From China to London: studying the ICC Foundation Year at SOAS

Coralie pixellated

This blog is written by one of SOAS’s ICC scholarship holders. The ICC (Intermediate Certificate Course) is a foundation year programme providing academic and English language preparation for international students who want to enter undergraduate degrees in Social Sciences, Finance and Management-related studies, and Arts and Humanities at UK universities.

I had never thought about studying in London.

Attracted to the French culture, I had planned to study at a university in France since middle school. I learnt French on my own at the weekend when I was in China. I checked out school websites regularly with hopes and wishes from time to time. Everything seemed to go well as planned. After I took Gaokao (the Chinese examination to enter university), I set off on the application to university in France. I chose to spend one more year learning French, knowing that there still remained a bit of work to do in order to get to the stage where I could apply directly to a university in France. After plenty of research, I went to a language school in France from January to March this year. 

However, things didn’t go well due to COVID-19 in 2020. As soon as the outbreak began, I went to London to stay with my cousin. As all the language tests for French were cancelled, I couldn’t submit my grades in time. 

Frustrated, I was thinking about taking another gap year. Luckily, my cousin’s boyfriend told me about the ICC programme at SOAS. He had also done a foundation programme in London after graduation from high school in China.

Looking through the SOAS website, I was amazed at the interesting subjects that offered to students. This is the only university in London that specialises in Oriental and African studies. There are so many detailed categorised curriculums on social sciences. And the academic environment is very diverse with students from all over the world. Moreover, the entry of the ICC programme isn’t limited only to students who have studied relevant subjects before. That’s great news for me, as I used to study science subjects in high school in China. Whilst I was in high school, I gradually transferred my interest from natural science to social science.

Then, I tried to apply without much expectation and, fortunately, was accepted. I am very grateful that the ICC programme provides me with a chance to help transition myself into the university system smoothly in Western countries. This bridges my past to my future. 

Russell Square, by SOAS campus.

I was very excited about the new term.

Being told that the first term would be online as people were still at the risk of the virus, I kind of doubted the quality of the teaching this year. As September approached, I moved out of my cousin’s to Connaught Hall, a student hall available for all students from the University of London. Here, I’ve met many students that are in their first year of the university. Everyone in the hall was so friendly to each other. We talked to each other and had fun together on the freshers’ night. There were not many students from SOAS, but the students from SOAS were so cool that people could recognise them by sight. They dressed stylishly and they did interesting subjects at university. Some girls I know do Korean studies and Chinese studies.

On the ICC programme, the academic environment is very diverse and tolerant too. We have students from around 20 countries. The teachers are very welcoming to everyone. In my class, we have a girl of 27 years old who is passionate about politics. My classmate Xiaotong Dong told me that she had studied Art last year, but now she wanted to study Politics. Just like me, she has also transferred into politics through the ICC programme smoothly.

This week, the online courses have started officially. The lecturers also record the courses in case some people miss the class or would like to review them.

The teachers all have their own teaching styles. My Economics teacher, Samuel Martin, is very humorous. He shared his chess account with us, and invited us to play chess with him. My Politics teacher, Gareth Bentley, is always good at getting the students active and engaged in the class discussion. The content we talk about in class is so interesting. Everyone shares their unique view and the others listen carefully. It was so much fun and I have already learnt a lot from the talk. I am looking forward to more communications with my classmates and teachers in the next weeks.

In order to make the most of the online lessons, students should try to find a well-connected wifi environment and turn on the camera. The face-to-face reaction is more helpful for communication with both the classmates and the teacher!

Euston Church, ICC students
Euston Church, near SOAS campus.

There are also many interesting societies in SOAS. Many of them have their own platform on Instagram or Facebook. I have joined the Film Society so far. I saw their previous posts that talked about films together. Although our life is still being affected by the coronavirus, the societies are trying to reopen and gather more students virtually to participate right now. Hopefully, we will have more activities organised in the future.

2020 is a special year. I joined the ICC programme luckily. Yet, it is challenging. We are still having online courses now and many of the ICC students are in their home countries. We still need to maintain social distancing with people. However, I believe that if we all make efforts and have hopes – we can make sure life is just as good as always.

Find out more about SOAS’s ICC programme and the Foundation Year.

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