Oscar Hidalgo studied the Advanced Level Foundation at Kings and is now completing a degree in Actuarial Mathematics at the University of Leeds.
We met up with him at his university to find out about his reasons for choosing this degree, and his experience in the UK so far.
Hi Oscar. Why did you choose this course and this university?
I really like Maths, I wanted to pursue a mathematical course, I was doing some research and I discovered that the demand for actuaries is really high in my country. So I decided to do a course related to actuarial sciences, such as mathematical finances, financial mathematics, actuarial mathematics. When I was applying here in the UK for universities I decided to aim high, kind of like the top thirty universities, and among them I found the University of Leeds.
The reason why the University Leeds got my attention was because when I was focusing on rankings and the reputation of the universities I decided to focus not just on the general view, but on the mathematical and financial accounting rankings. The university already is really high in Mathematics, but when I saw that in Finance it is the number one university in the UK, this was the point that I chose this university. It is really impressive because it has been the number one university for financial accounting for five years.
What did you study at Kings?
When I was at Kings I studied CSS (Communication Study Skills) which is basically English and how to do efficient studies, IT and Data skills, which is probably statistics, Excel, things like that, Mathematics, Physics and Economics, which I am really using right now.
How did Kings help you to get here?
Well when I was in El Salvador, I already knew English — I actually lived in California for two years — so the language wasn’t a problem. The problem was my academic and mathematical English, which wasn’t very developed. I only knew the kind of daily English.
Kings really helped me to know how to be a good student in a foreign language, I learned how to write a good essay, I extended my vocabulary and I even learned how to do really good presentations. It taught me the basics of how to start a course at a UK university, which is very different from what I’m used to.
"I learned how to write a good essay, I extended my vocabulary and I even learned how to do really good presentations. It taught me the basics of how to start a course at a UK university."
What is it like to study at a UK university?
Actually I consider it really interesting because it’s not just lectures. When I was a university student in El Salvador the only thing you needed to do was attend the lectures, and you’d be OK in the exam. That was basically all you needed to do, as long as you review what you learnt during the lectures.
The difference that I have noticed here is that they make a lot of emphasis on independent study. I was already used to studying independently but never at such an intense level. For example here we only have 20 hours of lectures per semester, tutorials account for maybe another 20 hours, but they tell us that we need to spend at least 60 hours on independent study, which is a lot. I’m really impressed about that, because they have made a lot of emphasis on your studying and learning on your own.
What advice would you give to future Kings students back home?
I would definitely recommend Kings — it helps you a lot, especially to be ready for university. The skills that you learn at Kings are way different from the ones that you learn in a normal school. They are really helpful for university.
My advice would be I guess just make the effort! The difference between me and many of my classmates is that sometimes I study every day, that’s the whole difference. Studying at university can be challenging and hard, but it’s not impossible. It’s definitely do able as long as you make the effort. So just study 2 hours a day, that will be more than enough because a good student needs to be able to do that constantly.
"I would definitely recommend Kings — it helps you a lot, especially to be ready for university."
What are you planning to do after university?
I have two roles that I want to pursue. One of them is to become an actuary, that’s why I chose this programme. With this degree I can apply for a job in a company related to pensions, insurance, which is what actuaries do and while I’m doing that I can study for the actuarial exams and eventually become an actuary in a few years. But I also want to pursue a master's and eventually a doctor's degree. Maybe in a more mathematical course, maybe straight Maths.
How did coming to the UK change you as a person?
That’s a really interesting question. I guess when I was in El Salvador, I was so used to just studying because a lot of my time was spent travelling and in lectures. El Salvador isn’t the safest country so you couldn’t go outside after 7.00pm, so the useful part of the day was spent studying. So when I came to the UK I found myself in the position where I could socialise, have a really good social life, make more friends, be in different environments, go to parties, do all the kind of things that I was never able to do in El Salvador.
Since being here I have done so many things, some people think I overdo myself because I am a course rep, I’m applying for a research project, which I already got, I do a lot of things in societies. I’m actually the media officer for the actuarial society, and I go to parties all the time! I went to a masquerade ball, I went to a jazz bar, it has been so fun since I came here and everything is because here it’s actually possible to do that.
I guess have become more friendly, more social, and the people have helped me so much, because the people here are amazing — they are friendly and helpful and you can trust them all the time.