Alexandra Alvarez

USA, PhD in Biotechnology and Molecular Science

My supervisors are really involved, which is something that you don’t necessarily get in a lot of universities.

Alexandra Alvarez - USA, PhD in Biotechnology and Molecular Science

Why did you decide to study in the UK?
I had done my bachelor’s quite close to where I had grown up, and I decided I wanted to move away, see a new culture. But I wasn’t so adventurous that I felt comfortable in a country with another language, so then the UK was one of the obvious choices. I’d been here before when I was 14 and I loved it, so I thought this is the perfect chance to go back.

Why did you choose to come to Oxford Brookes?
I was researching degrees that I was interested in, and Biotech was the main thing that I had been considering to do. And Brookes offered the degree, so when I saw that it was in Oxford I thought it was perfect, I would love to live in that city. Everything just happened really fast and I sent in an application and I heard back within three weeks.

What are you researching? 
I’m working in the molecular pharmacology lab and I’m doing a project on insecticides and bees and possible effects of what we’re doing to the environment and how this could be affecting bees, helping to kind of shed some light on the recent ban of the EU, what’s been going on. So it’s  pretty contemporary, very exciting.

What is the best thing about the teaching style, what would you say?  
I would say that since the teachers aren’t overwhelmed with huge classes that you get a lot of one on one if you really want to talk to them about something. They have a little bit more of a personal relationship with you because the classes are smaller. My supervisors are always checking in on me, see how I’m doing, coming in the lab, asking me if I have any problems. They’re really involved, which is something that you don’t necessarily get in a lot of universities. 

What do you like most about living in Oxford?
I love the architecture of the city – it’s absolutely beautiful, it’s a wonderful place. My favourite place is Christ Church meadow. You get to sit in a beautiful garden and see the church behind you, it’s beautiful. 

How easy have you found it to settle into life at the university?
I found it really easy actually. I think the hardest thing that I struggled with was how to ride a bus – I’ve never done that before. Fortunately, one of my room mates was just super helpful and he would go with me until I kind of sorted out how the buses worked, because it took me a good few weeks to understand it. Now it’s just obvious ‘this is how you ride a bus’ but I just did not know – so that was scary. 

Would you recommend Oxford Brookes to other international students, and if so why?
I definitely would. The first time I went to the city centre I thought I wouldn’t have wanted to be having classes here if I was part of Oxford University, because it’s very overwhelming. To be a little bit away from the city is kind of a little more relaxed. It’s a very student city though, so you just feel like everyone around you kind of knows what you’re going through. It’s just such a mixture of people and pretty much everyone’s in the same situation as you, so you can find friends really easily.

Any tips for other students?
The tip I have would be to join some societies, because the two closest friends I have I met through the Catholic Society. I think that’s the best way to make friends. You’re going to make friends with your roommates because you have to, but you’re not necessarily going to have so much in common with them. To make real good friendships you need to get involved.