I was fortunate enough to have an experience in the summer school at University College of London in 2019. During the six weeks in London, I had a great experience of British culture and enjoying the different teaching modes in British. Besides, I gained friendship during the cooperative learning. And the independent oversea study experience helped a lot to my ability in many aspects.
Firstly, let me have a brief introduce on this project. I was interested in British culture and always dreamed to visit London one day. I browsed the official websites of universities in the UK to find information about the different kind of summer school. Basically, most universities have different kind of summer programs, such like credit courses, research exchanges, training courses, and so own. After comparing the material conditions of the university, the price ratio, and the content of the project, I finally applied to the University College of London. Two sessions are offered during the program, each of which includes 45 credit hours and 15 credits (UK system), equivalent to 4 US credits. There are more than 80 modules to choose from, covering the following areas: Brain Science, Computer Science, Crime and Security, Cultural Literature and Art, Economic, Business and Management, Education, Academic English, Geography and Environment, Health, History and Philosophy, Law, Medicine, Politics and International relations, Mathematics, etc.
For the requirements of language, whoever has 6.5 points or above in IELTS can choose most of the courses in both sessions. With 6 points in IELTS, one can choose any course in session two after having the English course in the first session. After referring to the courses related to my own major mathematics, I finally choseEnglish Language Skills for Academic Purposes
and Quantitative Finance - Mathematics in the Investment Banking. The college encourages small class sizes. Take my first session as an example, the summer school split the course into two small classes because there were large number of people choosing the class. The courses were for credit, so each session had a teacher in charge of it. Such arrangement has certain advantages over other kinds of summer programs with multiple teachers. The more contact with the same teacher, the more teacher will know about you. In addition, more chances of communication between students and teacher could be provided in such circumstance.
In the module ofEnglish Language Skills for Academic Purposes, there were some foreign students who are not native speakers of English, but majority of them were Chinese students. The students were also widely distributed in grades, and there were undergraduates and graduate students. Of course, the undergraduates still accounted for the vast majority. The teacher, James, a very kind Englishman, is very easygoing and has the grace and modest temperament of a British gentleman. He teacher sent the handout of the day every day before the class. And other extended materials used in the class and the after-school would be uploaded to Moodle in time (Moodle is one kind of learning management system which is used by many foreign universities). For the learning resources, UCL Summer School students could access the library, student center, etc. with the student ID card during the summer school, and enjoy the same learning resources as the official students. The school also focus on the combination of in-class learning and after-class study. In addition to the study of new knowledge in class, many homework assignments also took a lot of time and energy. The summer school class was basically half a day, and the rest of the time was for the homework. That was why the introduction of the summer school said that each module including 45 hours, but there were 150 hours of study time as a whole in each session.
During the first three weeks, we mainly studied the writing skills for academic articles. We were asked to choose a topic of interest among the four topics given by the teacher, and then find a specific question under that topic by ourselves. The teacher introduced in detail about how to choose the topic, the structure of the article, and the precautions for the speech. After the determination of the topic, students with the same topic had group discussions and used brainstorming to develop ideas to the final question. In the three weeks, we did a total of three pre-class presentations, including a Pecha Kucha (limited time in per page of the slides) introduction, a mid-term article introduction, and an introduction to the final paper. For me who was not very good at having a speech in front of my classmates, such presentation was indeed a challenge especially for a pure English presentation. In addition, I haven’t had training like that before. In other words, this training is my first experience of writing a real academic essay, with the procession from the collection of materials in the early stage, the preparation of the data, and the series of work prepared for the final essay and presentation. I have greatly trained myself and gained a lot of experience during that procession. However, such training is still needed to enhance the skills for academic writing after I came back to my school.
In the "Quantitative Finance - Investment Banking Mathematics", the course focused on some models of stochastic equations. Since the model has a background in finance, for students majoring in mathematics like me who did not have any financial basis before, faced lot of difficulties in the understanding of some relational concepts. And for students in finance-related majors, since the weak of their mathematical foundations, they were not very skilled at solving certain equations and some related operations. Therefore, several of our students in this module spontaneously formed a study group after the class every night consolidating the knowledge that the teacher taught on the day. As excepted, with complementary exchanges and cooperative learning of different professions, the effect was very good. With the high efficiency in grasping new knowledges, we all enjoyed ourselves. The exchange discussion and discussion experience of this study group was also a key achievement in the summer school. Every time’s discussion would always bring new ideas. It is a very good learning method. Moreover, at the same time, the friendship gained during the summer school was also an invisible treasure. In the process of communication with other college students, I not only opened up my horizons, meeting many excellent examples, but also met friends who have nothing to say. The days we had together copying with difficulties and helping each other abroad would surely be a precious memory in the years to come.
During the summer school, in addition to the study of professional knowledge, in the experience of having class with foreign students, I also realized that they are more open-minded in the classroom, who could dare to ask questions, and actively express their opinions. Even for the small questions raised casually, they could also give a detailed and serious answer to the relevant topic. Relatively speaking, most of the domestic students like to think quietly and independently, and do not easily express their opinions without full grasp. Foreign class are also diverse in form. The English courses frequently organize group discussions. Some extended knowledge needs to be thoroughly prepared for the following class in order to have discussions in high quality. The curriculum of mathematics is similar to the domestic teaching mode. The teacher uses the slides and gives some live notes and explanation in class. There are also many courses for practice. When carrying out some practical training, it is the small class system that could basically guarantee that all students to keep up with the progress which could improve the efficiency to some extent. There are also other modules like literature. I heard from one of my friends that their teacher took them to the museum to read poems, visit the author’s former residence in order to have a deeper understanding of their literary works in the specific environment.
I was deeply impressed by the prosperity, tolerance, diversity and openness of London. During the summer school, I paid attention to the mayor of London on Facebook. He said in a video: "London is open. Here in London, you're free to love whoever you want to love and be whoever you want to Be.” London is such a traditional and modern and inclusive city, with hundreds of years of architecture and modern skyscrapers standing together, and it is a city with a long history and also full of vitality, opportunities and challenges. With its own charm, London is attracting people from all over the world to visit and explore.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the school and my college for their financial support. Thanks to the support and encouragement of my parents and friends. Without all their help, I would not have such an unforgettable study experience. The world is very big, we must go out and have a look. Besides, the more we explore, the stronger the feeling we will get that the world is bigger than what we had expected. Life is endless, and the exploration of the world is not limited!