When Stephanie Le stepped into a study abroad fair in her home country Vietnam, she was hoping to find the right university for her future. There, she met staff from Aberystwyth University and found out all the reasons why she should study there.
“I felt a deep enthusiasm, passion, friendliness, and kindness from the university’s representative,” she shares. “From our first meeting, I truly believed that if I chose to study and live in this university and this environment, I’d find my sense of belonging.”
Le then looked into Aberystwyth, or Aber as the locals call it, and found a university that is truly one-of-a-kind. First established in 1872, Aber sets itself apart as the first Welsh university. It’s been named a top 40 University in the UK in 2022. This, plus teaching excellence, affordable tuition fees, free accommodation for international students and a safe campus, makes for a university that attracts talented, passionate people from all over the world.
International students at Aber get the best experience possible through the International Foundation Certificate. They gain the knowledge, as well as the academic and language skills they need to succeed at a UK university. The Certificate has two routes: a 30-week course with start dates in September and January, and a 15-week Fast Track option in January.
The International Foundation Certificate is flexible. It offers five foundation pathways, which include a mixture of subjects within a particular field. These are: Business; Computer Science; International Politics; Theatre, Film and Television; and Law and Criminology. It’s a great option for those who have not decided what they want to study at university yet but want to explore their options.
Each foundation pathway is taught by academics who are subject experts from academic departments in the university. Similar programmes offered by other universities are often managed by outside, private providers. Aber foundation students, however, can get a sample of their future undergraduate programmes and get to know their future lecturers — all before the start of their first year.
It’s this programme that Le decided on — and one she hasn’t regretted since. “My first day was full of excitement since it was my first time living in a foreign country, but I was also worried. There were lots of differences in lifestyle, weather, and culture,” she explains. “After one year [on the programme], I was fully adapted, and my study life has never been happier. I made new international friends, got to know new cultures, studied lots of new things, and became more mature and independent.”
What Le found most useful, however, was the English language and academic skills tuition she gained from the International Foundation Certificate, which improved her English language and helped her understand what it’s like to study at a UK uni. “I was very confident with my English when I was in Vietnam, but when I actually came to a foreign country to begin my studies, I realised my English skills were average, and it was hard to listen and understand in lectures,” explained Le.
Aberystwyth University knows that many students arriving in the UK have a similar experience to that of Le. For this reason, Aberystwyth also offers six-week or 12-week Pre-sessional English courses which students can take just before starting their degree to build confidence and develop their English language and academic skills.
The International Foundation Certificate and the Pre-sessional English courses are run by Aber’s International English Centre — named the Best English Centre in Wales by The Gazette in 2019. Le learnt the research and writing skills expected in her chosen subject, checked out Aber’s wide range of academic resources, and became confident in presenting. “After one month of going through lots of lectures and communicating with more English friends, my listening skill has significantly increased,” she shares.
Aber also offers integrated foundation options for all undergraduate degrees. These are great for those who already meet the English language requirements and know what they want to study at the undergraduate level. At Aber, every student has the opportunity to prove themselves — which is why the integrated foundation is designed for those who have not made the grades for a three-year degree, but still wish to get started on their education.
There are more opportunities. Many degrees include an integrated Year Abroad or Year in Industry — where students find out more about their future workplace and the world around them. Choose to study at one of Aber’s partner universities around the world or work with selected “industrial partners” — here, the options are limitless. Students often return with a greater understanding of how to apply their degrees to the real world. They almost always find a job after graduation, earning higher salaries as a result of their experience.
What students remember the most, however, is how welcomed and supported they felt at Aber — a place that quickly becomes home within a few short weeks. Le, who is now in the final year of her undergraduate studies, certainly feels this way. When asked to describe Aber, she answers, “Happy, enjoyable and safe.”