Lioba Berndt

Lioba Berndt tells us more about her choice to study in London, her experience of living abroad and her favourite activities in her free time.

First of all, congratulations on winning the British Council IELTS Award, Lioba!

Can you tell us something about yourself and your background?

Whenever I tell people that I grew up in Berlin, they associate it with this huge, super fast city. But that was not my reality. To be precise, I grew up in Lichterfelde West. Living in Lichterfelde West does not seem like living in a large city at all. It is rather rural. So, I had the advantages of being really fast in the city centre but I also was used to the nature and the silence. 

I finished school in 2017 and I spent the year after my graduation trying to figure out, what I wanted to do in my future. This was not easy for me because in school I used to be an allrounder. I was getting good grades in almost all classes, but I didn’t have a specific passion or at least something that I was profoundly interested in. So, I started studying chemistry which I didn’t like at all. Then, I changed to International and Cultural Business Studies, which was incredibly interesting, but I didn’t feel passionate about it. Consequently, I dropped out again and started my BSc in Psychology in 2019. For the first time, I felt like I had found something that I was completely enthusiastic about. And I still feel that way. I have just finished my Bachelor´s degree in Psychology at the University of Potsdam and I am now going to start my Master´s degree in London. 

What are your study plans for the upcoming year? 

The upcoming year, I am going to do my MSc in Clinical Neuroscience at the University College London (UCL). The master’s degrees in the UK often only take one year which is timesaving but challenging, as well, because you still must complete 180 credits in one year. Accordingly, my next year will be packed with taught classes, including e.g., Statistics, Basic Neuroscience and Higher Functions of the Brain. However, most of my time I will be spending on my research project about which I will be writing my final dissertation. For my research project, I am planning on doing a clinical study. So, a lot of my research will be taking place in the university hospital. 

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I have always wanted to go and live abroad. Originally, I had always had the plan to do a gap year abroad after finishing school. But when I graduated, I felt very disorientated, overwhelmed, and scared with all the different study possibilities. Therefore, I decided to focus on figuring out what I want to do in my future rather than going abroad for a whole year and I only went for five weeks. These five weeks in Costa Rica remain vividly in my memory and taught me a lot about different cultures, travelling alone and about myself. 

During my Bachelor´s degree many of my colleagues did a semester abroad. I was also thinking about going, too, but then I decided that in order to get the full experience of studying abroad, I wanted to do a whole degree in another country. 

Why did you choose London as your study destination?

I have already been to London when I was 13 years old, and I immediately fell in love with the city. I was really intrigued by the idea of returning to London to study. I applied to several programs in the UK, but the MSc in Clinical Neuroscience at UCL was my number one application. On the one hand, because UCL is among the highest ranked universities worldwide, especially in the field of neuroscience and on the other hand because the programme combines taught classes and practical applications. So, when I got accepted I didn´t have to think twice and happily accepted the offer. 

What impact do you want to make after finishing your degree?

In a world, in which the pace of life is constantly getting faster, in which perfectionism has become a standard and often the value of oneself is measured by performance, supporting mental and physical health is indispensable. Therefore, clinical neuroscientific research is fundamental in order to create awareness and acceptance for how we as human beings function. Furthermore, it lays the foundation for promoting health including the neurobiological level. I am planning on continuing with a PhD in clinical neuroscience after my master´s degree. In general, I would like to contribute my part to an active and healthy society by becoming a researcher for clinical neuroscience. Ideally in the future, I will be able to combine researching and teaching in order to not only promote (mental) health with my own research but by stimulating prospective students to undertake their own research and, therefore, having an extended impact on society. 

How were your first days in London?

My first days in London were: overwhelming, exhausting and incredibly inspiring.

Not only has London a lot to offer but the welcoming week of UCL exceeded all my expectations. There were Taster sessions for everything, including e.g., volleyball, dodge ball, salsa, pole dance, kickboxing and so on. My calendar was packed with one event after another ranging from academical discussions and book crawls to club nights. Universities in the UK definitely offer a wider range of societies, social events and other activities than I have ever experienced in Germany.

How has Covid-19 changed your study decision?

Covid-19 has not affected my study decision at all. However, it still does affect the life of studying. At UCL all lectures are in-person lectures, but a lot of the exams remain online. Also, while entering the lecture hall we still must wear masks because we are crossing a hospital. 

But apart from from these little changes, studying in the UK is back to normal. 

Based on your experience so far, what would you tell young people who are thinking about studying abroad?

I know that going abroad can be scary. There are a lot of questions that might pop up in your head like: Am I good enough? How should I pay for all of this? What if I fail? 

But none of these doubts should hold you back. If you are thinking about going abroad it might seem like a complete overload. I would recommend starting step by step. First, think about where you want to go. Then, narrow it down by looking deeper into which programmes the different universities offer. Once you have decided for a programme that you want to apply to, find out what documents or tests you need in order to do so. After collecting all the required documents, apply. And that´s it!

Of course, there is also the financial part that should not be underestimated. But let me tell you, from my experience there are a lot of financial support opportunities like scholarships (I can highly recommend the IELTS Award ;) ), governmental support (in Germany for example BAföG), Erasmus etc. Financing your study abroad requires time, energy, and calmness, but should not stop you from doing this once in a life-time opportunity.

How did you hear about the IELTS Award?

In my application process, I had to provide language evidence by taking an English language test. When I then checked the different test possibilities that were accepted by UCL, I found the IELTS Test + Award. And I thought: why not take a test that is beneficial for my application and my financial situation?

How did you learn about IELTS? Why did you choose this test and what was your experience with the test?

I literally found out about the IELTS test by googling it. There are three main reasons why I chose the IELTS.

  1. It is the standard language test in the UK. Therefore, it is accepted by every university in the UK. So, you don’t have to check every single programme that you are applying for whether it accepts the IELTS test or not. Because they do.
  2. There are many online materials that help you to prepare for the IELTS test and to get used with the format of it.
  3. Last but not least, the chance of winning the IELTS Award made it even more worthwile.

Would you recommend the IELTS test to students who are aiming to study abroad?  

I would highly recommend doing the IELTS test if the degree that you are applying to requires a language test. There are many materials for preparation and the level of expectation is communicated clearly. Accordingly, there are no surprises. 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I am very social person. So, most things that I do in my free time include other people. I really enjoy spending time with friends and family (as I suppose most people do), for example going for a walk together, just talking, having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. In addition, I am enthusiastic about dancing and sports in general and I have recently discovered my passion for photography. Also, since I am a people-person (and sometimes I tend to be a people-pleaser) I do a lot of volunteering work. This work is important to me because it constantly reminds me of the necessity to support a healthy and an equal society.

Thank you Lioba for the interview. We wish you every success in your studies in London! We are looking forward to hearing more about your experience in the coming months.


Lioba Berndt