Belgium, BA (Hons) Media, Journalism and Publishing
I chose Oxford Brookes University because at the time it was number one in the league tables for my course. But also when I came to visit Oxford, I’d never been there before and I immediately fell in love with the city and the campus.
Yasmin Arnould - Belgium, BA (Hons) Media, Journalism and Publishing
Why did you choose to come to Oxford Brookes University?
I chose Oxford Brookes University because at the time, it was number one in the league tables for my course and is a very well known university for the publishing department.
Apart from that, when I first came to visit Oxford, I’d never been there before and I immediately fell in love with the city and the campus. Headington campus is just mind blowing!
What's been the favourite thing about your course?
What I love about my course is that it is a really small class. I think there are 45 of us, so it's very easy to have this community feeling. We all chat to each other. We all support each other. We talk about ideas, school work and all of that, which I don't think would be possible if the class was, I don't know, like, 200 or 300 people.
I also like how all my lecturers are really supportive and they support us in any sense, ideas or, if we are not feeling well; we just go to them and have a chat. They're all friendly, and they're just amazing really.
Have you used any of the other university facilities or support services that are available for you?
Because I'm an international student and I haven't been speaking English for so long, I think maybe like 2 or 3 years, I have used the Upgrade facility where people are there and available to help you and go through coursework or whatever you're working on, to help you with English. So I have used that.
How has that been coming to the UK and learning the language and interacting?
So obviously my English has been improving since I was in my first year. I'm a second year student now and when I first arrived, sometimes people would be talking and because of the accents, the different accents, I wouldn't necessarily understand what they were saying, even though I do understand English! But because the accent was so different from what I'm used to, I couldn't understand what they're saying.
But also, like from my side as well, I would say something and because the topic wasn't in the right place of the word, the meaning wouldn't be the same. So sometimes I'd say something and I meant something. But the person will understand something completely different. And that could be funny sometimes and sometimes not. If you're talking to a lecturer in the middle of a lecture, you're making a point and people just ... maybe they will understand you because there are so many other international students at Oxford Brookes university, which is great because that helps the fact that even if you’re not 100% confident with your English, you know that there are other people like you, and that they will understand you. So I really like that, which makes me less uncomfortable with my language difficulties.
What are your favourite things about Oxford and what makes this city so special?
I noticed that our campus is up in the hill and it's so calm here, however, I love being in the city, and it's almost like when you are in the city you are away from the study environment, you’re just there to enjoy and have fun. And then when you go up the hill, it is so calm and you find a very nice study environment. And I think that the city is beautiful obviously.
What do you think of British food?
I wouldn't say that British food is my favourite because I'm originally from Brazil. I mean, I'm half and half. So I grew up in Brazil for the first 10 years of my life. So food in Brazil has a lot of tastes and a lot of explosions and everything. But the British food is quite plain!
However, there is a very nice Brazillian restaurant in Oxford, which is very nice to go sometimes because I also have some Brazilian friends in my course. And when you go there it's like a little bit of home in Oxford, which is very nice, and there are also like Spanish places or Chinese places where you can find different types of food.
I think Oxford, this is something that I love about the city and the university, is that it's so cosmopolitan and multicultural. There are people from everywhere, all ethnicities from any part of the world. You go around the campus, people talking so many different languages... I love that about Oxford Brookes and Oxford in general. So if you go on Cowley Road there are so many different sorts of restaurants and I think if you're from any part of the world, you'll find something that you would like and it will make you feel like you’re home.
How was it making friends at Oxford Brookes University and meeting new people?
I would say that I'm quite an extroverted person, so it wasn't very hard for me to go around and just talk to people. But also I think that all the people on my course are all a bit like that too. We are all studying journalism and we’re all interested in communicating and sharing ideas and all sorts of things. So I think it wasn’t that hard at all.
But there are also other sorts of places at Brookes where you can meet friends. I mean you can sit at the library, and there's someone next to you and you start talking or you get into society or there are so many events as well at Brookes. For example, at the Freshers’ Fair, you see people that are interested in the same sort of things as you are, even if they're not necessarily on your course. Just start talking to them and sometimes they can become very good friends!
Did you join a sports team or get involved in any societies?
I joined the water polo team, and it was great because at first I had never played water polo before! I could barely swim, if I can say! So I just went there and asked them, ‘Do I need a certain level’? They went ‘no, just come in, it would be fine!’ And, indeed it was very fun and everyone was so welcoming! I met people from all courses, all years and all levels.
If you feel comfortable going to games, you can go, however, if you don't feel comfortable going to a game, you don't have to go.That's something I really like about it.
Apart from that, there are also socials. Our socials were every Wednesday and that's another very fun part of it because you see all your sports teammates outside the pool, which is very nice as you can make friends out of the sports environment, which is very nice and obviously you have lots of fun.
Did you get a chance to do any work experience? Or did you get a job to help you pay for your expenses?
I didn't necessarily get any work experience related to my course. But I did get a job, I mean, I got two jobs! I'm a student ambassador for my course, which I do occasionally anything that I can get involved with as a student ambassador for my course, I do.
It's very nice when you do student ambassador events. You meet people from any course, so I made friends with people from law, people from sports science, engineering. So it's very nice that you always get to meet new people because they're so many different ambassadors at Brookes and we don't always work at the same time. So every time I worked at an event, I always met someone new.
Also I got a job in catering through an events company that works in Oxford. And I did quite a few events, as for example, I worked in Brookes Terrace. I also did a few events at Oxford University such as conferences, and all sorts of events where I participated as staff for the catering company.
What does a typical student day look like at Oxford Brookes University?
On a day where I have water polo training, I would say I wake up, go to lectures and then have some food. That's a very nice part about Brookes, as there are so many places to get food there on campus and sometimes, I don't know where to go to eat because there's so many places! After lunch, then I go back to my lectures, go home and I get ready for sports. After sports, I come back home and by the time you come back from the water polo training, you just want to go to bed.
What I really like about the universities in the UK, is that your timetable isn't completely full, so you have time to place in sports training, a job or any other extra activity you would like to do! There is always a place to put it there in your time table, which is very nice.
I would say that in a typical day in my life, I would never have time to get bored. Except nowadays, obviously we are in a pandemic, and you have to stay in. But in normal times, let's say, I don't have a lot of time to get bored in my room. I always have something to do, like doing course work or going out with my friends or joining water polo training or working in any of my two jobs! There is always something to do!
Where did you live when you first came to Oxford Brookes University?
So in my first year, I lived in halls on Cowley Road, it’s such nice accommodation that I got. You have got like a double bed and everything that you need to live with. It was nice because as I mentioned earlier about a Brazilian friend I have on my course, it turned out that we actually live in the same accommodation on the same floor. So that was so fortunate.
It is very nice when you live in halls as you're all students, you all go to the same university and you will have the same sort of interests, you all want to have fun and you're all young. I think also, as an international student, it was my best option, because it's very easy to go through the whole process of booking a room, getting a room and then paying by instalment. I think that is the easiest way to have accommodation and it was so easy, that some friends actually decided to stay in halls for the second year.
I'm still living in Oxford Brookes related halls. So, I liked the experience so much that I kept doing it for my second year, and obviously now I'm back home because of COVID. But I wish so much that I was back in my room because it's completely different, I'm with my friends there, we cook together, we eat together, if I need something or if I need some help, you just knock on the door and I can get it. I miss it a lot and I hope next year will be better.
And talking of the pandemic, how has that been for you as a student?
For the first semester of 2020, from September to December, we had a mix of online and in person teaching. So for lectures we would all be online and then for seminars half the group would be online and half the group would be on campus; that was all they could do! It was great that they managed to do it this way, because we could meet people, we could meet our classmates and we could meet our lecturers, which is amazing because the online experience is completely different.
In my opinion, I think online is OK and I know that they're doing their best. However, the experience is completely different, and the learning experience is different. I think we're learning what we should, but not in the same way as it would if we were in a class. But we're just going along and we're doing what we can to get the most out of it.
Have you managed to keep in contact with your friends and lecturers?
I do, yes. So what we do with my friends is that we have, like, a weekly meeting with a set time and we say, “OK, let's have a Zoom meeting!” and then we just chat about life, not specifically about coursework or whatever.
Obviously we talk every day, we have a group chat for the course and for other friends, and I think that's been essential during this difficult time in making university sort of look like a proper university, even though it's all online!
However, when I need help for coursework or anything, I either get in touch with my lecturers, and as they feel that they are not getting the same amount of contact and interaction with us through online lecturers, they're so willing to help us and support us when we need help.
Do you have any top tips for any other international students?
For future international students, I would say go to any events that Brookes has organised for international students because I've missed some of them, and I wish I'd been there because every single event talks about different sorts of topics, and they're all useful!
From student finance to student accommodation to transport and Brookes timetables, all those sorts of things are all interesting.
Oxford Brookes helps us with everything so, if you need help, just contact the team at Brookes because I needed some information, and I was constantly in touch with them, always asking all sorts of things, so please get in touch because they will help you, and it's very helpful. I think that's my top tip!
And also try to make friends with as many people as you can - be open! I think the greatest tip I can give is to be open minded. Anything that you get in contact with or anyone that you get in contact with, can potentially bring something new to your life. So just be open-minded and everything will work out great!
Don't panic! You're away from home and you'll feel homesick sometimes - it's normal, but you'll get over it and just have fun. I think that's all I can say to any international students that come to the UK - have fun!
Could you describe your time at Oxford Brookes in one word, if you can?
For one word, I'd say exciting! Everything I've done so far is so exciting. Going from my course to my sports team to any event I've participated in. Everything is just so exciting and I never get bored here!