Seda graduated from Algorithm A* in 2016, having achieved A*AB in Biology, Economics and Mathematics. Despite securing a place to study Psychology at the University of Bath, Seda decided to remain in Russia and is now completing a Foundation Year at the British Higher School of Art and Design.
I came to Algorithm A* to finish my Biology, Economics and Mathematics A-levels. Before that I was at Magdalen College, Oxford. I was a bit scared at first because of moving so suddenly and I was unsure of what the teachers would be like. When I came here, it was very welcoming, the class was quite small and the girls were friendly. I loved my Economics and Biology teachers, and my Maths teacher explained things I didn’t understand at my previous school.
So you have a long history of studying in English?
I lived in England for 3 years and before that in Dubai for 4. At home, I communicate with my younger sisters in English, although we do mix sometimes.
What were the main differences in the education systems?
In Dubai I studied at an international school, so we followed the UK curriculum. There were many different people, from different countries; I learned a lot of my English there. In England, we had Art and other creative subjects. In Russia, in junior school you also have these lessons, but they are not as important in high school. In England, you study fewer topics, for example in Science, but you learn more about them and how to apply them to your life. My sisters studied in a Russian school and had to learn facts by heart and write them in the test, without understanding why you need to learn them.
Have your siblings continued to study the UK programme since leaving England?
My brother and two sisters are currently studying GCSEs. Both of my sisters will be sitting their GCSE exams this May-June at Algorithm A*.
Which courses and universities did you apply to in the UK?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at university, but I was quite interested in Psychology so I applied to study it at Bath, Warwick, Birmingham, Royal Holloway and City University London, although the latter two were safety choices with lower grade requirements than I expected. I got all five offers, which was quite surprising. Although Bath required me to get A*AA, they accepted me with my A*AB results.
How did you choose the universities?
I didn’t want to look at the league table for top universities, but I did look at the league tables for Psychology. I looked at course content and whether you could take additional modules, as I wanted to take Business or Management modules. I also looked at reviews and whether students enjoyed the universities, because loads of people want to apply to Cambridge or Oxford, but don’t consider student satisfaction. I picked Bath because it had good reviews. I didn’t travel there, but I looked at videos, and it looked like quite a small, quiet city. The course price and distance from London and Oxford, because my family was hoping to come back and live at one of the two, also affected my choice.
Having decided to stay in Moscow, where are you currently studying?
I wanted to continue studying in English. I found the British Higher School of Art and Design, which offers courses in English and has around five different BAs. I’ve been quite interested in Art since 7th Grade, so I thought that was a good idea. I was advised to do a Foundation year because I did not do A-level Art. After this, I intend to study Product Design.
Why Product Design?
When you go to the shops or walk down the street, you pay attention to how things are made, and why they’re made that way, and whether they’re easy to use. Sometimes you think, ‘oh I would have changed that’. Our world is quite consumerist, so I think this profession will be quite in demand.
I’m really enjoying the course. It is very intense, but you don’t get bored because it’s different things all the time and you feel like you’re learning. The first half of the year, we completed the different pathways: Fashion, Graphic Design, 3D, Architecture and Fine Art. You do a project for each that lasts around a week. You learn different techniques, like silk printing and laser cutting. After your first assessment, you can choose a pathway.
What is the most enjoyable project you’ve completed to date?
I’d say it was the woodworking project. We were meant to make a piece of furniture that makes a sound. I was inspired by the hourglass and African drums. I decided on a stool, which is somewhat obvious, but I decided that inside there would be a spiral and metal balls would roll down making a sound, as well as dropping in the middle with a thud. I was scared because I hadn’t used the 3D software before, and my tutor didn’t know how to use it either. However, there are BA tutors available, and they helped me.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Hopefully abroad! As much as I like Moscow as my birthplace, I don’t really like living here. Mainly because it’s a very busy city and I like being in a quiet kind of place – Oxford was definitely for me. When I tried to find a BA in Europe, I found it was quite restricted, because they are either fully or partially in the native language. If they are in English, then it’s Business or International Relations BAs – they definitely didn’t offer Psychology. I would try to do a Masters abroad, and I think it’s much easier to find an MA in English. I’d maybe even try to apply for a scholarship. I’d maybe like to own a business of my own, even if it’s quite small.
Do you regret not being able to do Psychology?
I regretted it at the start of the year, but as we progressed, I got more into it. Sometimes I speak to my friends in the UK and I hear that they have to write essays and sit exams and it’s so stressful. I don’t have exams, I have assessments, with tutors looking over the work I’ve done. My English teacher studied Psychology when he was younger, and by the third year, he said he felt it was a little useless. There are people who really love it and want to be psychologists, but for people like me, who don’t really know what they want to do, it’s less practical. I thought after Psychology I’d get into Business or HR, and I was never interested in the scientific part, while most courses are more scientific.