Watch Saskia's inspiring story of changing the world for the better through the power of sports. See what made her choose a Master's programme in Sports and International Development in Edinburgh and how the experience of studying abroad has changed her life.
British Council IELTS Award winners 2017
Follow the journey of our two British Council IELTS Award winners 2017 and find out how the award is helping them to pursue their dream of studying abroad.
The IELTS Award is worth up to GBP 10,000 and supports individuals with their studies worldwide. It can be used for any undergraduate or postgraduate course taught in English. Learn more.
Meet IELTS Award winner Michael and see how he wants to encourage young people to learn about the past. Watch how the award has empowered him to pursue his study abroad dream at UCL in London with a degree in History Education.
We spoke with IELTS Award winner Saskia about her passion for sports, her volunteer work in different corners of the world and her goals for her year in Edinburgh.
IELTS Award winner Michael talks about how he wants to combine his interests in history, teaching and working with young people with a degree in History Education at UCL.
The logistics of moving from one place to another are always hard, but they can become really tricky when you’re crossing borders. This is pretty much true for anything involving A4 paper, from setting up a bank account to enrolling at university, but I promise you’ll get there at the end! So, after a fair amount of hassle, I finally set up camp in South London ready to start my year at UCL Institute of Education.
After weeks of excited waiting for my unconditional offer by the University of Edinburgh, I finally received the happy news! I felt so relieved, because until then all my preparations were still a little unsure - not having had a confirmation for my study program, yet.
I can’t believe it, we’re already half way through the first semester! So far it has been interesting, sometimes challenging, I met many new people, explored different places in Scotland, went mountain biking and spent lots of time at the library, preparing for my classes.
Contrary to my last blog post prediction, the school that UCL have placed me at is actually not in a fancy part of London at all. It’s a comprehensive school in South-West London and has a very diverse intake, both in terms of attainment and social background. Working here has been a really interesting experience so far and it’s made me reflect on some of the differences between the UK and German education systems.
I have always found that Britain feels like an “old” country, a place with a rich heritage that is very tangible in everyday life. You can see this in the architecture of the cities and small towns, the landscape, and the many historical sites run by the National Trust across the country. But you can also see it in the traditions through which people preserve aspects of the past in the present. This is particularly true in November, when Britain is all about remembrance.
November started with a very big day - my first ever mountain bike race! My boyfriend Hans came for a visit from Germany and together, we drove to the Scottish highlands to participate in the Kinlochleven Enduro Race. Scottish mountain bikers collectively agree that this is Scotland’s toughest race: steep, rocky, wet, muddy and slippery. The landscape was stunning - mountains with snow-covered peaks, lakes and the ocean - just as you imagine the highlands to be.
The semester in Scotland follows a different rhythm than at German universities, which means that December is dedicated to exams and handing in essays. My lectures and seminars ended in the last week of November and fortunately, I do not write any sit-in exams in my masters programme. Therefore, I did not need to be around for exams and decided to spend Christmas time back home in Germany with my family and friends.
As in most places, Christmas came early to London. Shops started playing Christmas songs in mid-November, and decorations went up in the streets around the same time. As I’m a Christmas enthusiast, I secretly enjoyed this quite a bit – and my first December in London turned out to be a real treat. I even survived doing my Christmas shopping on Oxford Street, which is notoriously busy in the festive season.
The 25th of January is a special day in Scotland as it is the birthday of the country’s most famous poet Robert Burns. The Scots traditionally celebrate the Burns Supper to honour his life. And I was very privileged to have been invited to a proper Burns Night, which was an experience as Scottish as it can get.
January seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye. Spectacular as the New Year’s fireworks in central London might be, my friends and I decided that we didn’t fancy heading into town early in the day to secure a good spot, and neither did we want to get stuck on our way home. Instead, we all met up at our place in the evening and later headed out to a great pub just around the corner to celebrate the new year and everything that it might bring.
It’s the end of February and I expected winter to slowly but surely turn into spring soon, but someone had different plans: The beast from the east. For the last few days, Edinburgh experienced an amount of snow which nobody had seen for over six years. Temperatures were below freezing and the snow covered everything: sidewalks, streets, cars.
London is not particularly well known for beautiful wintery scenes – but this February, icy winds from Siberia brought life across Britain to a halt and even covered the capital with a thick layer of snow. Rural parts of Britain were hit particularly hard. I was planning to head out to the East of England for a weekend trip but many roads were blocked with broken-down cars and most trains had to be cancelled.
With hindsight, offering your guests to sit on a coffee table because you don’t have enough chairs in your living room really doesn’t sound like a great idea – particularly if said coffee table has very feeble legs. Needless to say, this did not go as intended, and the laws of physics dictated that by the end of the night I found myself trying to fit bits of a broken table into my bin. Lessons had been learnt.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of the greatest privileges of studying at the UCL Institute of Education in London is being able to make the most of the opportunities that regularly arise if you keep your eyes and ears open. One such moment recently came around when the institute partnered up with the charity Blind Veterans UK to bring the history of blinded WWI veterans to the classroom.
After the snow chaos in the end of February, spring is finally on its way. Yesterday, I took the afternoon off from studying at the library and hiked up Arthur’s Seat, a volcanic mountain (or hill) overlooking the city. It was beautiful to enjoy some sunshine at last and I sat down for a while, looking at the city and reflecting on the last few months I have spent here. The semester is coming to an end and so is my time in Scotland. Reason enough to think about what I will take home with me.
May has been a very busy month. I spent the first weekend of the month at a conference on teaching Nazi Germany, organised by King’s College London and the Schools History Project (an important think tank within the British history teaching community).
The last weeks of my course at UCL have been all about ‘history beyond the classroom’. For teachers, it is important that we don’t confine what we do to school itself – we must continue to engage with our subject and education beyond the school gates and beyond our timetable, and for many this is one of the great perks of the job. Unsurprisingly, London has much to offer for anyone who is interested in or passionate about the past.