings was like a boat that shipped me to new lands I didn’t know! Especially Biology – it was the best thing It prepared me to be here.
Without Kings, I wouldn’t be able to be at Leeds — that’s the truth.
What subjects did you take at Foundation, and what advice do you have for prospective students when it comes to making subject choices?
The subjects that I took at Kings were Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Statistics and CSS. Choosing your subjects is very important as it will define your future. So, when I was choosing my subjects instead of focusing on which would improve my grades, I chose the ones that were fun for me. I didn’t choose them because they would make me more money. I chose the ones that I was good at and that I thought it would be fun to study. I think there’s no point in choosing a subject that you don’t think is fun — it would be painful to go to those classes!
"If my country is an island, Kings was like a boat that shipped me to new lands I didn’t know! Without Kings, I wouldn’t be able to be at Leeds — that’s the truth."
What support did you have from Kings staff in your university application process?
The support at Kings was great. I think the one of the most important people that I found to help me was the person that connected me from Mexico to Kings. She told me what to do and gave me advice. When at first I was scared and I asked my Kings representative what I was doing wrong and she gave me support for going further and beating those barriers. Sometimes I give up too early but she pushed me more to get better grades and break my fears.
Also some teachers helped me a lot to understand. I remember one CSS teacher stayed over time to help me to improve my essay — she told me what I was doing wrong and how I could improve it. Also my IELTS teachers helped me to improve my English. Biology, Maths and Statistics teachers helped me to go even further. For example when I had interviews for universities they understood me and said if it was important I could miss the first class to work on my interview. They were supportive of me.
What did you as part of the Enrichment programme at Kings?
The clubs aren’t like a lot of the clubs that people would choose. I didn’t join any Debate Clubs — I think instead of doing things that would help me [academically], I chose things that I would enjoy. I chose clubs to be like a stress relief and that helped me a lot. I joined the Basketball Club and E-Sports. For me they were the best because they helped me to relax and not only to focus on my studies, but to have studies and free time. It made me be more balanced.
I found good teachers, especially the E-Sports teacher. Before coming here I thought the British teachers would be cold. But when I arrived it was different, they were friendly and I could speak with any of them. It helped me to me more relaxed and to be more open and talk to people if I had a problem.
"Studying at Leeds University was my dream that came true, and I think it was help from Kings — they gave me the basic things to arrive here."
Why did you decide on Leeds, and are you pleased with your choice? What do you enjoy most about being a student here?
How I choose things is very different to other people. I chose Leeds because I thought it was the unreachable objective. It was such as good school that I was afraid I wouldn’t be capable of going there. It was thing I really wanted to do but was too afraid of not getting so I almost gave up! But the teachers helped me a lot. They told me I was good at things I never thought I was good at and that changed me. I was able to be here at Leeds.
Leeds is like my Cambridge — it’s a big step for me and I’m very proud of it. Every time I go back to my family reunions I say I’m going to Leeds University. I even bought the jacket! I’m very proud. I chose Leeds because it was the first university I saw that had the Zoology programme and my family saw it and I decided it was a good opportunity. It was my first choice. I’m still in shock at being here!
Studying at Leeds University was my dream that came true, and I think it was help from Kings — they gave me the basic things to arrive here. In reality I don’t think without Kings I would be here.
What are your plans for after you graduate?
When I finish my undergraduate studies here I want to go into a company to do collegiate work or a nature reserve to do conversation, to get a steady job and after 2, 3 or 4 years do my master's degree, hopefully here, and maybe my PhD.
My dream is to be someone to be proud of. To find a steady job, a job that I’m proud of and is fun, and to finish my Phd to be the second or third doctor in my family but from a British college.
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