Choosing a university in the UK

We interviewed one of our international PhD students, Abeer Alkhwaldi, about choosing an international university and course. Find out about her first experiences of coming to Bradford with her family and what she hopes to do in the future with her degree.

Abeer Alkhwaldi, PhD Research Student, Faculty of Engineering and Informatics

Choosing to study in the UK

In my view, postgraduate studies in a different country will give me more experience than studying in my country. So, I selected the UK as many efforts are being made to make sure that PhD researchers will have the opportunities to be involved with the international research environment.

During my last two years, my views have been confirmed; I’m now more advanced in terms of research and inter-cultural experiences, and English language skills. My study in the UK opened doors for networking with peers and experts in my research area. Having said all this, the most important reasons behind my choice to do postgraduate research degree abroad were the following:

  • A more attractive course structure and duration
  • Gaining the English language skills
  • Internationalising your CV and make it more attractive to employers
  • Exposed to new research methods, techniques and environments

Criteria for choosing my university and course

Making choices for a postgraduate study has always been somewhat complicated, particularly when you have many options to think about. In fact, the main challenge standing between me and my ideal course was the need to pick and choose what could be perfect.

From my own experience, here are some criteria to consider when deciding your future international university and course:

  • Choose the desired discipline based on your future job, the popularity of the course in the university, facilities, ranking and student reviews
  • Consider all the countries or cities that have the most of your desired traits: study programme, available transport, living cost, facilities, and weather
  • Some universities will provide special support services to international students; try to take the benefit from that
  • For postgraduate research degrees, try to find a good supervisor

Why I chose Bradford

During the applying process for different universities, I found the support and guidance on improving my research proposal from the University of Bradford to be the best.

From the students’ reviews and after asking friends, professors, and graduates who already have a previous experience with Bradford they highly recommended the University for many reasons:

  • Structural research environment, leading to successful paths to get future jobs or even complete further studies
  • Engaged in real-world research projects
  • You could be engaged with teaching
  • You will have the chance to gain the skills in teamwork, language support, research skills, reports writing and presentations
  • It is a multi-cultural university, so it will be a chance to know people from all around the world.

My sponsor in my country (Mutah University-Jordan) has a contract with the University of Bradford. So, when I get the offer they encouraged me to go for it.

Bradford is an affordable city compared to other cities in the UK, especially for a student who has a family like me in terms of accommodation, transport, food … etc.

Quick application process

My research degree needs a submission of a proposal, so I crafted my research proposal and filled the application form. I built relationships with a potential supervisors and it was crucial to follow their advice as subject-specialists.

Once my application was received, the university confirmed that by email, it was reviewed by the Director of Postgraduate Research and potential supervisors.

The tips and instructions on the University website, the admissions team, Visa team, international students advisors, my faculty and supervisors were so helpful, cooperative and supportive; they were answering my inquires and emails and put me on the right path.

Preparing for my move to Bradford

The pre-arrival information for my move to Bradford was available on the website, also I received it by email. I had support in the following ways:

  • The things that I need to do before leaving my country (visa: condition and process, expected life expenses, booking accommodation)
  • My journey (planning my travel, who will be waiting for me on the airport, documents I need to bring, travel insurance)
  • First days in Bradford (collecting my Biometric Residence Permit, opening a Bank account, Health Centre registration, Police registration, campus and city maps)
  • Support information about bringing my family.

My first week living in Bradford

I will never forget the outstanding support from the international student advisor at that time. I planned to arrive in Bradford a little bit earlier as I intended to manage a number of issues like the language, schools for my kids and accommodation. But, the main obstacle for me was how to move from the airport to my accommodation. I sent an email to the international student advisor to explain my case. She contacted all the Jordanian students at the University and asked them if someone will volunteer to collect me and my family from the airport.

In the arrival date, a fellow student was in the airport waiting for me, I really appreciated that. Before my arrival, he helped to find and book accommodation, but I spent the first day in a hotel as I needed to sign the contract before moving to the apartment.

When I visited the university for the first time, the international student advisor took me around the campus. Additionally, another student helped to register with the police and I met a number of the students in the first few days.

Starting my studies

As I did my bachelor and master degree in my country, I felt a little bit challenged with the learning and teaching style at the University of Bradford, and in the UK in general.

The University offers all the innovative and advanced facilities and resources to learn from; starting with the language centre to the advanced research modules that have enhanced my research skills as a PhD student.

The library offers access to all types of materials that any researcher needs, workshops and one-to-one support in order to be familiar with (Copyright, EndNote, Interlibrary Loans, Open Access, Plagiarism, Referencing).

But with all the support and guidance provided by my supervisors, and their outstanding assistance, I got the right direction to move forward towards being an independent researcher.

My research is a multidisciplinary one, so I appreciated the support from the School of Management by offering the chance to be involved with the 6 advanced research skills modules that helped me to develop my competencies to think critically and strategically.

My plans for the future

I’m a lecturer in my home country. Bradford’s educational environment facilitates learning through an academic approach, which helped me to become a qualified researcher and teach me how to develop my research both conceptually and operationally, to reach the point of writing my thesis. Also, provided me with a new experience to teach both international and UK students.

In Bradford I was offered the chance to be fully embedded into the research community at our University and other UK ones. I have participated in a number of academic conferences and published parts of my work in peer-reviewed academic journals. I was on the organising committee for The 2nd Annual Innovative Engineering research Conference: AIERC2018.

I’m also engaging in teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level (e.g. database systems and system security management modules). Last year, I was offered a great chance to be involved with teaching for a BBC master degree programme, which was delivered successfully to BBC software engineers.

Advice for other students

Bradford is the right place to get your degree; providing you with incredible inspiration and support from supervisors and administrative staff. It really offers an excellent preparation for your future.

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