Ahead of this year’s university application cycle, international students at the INTO London World Education Centre escaped a dreary, late-January afternoon to attend the Centre’s seventh annual Progression Fair.
Held at Chapter Spitalfields, the residence INTO students share with other international students in the heart of London’s East End, the event gave students the chance to learn about the vast array of programmes on offer directly from university representatives. With 62 of INTO’s affiliate universities in the United Kingdom represented, and with 140 INTO students in attendance, it was the largest progression fair the Centre has had to date.
The excitement in the air befit an event that served as the logical next step for a cohort of students in the process of determining the universities to which they will apply. Easha Saudulla, a student from the Maldives who is currently completing the International Foundation in Business, Management, and Law, saw the Fair as an opportunity to inform her online research into law programmes with human interaction:
“Since all the course information is available online, this is more about going beyond that to get a feel for the culture of each university,” Easha said.
Many students in attendance shared Easha’s sentiment, looking for a personal connection to not only clarify programme information they had found online but tip the scale in favour of certain universities.
“Today is all about the first impression,” said Siti Hawa Qistina Binti Noor Zakri of Malaysia, who is in the International Foundation in Accounting and Finance. “How these people represent their universities is a big part of why we should go there.”
Edgar Chan, a student from Hong Kong who is completing the International Year One (IYO) in Business, also emphasized the importance of human interaction at this stage of the decision-making process:
“It’s just the experience—that you can talk to someone who represents the school. From how they sound, how they talk, you can feel how the school actually works and what the culture would be like.”
The Fair marked a turning point for some students, prompting them to open their minds to the possibility of applying to universities other than those they had initially committed to applying. Such was the case for Voon Foo Jin, a student from Brunei completing the International Foundation in Business, Management, and Law:
“Before, I was just considering London. Now, I have expanded my thoughts toward places like Birmingham, where I have family. There are a lot of universities closer to places I want to be that I just didn’t know about.”
Following the event, Nobby Nelson Obuya, a Kenyan student in the International Foundation in Science and Engineering, admitted that he may apply to more universities than he had originally set his sights on:
“When I came to the U.K., I was sure I wanted to study mechanical engineering at the University of Manchester,” Nobby said. “INTO London has opened my mind. Now I think I want to stay in London for university because we have such a community here.”
As was clear from their interactions with university representatives, students came to the Fair poised to get the information they needed to make the life-changing decisions ahead of them. Their well-informed questions evidenced not only their eagerness to make the most of this opportunity, but the in-centre support they had received since their arrival in the U.K.
“Our placement team give students the decision-making apparatus and counsel them on what elements should be considered,” Katy Hancock, University Partnerships Manager at INTO, said. “They came prepared to really grill the universities to find out where will be the best fit for them.”
Students’ preparedness was also evident to university representatives. Alberto Demo, International Recruitment Officer at the University of Greenwich, noted that “most students knew what they wanted to study” when they approached him. This meant more in-depth conversations and, Alberto added, “making a personal connection that is key in helping students make the decision.”
His second time attending the Progression Fair, Alberto noticed that the students approaching him were interested in a wider spread of programmes than those the year before:
“I experienced a wider range of subject interest from the students compared to previous years. It was interesting to see they were open to considering study across different disciplines, from business to psychology to animation.”
Naomi Evans, International Officer at the University of Kent, had a similar experience interacting with an increasingly diverse group of students. “We’re always trying to reach students we haven’t before,” she said. “The Fair affords an opportunity to do just that.”
With a larger pool of represented universities and more students to engage with them than ever before, the Progression Fair was a galvanizing event—one during which students in the INTO London World Education Centre saw a field of possibilities materialize before them as concrete ways forward to university. Katy summed it up best:
“There were hundreds of potential futures flying around Chapter on Thursday, and it felt so exciting to watch the students imagining them, asking great questions of the affiliates that refined what they really wanted to get out of their next three years in the U.K.!”
Author: JP Deering
Partner Development and Corporate Communications Coordinator JP joined INTO’s partner development team two years ago. Before joining INTO, JP taught English and composition to international students at the University of Kentucky. Now, he manages INTO’s corporate blog and social media, writes about international student mobility trends, policy, and the goings-on at INTO’s university partners in the US, and handles outreach to potential partner universities and corporate engagement at major conferences.