USA, international foundation followed by BSc (Hons) Hospitality Management
Having a placement year helps you to gain extra experiences to put on your CV or resume.
Nickolas Sigler - USA, international foundation followed by BSc (Hons) Hospitality Management
Why did you choose Oxford Brookes?
I had never seen Oxford Brookes. Since I used to live here, I only knew Oxford city centre and Cowley - that’s as close as I got to Brookes. I just went on a limb, applied online when I went back to the States and I got accepted to a pathways foundation course. I got my high school diploma and two A Levels but not enough A Levels to get to university.
Did you like studying on a foundation course?
I loved it, it was the best thing ever. I met everyone I knew, we’re still friends now, we’re all a good group. I made friends with students from everywhere – Russia, China, Zimbabwe, another American, a French students. It was crazy cool, so I loved it, every minute. I still miss it. I still see the foundation lecturers. I see them outside of campus and they still come up to me and talk and like, ‘How’s everything?’ and I’m like, ‘Still good, still good’. So it’s like a family, I loved it.
What did you find useful about the foundation course?
For foundation, you start off small so you can kind of learn uni with other people in a small community. And then you take the step to the first year of your degree and then you just grow together.If you had questions or anything, they were always there for you. And it was much easier than stressful. It was challenging but it wasn’t too challenging; just to get you on par with your undergrad year.
The tutors are like your best friends and then you also have your best friends from the course. It’s a real community. The International Centre was like your oasis, like your place to go to, like a safe haven. Foundation was great. I don’t regret it.
I feel like you get literally a foundation, a little stepping stool before going into it. So you have something to fall back onto. So if you have any problems in first year, you can still come back to the international centre and ask for support and they’ll still be there for you. So I thought that was the best thing.
Would you recommend US students take a foundation?
I’d recommend foundation if you don’t have the A Levels or qualifications to get straight into uni. I’d say take a foundation if you can and if you need that extra assistance or helping hand. It’s just another stepping stone so you just build that foundation and it helps you transition better so you don’t just dive in head-first.
What do you like about your bachelor’s degree?
The best thing is the Brookes Restaurant. I love it. Our course has practical work as well as lectures and things like that. So first year, you have to do a semester in the kitchen and one semester front-of-house, which is quite nice. It’s great because you don’t feel like you’re always in a lecture room or just studying books and in the library. You do wine-tasting and learn things about wine and fine dining for your first semester. And then the second semester is learn recipes, how to coordinate, work with team members and be head chef for a week.
When I first did foundation, I did the International Foundation of Arts, and then I just randomly chose one of the electives, which was a hospitality tourism module. I did it for a semester and loved it. I got great grades, the lecturer loved me so I switched to the International Foundation Business and Technology and then just went straight into Hospitality
I really like the mix of practical and studying, such as working in the restaurants and getting that experience. And I like the community as well, because we hospitality students, we’re all very close
Your tutors are like your parents. They are always concerned ,they really want to get to know you from a more in-depth perspective, instead of just a number, a student number. And then you had your friends that you met, which made you less homesick.
Did you like taking a placement year?
Having a placement year helps you to gain extra experiences to put on your CV or resume. Instead of just doing a uni course, they force you to have a placement year. And then there’s a module to reflect on that placement and see how you’ve grown. But the module reflects on everything you’ve done and brings everything together such as your skills that you’ve learnt by yourself. You realise you’ve gained lots of independent skills.
Where did you do your work placement?
I did my placement in Witney, near Oxford.I studied in a gastropub called The Fleece, which is part of the Peach pubs company. I gained loads of time management, learnt how to be a team player, be independent and just learned more about myself. And then you come back to university and you feel a little bit more grown-up. And you feel more established, like, ‘I know what I want when I finish my degree’.
What do you like most about living in Oxford?
How it’s not too big. Oxford is big but it’s not the biggest. I find it just right, the right size. So it takes 15 minutes on the bus to get straight into city centre, or you can walk into Cowley and it’s all different kind of areas. And then you have the secret pubs tucked away and it’s just full of secrets. That’s what I love about it. And you try finding it every now and then so it’s a little gem to find. That’s why I like Oxford.
So do you have a favourite place in Oxford?
Cowley Road’s just my favourite because it’s very multicultural, very diverse... you see different shops from everywhere. There’s a lot of Syrian shops opening up and I just love because there’s just so many varieties, different cultures and ethnic food, just in your face. So you can try different foods from different worlds, it’s just on my doorstep.
Are you involved in any clubs or societies?
This year, I made it a goal, like a New Year’s resolution, to join a society. And so I joined Dance Society. I loved that. It was interesting, trying to get into it. It was mostly just first-year students. And you just pay £5 and you can do any of the classes they have, so street, tap, fitness, which was quite nice. So if you don’t want to pay for the gym at Oxford Brookes, you could just do the Dance Society and they have a fitness class that goes for an hour.
What do you like about studying in the UK?
I like it that you can just take trips to Europe, go to London and everything’s at your fingertips. You can go to Paris or you can take a flight and go to Italy. You can’t do that in the States, that’s a long trip.
Have you recommended Oxford Brookes to other international students?
All the time when as a student ambassador. If I see anyone, I’m just like, ‘Oxford Brookes, Oxford Brookes’. And then also, when I did my placement, there was people trying to do my course, as well. I told them to come on open days and they did so I saw them on open days.
Overall, sum up your experience of studying at Oxford Brookes
I just loved the experience and I just like the UK. Brookes in general just has been the best experience and I still have one more year left to go. And in my head, I am generally getting sad that it’s coming to an end. I have one more year but still, that last year’s just going to go by so fast. So I'd say, make the most out of everything. Brookes has just been so great – supportive, experienced, craziness, amazingness. It’s just everything. I will look back and love coming to visit Brookes, ten years from now, to see how it is. It feels like home, it is your home. Even if you’re here for three years, four years or five years, like myself, you will keep coming back.
If you went back to 2013, if you see me in that International Centre reception those years ago, I’m a totally different person. I’m more confident now, more sure of myself, more outgoing. I’ve just adapted so much to Oxford and the UK, as well as sticking to my American roots. So it’s kinda like I’m just a mix of everything.