Similar to lots of students where English is their second language, I used to consider whether it was a good idea to apply for a 10-week pre-sessional programme, before the international foundation year and (upon completion) onto undergraduate degree. Now I am a second-year student in my degree and looking back my journey at Leeds, I believe pre-sessional course advanced my English a lot! In this blog, I want to talk about my experience and useful tips, which I believe will help you make a right choice about studying pre-sessional English at Leeds 🙂
What will you do in the pre-sessional programme?
Before studying abroad, I did not have lots of chances to practice my language skills and read long articles, as most of my high school English education in China was mainly focused on exams. There was not much focus on the English used help you get used to daily life in an English speaking country or degree specific content. However, during my 10-week pre-sessional class I was able to study with others looking to advance their English from other countries (that didn't speak Mandarin!), which provided me a chance to properly practice my language skills. We had group discussions, presentations and report writing, which gave me a chance to apply the language in a diverse range of methods. It helped me expand my interest from the language to also the culture, rather than to only use it to pass a final exam.
Everyone used to be put into small groups with people from different countries, that was done on purpose so you wouldn't get a chance to speak your first language ;). This also gave you a chance to meet new friends and learn how to get communicate well with others, as we all worked closely with each other, we also turned to each other for peer on peer help. For example, we supported each other in understanding the reading, sharing study skills, preparing a group presentation, and even small debates. In my opinion, the pre-sessional programme ensures you enjoy the time and learn English in a fun, more inclusive way. After the pre-sessional programme, I was not scared of any English article anymore! It built up my confidence to get assess to different resources as well, such as the BBC and watching local TV program. I learned how to structure an academic essay and explain my argument clearly in a debate.
During the pre-sessional programme, we didn’t have a massive amount of homework. Instead, our teacher encouraged us to be active and go out to talk with people rather than spending too much time on traditional forms of studying. However, you don’t need to worry about doing this alone! There were different, engaging and interesting events to improve your language skills that take place every day.
For example, one of my favourite events was the short presentation game: there will be a small group of people, each of you will take a turn to stand beside the screen, however you won’t know which photo or photos will come on the screen then you have about ten seconds to tell a story about the photos in front of others. To be honest, I felt so nervous the first few times and I felt that I couldn't even speak English properly. But then I realised all of the students who joined the event had similar feelings with their hands shaking and not knowing what we are talking about. Despite this, we encouraged each other and I felt myself become better day by day.
Another event was book sharing, during which you get a chance to share your favorite book or article to others. Standing in the middle of the group and explaining why you love it with a short introduction, you can build up a valuable interest- reading, which can benefit your whole life. Also, you can make sure that you are fully understand the text as it will be your first time to give a logical explanation, which is one of the key skills when you need to have a group discussion or write essay in the future.
Relax and enjoy your life at Leeds
During the weekdays, it will take you a few hours to do your reading, or research background information for a short debate. Everyday you will have a different task to do so that you won’t lose the motivation to learn. Even if It may be your first time to live in Leeds and the UK in general, there will be student ambassadors to help you begin and enjoy your life, (even if this means virtually for the foreseeable future).
Every Monday and Wednesday, I went to the Global Café or the International Student Club to meet new friends then when it came to the weekend, I joined day trips led by student ambassadors. Trips included small cities/towns such as Cambridge, Whitby, and the Lake district. During the weekends, I got to know more about the city of Leeds, British culture and made lots of friends that have now become my close friends until this day!
The pre-sessional programme is a nice adjustment if your feel you need the improvement on English and helps you navigate the new experience when you first arrive at Leeds by making sure you can focus on building the strong language skills for success.
Usually, it is hard for you to see what opportunities a choice will bring to you. For me, it was the right decision to attend the pre-sessional English programme. I realized I loved presentations and won the championship for presentation competition (yay!). And now, I still keep in touch with my language class tutor and I share my experiences with new students just like student ambassadors did for me when I first arrived. Without the pre-sessional English programme I wouldn’t have had so many of these opportunities and I truly love it.
If you have any questions about the pre-sessional English programme feel free to contact me or visit thei Language Centres website.
Jian Feng 🙂