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Mariana from Peru, MSc in Urban Development Planning

Mariana Fulgueiras from Peru standing in front of the National Gallery in London

Mariana Fulgueiras, 30, from Peru
MSc in Urban Development Planning at
University College London (UCL)

Quick. Simple. Straight to the point. Five reasons that made studying in the UK an amazing personal and academic experience for me:

1. Diversity

Of people, ways of thinking, language, food and even transportation! Being in the UK means being exposed to an endless variety of experiences and points of view, and for me, that had a unique value.

On average, my classes had students from more than 20 countries with a myriad of academic and professional backgrounds. Discussions, group work and case analysis took on a different dimension thanks to the diversity of ideas and perspectives of my classmates. I find it admirable as well, that just as I saw the value of diversity in class, British society seems to have managed to do so in general – diversity is one of its main strengths.

2. Critical thinking

A constant feature during my time in London was sharp critical thinking. Among my teachers, peers and the press, there seems to be a trend of not taking things for granted. Suddenly it was not just thinking outside the box, but also up, down and to the side of it, and even to consider exactly which box we were talking about. The discussions and debates that are generated from unconventional questions and comments were an integral part of my learning process.

3. Libraries

They are amazing! It’s not an overstatement; they seem to be endless. I never had at my disposal such a number and variety of physical and virtual materials to research, and it was a pleasure. Libraries are a crucial part of the academic experience, because UK education promotes independent research.

Universities in the London area, for example, have agreed to allow students to have access to all libraries in a network of 22 institutions. And this is without mentioning the stunning British Library (www.bl.uk), which encompasses a whole world of knowledge.

No matter the subject, you will always find updated and comprehensive information, as well as very nice places to sit down to read. Libraries have also become spaces that go far beyond the books, exhibitions, talks, presentations and samples for everyone. They are more than just a place where information is accessed; they are places where knowledge is shared, making the research experience more social and enriching.

4. Museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres and concerts

London has about 240 museums, but the amazing thing is that since 2001, entry to most of them is free. No matter what topic interests you, it surely has a museum in London. The freedom to access these collections at my own leisure, as many times as I wanted, was amazing. As if that were not enough, we must add the countless galleries and exhibition spaces. From the conservative to the bizarre, the variety sometimes seems almost infinite.

5. The pubs

The pub is a culture of camaraderie that has little to do with alcohol. The habit of going to the pub after work with colleagues, or after class with a teacher, has a democratising effect where, beyond titles or positions, people have a space to extend interesting conversations and get to know each other better. Every street seems to have one, and I daresay that I learned more in pubs, talking with friends and teachers, than in libraries (and I did spend quite some time in libraries!).

As an English friend of mine would say: simply brilliant!

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