Maria Isabel from Colombia, MA in Education
Maria Isabel Gutierrez Ceballos is from Popayán in Cauca, Colombia. She gained her BA in Modern Languages from Caldas University in Colombia, before moving to the UK to study for an MA in Education Leadership and Management at Bath Spa University. Here, she explains how a love of Shakespeare and Austen shaped her dream – and how she found the financial support she needed to make it a reality.
What made you want to come to the UK to study?
For a long time I have dreamed of being able to come to the UK – some of the reasons why include my love of British literature, art and history! I love being able to study in a castle (because Bath Spa University is a castle), and being surrounded by the beauty of Georgian and Victorian architecture. I also wanted to experience living in the same country that inspired William Shakespeare and Jane Austen!
Another reason I wanted to come to the UK for my postgraduate studies is because of the excellent status of UK higher education internationally. Most UK universities have a world-class reputation, I think, and are amongst the world leaders for research, innovation and quality. I think there’s a real focus over here on helping students to develop their critical thinking skills.
Finally, as an English language learner, the UK provides me with a wealth of opportunities to practise and perfect my English.
What was the application process like for you? Did you receive support from your UK university or home institution?
At the beginning, the whole process felt a bit like being on a roller coaster! As a Colombian citizen, I think there is a tendency back home to assume that studying in the UK is just a dream which is very difficult achieve. In my case, when I started applying for university I found myself facing a few uncertainties including the visa application process, financial aid and scholarships, etc. But I have to say that Bath Spa University – both in Colombia and in the UK, especially all the people working in the International Office – were so helpful.
When I first thought about the amount of money (especially when converted into Colombian pesos!) a degree in the UK would cost, it seemed that I would never be able to save enough. Then I talked to someone at the uni, and they gave me all the support, information and motivation I needed to work towards being financially able to attend. I did what they told me and here I am!
I feel that Colombian students need to be aware that there are systems in place to help them with financing a UK education, such as scholarships, students’ loans, and grants. You just need to do a little research and ask for help and advice from the UK institution that you’re applying to.
How do you think studying in the UK has or will improve your career prospects in future?
I think studying abroad has been incredibly beneficial to my career prospects because it has helped me to be more open-minded. It has helped me to see my homeland from a new perspective, share my culture and heritage with new people and see how my skills and experience can be used to benefit its future development.
In my subject area of education, studying in the UK has helped by providing a platform for me to compare other educational systems with that of Colombia, highlighting areas in which we could share knowledge, and areas in which we can improve.
Studying at a UK institution has also helped my English language skills, in the way I both write and speak. The lecturers and tutors at my university have been a huge inspiration as they all teach as well as write and present papers on a regular basis. This has greatly influenced the way I work.
What advice would you give a student from Colombia wanting to study in the UK?
I would say that big things in life take time, and sometimes we have to pass many obstacles, but at the end of the trip, everything is a reward. I would tell them that there is no regret, only the satisfaction of having reached your goal – experiencing, living, meeting, visiting and growing up. There is a lot to learn from the UK’s culture and its people. This is a remarkable experience, and everything is possible if we work for it.
What is student life in the UK really like? How does it differ from Colombia?
Living in the UK is like living in a tidy “middle ages” world full of culture and a variety of nationalities! There are people living here from all over the world; you get to identify different accents and learn how to cook different traditional dishes. The food in the UK is very diverse – you’re able to eat all sorts of national cuisines and when I’ve been to London I’ve even found Colombian food!
As a Colombian, the weather in the UK is a really interesting phenomenon. It’s such a contrast to back home to feel the changing of the seasons, especially in autumn and winter. In autumn, the colourful leaves transforming from green to oranges and browns is just magical, and the snow in winter is something I’ve always wanted to experience!
I also love going for picnics in local parks during the British summertime, or just being able to sit and read a book under a tree. Public transport in the UK is very organised and on time, and you learn to say “thank you” all the time!
If you like to write or read like I do, the UK also offers up some really inspirational places to visit, such as the beautiful landscapes of the Lake District, lovely seaside towns and picturesque national parks. Watching the sunset in one of these places is an incredible experience.
Do you think living in a multicultural place has been beneficial to you?
I think that my experience of studying with people from different countries, including people from Africa, Belgium, England, the USA, Denmark, Holland, and other places, has been truly remarkable. I have had the opportunity to share my culture, and learn from people from all over the world! I’ve made many friends from other nationalities and our university seminars were definitely a full experience of intercultural exchange.
What has been your best experience whilst living in the UK?
I don’t think I could name just one as my best experience. It’s been a mixture of many things, including being able to connect with the British outdoors and experience nature and weather here. Meeting so many new people has been wonderful. Being so close to British history, culture and literature, and experiencing where some of my favourite authors and historians once lived, would just be naming a few of the experiences that I think have changed my life – in a good way!
Living in the UK, there is always something new to learn and to share with others. To be given the chance to learn and to be more culturally open-minded has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life.