Could you tell us a bit about you, and how you heard about us?
My name is Isabella and I’m 19 years old. I am from a coastal city in China and now I am studying Education Studies at the University of Birmingham. It is the first year of my university experience which is also my first year of studying abroad. I discovered EtonX about 3 years ago, the first year of my senior high school and I was 16 at the time.
How would you describe your soft skills before the EtonX course?
I think instead of saying I did not have soft skills, I would rather say I was scared to show them in public. I was not confident enough to speak in front of people and I did not show my opinion during communication in a group until someone asked for my ideas. I am sure I had so much potential, but I just was not confident to show them.
Had you always planned on going to university in the UK?
I had not always planned on going to university… I was the sort of person who wasn’t sure of my future, I was always fuzzy about it. Eventually, I decided to study in the UK. I think the UK is a country that has a long history in terms of humanity and culture and I felt like studying here would be like exploring a large, new place which would not only educate me but also entertain me.
Did you have any concerns about studying abroad?
I definitely had concerns about studying in the UK. Yeah! The people, the education style, the language, which is not really much, but it still exists. Also the environment. In China, it’s a traditional country but the UK is different and has loads of differences from ours in many aspects. But I think I am good at adapting to new environments. We had great councillors at school who provided us with a lot of support.
Had you experienced “western” style learning before, and how did it compare to what you were used to?
I hadn’t experienced “western” style learning until senior high. In senior high school, I was doing the International Baccalaureate diploma programme, but before that I had only experienced traditional, Chinese style teaching. We would sit in lines, listen to teachers and had very few interactions. I used to like this style to be honest. I preferred receiving information rather than interacting because I used to be shy. EtonX broke such a traditional framework. It was so flexible, and students were able to participate more in lessons.
How did you hear about EtonX?
I was introduced to EtonX in my senior high school by our teachers. My fellow students were not all from my own class, but also students from different classes in my school, so I got to meet a lot of new people that way. I have to admit, at the very beginning, I just wanted to gain more experience and complete some extra-curricular activities because it is compulsory to do extra-curricular activities, but later on, me and my mates discovered the value of the course and that it was so helpful! I think the course worked so well for me, because I have changed so much. I no longer feel scared when I’m speaking in front of people and giving a speech. Also, I am now willing to communicate with others and I also now sometimes can even lead the whole discussion. I would say I’m now an active listener… I not only accept the opinions of others but also raise my own views based on their opinions.
What did you particularly like about the course?
I think the online classes were my favourite part of the course. It’s kind of like university now actually, with lectures and seminars. I found the online classes prepared me for university seminars as, typically, after each lecture at university we talk to each other in a tutorial, but the online classes were not as formal as university seminars. I enjoyed them, it was nice to have a chit chat, as well as learning new stuff. Also, in the online classes there is no knowledge learning. The soft skills learning was not exactly teaching, but sort of guiding and leading. The tutor used slides to help us build understanding, and there would be activities, as well as individual work and also some group work.
What was your tutor like?
My tutor was called Nina Morris, and she was really helpful. She prepared really well for every tutorial. She printed out a graph of different skills that I was expected to gain, like communication, active listeners, ICT etc. She always had a really positive mood which influenced me a lot and she also guided me how to use my e-portfolio effectively. When me and my classmates were having discussions, we all raised different views and it enriched my horizons to a certain extent.
How has your EtonX course benefited you in your life?
I can really tell at random points how the course has helped me. I no longer feel stressed when preparing for a speech or a presentation. Just suddenly I realised, wow it does really help. I became more confident, as I mentioned, and was willing to communicate and collaborate with others. From a kind of a utilitarian perspective, I wrote this piece of experience into my personal statement when applying for university, and I think this was really helpful.
And finally, if you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
If I could meet any historical figure, I would say a normal lady from maybe 1950s, who lived in the countryside of China. I think the people who lived in that time were all poor but with hopes. The history that we know is always from the perspective of famous people, and I really want to know an ordinary person’s views of the history at the time… of family and culture and the whole country in general. I think that would be really interesting!