We speak to Elli Rees and Jacinta Speer who are both studying at international universities and who are joining us as teaching assistants at this year’s Seren International Online Summer School, to hear their top advice for those of you thinking of applying to universities overseas.
Tell us a little bit more about yourselves…
Elli: Hi everyone, I’m Elli from Llanelli, and I am a rising Junior at St John’s College, Annapolis. I was a Seren student four years ago and at the time, I would never have thought I’d be studying in the US now or typing this blog from Rome where I am currently studying for the summer.
Jacinta: I’m Jacinta and I’m from Australia. I’m a rising senior studying at Yale-NUS College in Singapore – which means I’m starting my fourth and final year soon.
What is it like being an international student?
Elli: Becoming an international student has been a whirlwind experience and at times I feel as though I’m living in a movie. In my first year, I ended up seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York, stayed in my friend’s house on an island, went on a road trip from the East to West coast and did so many other random things.
Did you ever imagine yourself studying abroad?
Jacinta: Growing up I never thought going to a foreign university was even a possibility. However, during year 10 in school, my teacher recommended me for an American summer academic enrichment program which opened up this huge horizon of new possibilities. I really think these kinds of summer schools are fantastic for access. If you are thinking of studying abroad, I would recommend the summer school opportunities available through the Seren programme as they can be incredibly eye-opening.
You can also make lasting friendships from summer school programmes. Just a couple months ago, I grabbed lunch with a friend who stopped for two weeks in Singapore on her way back to the U.S for university. We had met six years ago at a summer programme, and all this time later, we’re still friends. It goes to show you how meaningful the connections you make during these summer programmes, where you get to meet smart, passionate people who have similar interests to you, can really be.
Was it difficult to adapt to a new university whilst also experiencing life in a new country?
Elli: Studying in the US can be difficult as you have more classes of varying subjects and a lot of opportunities thrown at you that you don’t want to miss, but that can be difficult to fit in. It’s important to remember that you can’t always do everything. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re struggling sometimes – it takes a while to find your happy medium.
University isn’t all about competition or being the best, it’s also about having fun and making memories. Make the most of your time at whatever uni you attend wherever you go. You might not stay in the country you’re studying in forever, so try to experience as much as you can while you’re there, but of course, don’t forget to study. Just remember, all the hard work you’ve put into your A levels and applications to get your place, so make the most of it, but remember to keep the good work going.
How can I make the most out of my time with Seren?
Jacinta: One of the fantastic things about university is that you have the intellectual freedom to study what you want. Some of my favourite classes at Yale-NUS have been extracurricular modules I’ve taken in disciplines outside of my major. Seren really mirrors this by giving you the chance to experience opportunities in a huge array of subjects so make the most of this. If you think there are interesting things happening in other streams of the Seren programme, why not attend them and see if they’re for you?
I’d also recommend being vocal. At university, there’s no one holding your hand – it really is up to you to get what you want out of your course and it’s similar with Seren. If you find yourself struggling with a concept in class, stay behind to ask the tutor about it. Everyone here at the programme wants to help you, but we can only do that if you are proactive about your own learning and ask for help.
Most of all, just enjoy the programme. All of you really deserve to be here, and I hope it’s a wonderful experience!