Parallel experiences of a distance learning student in London
Bachelor of Laws graduate, An Gel Siah, visited Senate House to reflect on her scholarship journey, the fantastic opportunity to study in London and her next plan after graduation.
An Gel Siah, known as Angel, hails from Kuala Lumpur. In Malaysia she studied Bachelor of Laws (LLB) via distance learning, scoring top marks and was offered a scholarship to study on campus at King’s College London. King’s is ranked in the top 10 UK universities in the world (QS World Rankings 2020).
Angel loved her experience of studying in the inspiring location of Somerset House where King’s is based near the Thames River. For two years she lived in Camberwell and cycled over Waterloo Bridge on her daily commute to college. This July Angel visited Senate House just before her graduation and spoke to us about her journey to London and her future plans.
What influenced do you study the LLB and why did you choose to study law with the University of London? “I will say it is a combination of several things. The main thing was law was one of the subjects I took for my A levels and you study contract and tort law. I realised how practical it is in a sense where you can see law happening in everyday life and people don't realise it. I thought it would be a good degree to go into more. Also, none of my family have studied law. The fact I did not come from a family of lawyers like a lot of professional of lawyers do is something that is pretty cool.”
“In Malaysia you study in a public or private university if you want to be a lawyer. Public university has limited spaces and I could not get into there so private was my only choice. Also, Malaysia used to be colonised by the English legal system so it is really influenced by that and I wanted a UK degree but financially I couldn’t be here physically, so the University of London was the only way to go with an accessible way to getting a UK degree.”
Angel felt blessed on receiving the scholarship, that the process went smoothly and her family were so excited. “I made my decision in a few minutes, and definitely did not have to think about it. Coming here in the first year I was transitioning as it is very different."
"At first there was more focus on the academies but in time I realised it is also the mind set here. It is such an international community so people really like it if they do come. If they are not as lucky as me, people do invest a lot to come here and when they invest that much they expect a lot out of it as well so it is a really competitive scene.”
Angel said law students get direct access from King’s to Somerset House and all yearly events on the doorstep. Somerset House is a glorious building with a magnificent courtyard. When she arrived in September and transitioned into winter she enjoyed the ice skating in the courtyard and all the culture highlights London has on offer.
How was studying abroad different from studying in your home country? “I guess there are two sides to that. The classroom is more independent in the UK, I think that is for a good reason. You challenge the way you think and your own opinions compared to being at home. Outside of classroom, there is space to grow personally, to start from scratch on your own and a time where you think ‘what do I really look for in life and where do I want to go next'?"
What are you enjoying most about your study experience? Have you faced any challenges? “The culture is the main thing. If I really must sum it up in one sentence, it would be the fact that you can be yourself here, simply it is such an international and diverse community. Where no one judges you, and it is the place where you explore a lot of things."
“It is also trying to balance many things at the same time. Yes you are trying to prepare for classes and you want to join some societies. That was my biggest challenge at university as a full-time student on campus.
I think it is really the space it provided and the atmosphere it provided. It is the people that you meet that really changed my mind on many things. It helped me make a lot of decisions I will probably would not make if I was not here. So it helped me discover an area I want to specialise in in future. That is through speaking to many different people and going to events that the university provides.
How did you feel about the level of support provided, including access to materials and resources in your first year of distance studies? “Distance learning was online and I would say the subject guides were really, really good. That was a great way to get to know the syllabus. I think the blogs were great too, the blogs from writers and law specific."
“Studying at King’s, you definitely don't have materials like that, we are supposed to make our own. Our main source of materials are text books. The support system is great where you can always have one to ones with tutors. That is where I think I really learnt when I had questions and staff could talk me through and they are there for core hours in the day. Personally I guess that is quite subjective and it has been my way of studying, I know that some students are not as comfortable doing one to ones.”
Do you have any tips to impart, specifically for distance learners? “Yes planning, and to be organised and disciplined. Have a social life but know when to do the right thing. And also know how to answer exams, like the structure and how you present your answer, because at the end of the day it comes down to that three hours sitting in a hall.”
“For essay questions you only prepare one for each topic and that goes on throughout the year. Up until a few days before the exams if I have an idea I will add it in. For problem questions when I first started I might take a day to do the first one. As time went on I took less and less time, I remembered the structure that I typically used or included so it became easier.”
Would you recommend studying the LLB programme through the University of London? “I would definitely say yes. It is really accessible and you add a qualification if you are a working professional in a completely different industry. If you can't physically be in London and be a full time student, it is accessible to everyone of all age groups and all walks of life.”
Corporate finance wasn’t something she considered in the beginning, but through law firms and networking events, these steered her to specialise in this area. It’s a fast, exciting and innovative pace that also appeals to Angel.
Apart from her studies, Angel managed to fit in working for the student services at King’s College London. Her interest in corporate finance benefited the role with Money Mentors. She has also learned how to transfer learned skills like communication, reading people and staying professional in different situations. Angel also wrote weekly commercial posts for The Corporate Law Academy.
“It is a great website, we started with a few thousand users and now over 10,000 people using it now.”
After her graduation at the Royal Festival Hall on Southbank, Angel plans to head home and reconnect with her family and start some internships:
“I will register for a qualifying paper directly while doing the internships, by this time next year I should be able to get qualified in the jurisdiction and I will be able to start my nine months pupillage to be qualified.”
I guess I will have to say, if it felt like it was just yesterday I got the news to come here. Now it is ending soon I really can't express how grateful I am. This opportunity is just once in a lifetime. It is not something I ever thought that I can get for myself.
London is ranked world’s best city for students for the second year running. Rankings compiled by the global education consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) 2019.
The rankings take into account six categories with London strengths being its high level of employer activity, student diversity and positive feedback from London students.