Mario Xu arrived in London from China in 2017 in search of a new journey. He started studying for a Masters Degree in Conference Interpreting at London Metropolitan University. We had a great conversation about his experience at University and living in the vivid city of London.

How was your first experience at London Met University?

I came to London in 2017 and studied from 2017 to 2018 for a Masters Degree in Conference Interpreting. I applied to 6-7 universities at that time and throughout the interview, the London Met’s course leader’s attitude left an impression on me. Her name was Danielle and she was so passionate about the course. It’s important to have a passionate course leader. She made sure I understood everything about the course and what the study expectations were. This helped me make some solid decisions because studying overseas was a huge investment for me. 

“I had previously done a lot of research into which universities would suit me best. There were key identifying factors such as course leader, quality of teaching staff and facilities. My course involves a lot of specific equipment to do the interpreting. London MET had new interpreting suites, high-quality facilities and overall projected a very professional image. 

“There was also the opportunity to go to the United Nations for a placement which would be hugely beneficial for me. Not all universities provide this opportunity and without a doubt, the UN is one of the top places for interpreters to work. I was beyond lucky to have been able to do this and had a placement in Geneva which was nothing short of amazing as I learned so much.”

What challenges did you face when you first came to London?

“Before coming to London, I spent one year studying and living in Sheffield which is a small area of West Yorkshire so, in terms of challenges, I had already been ‘inducted’ into British culture. There was the initial culture shock but I adjusted quite quickly to the lifestyle and I like it. As for London, I could get everything I wanted. There were so many Chinese restaurants and supermarkets that I didn’t even feel homesick. I had previously set myself the expectation and my main goal was to study and explore the world so I didn’t waste time procrastinating. There’s just so much to experience in London that one forgets to miss home!”

The course you studied, how was that?

My course was fantastic. The best bit by far though was the diversity of the course. It’s so important when interpreting to know about people and cultures so we can adapt our style and learning ability and then apply it in our future work. Understanding everyone that comes from different walks of life is important too. My class consisted of people from all over Britain, the United States, Italy, France etc. It was great to have that melting pot of culture. 

“I started interpreting initially by just learning the languages of relatives which involves a certain level of English proficiency. However, I did initially struggle with conversing with native speakers. It was a valuable experience to be able to fully engage with people from different backgrounds. I also enjoyed speaking with my classmates from China. It was the best part of the year sharing our experiences as around 8-9 of us had very distinct backgrounds. Once you finish studying, entering the industry and starting work means there’s a limited chance to see those people again. 

“Whilst my course was not without its challenges, I had previously done a lot of interpreting work so I didn’t find it too difficult since I was prepared with some practical knowledge and experience. There were a few people in my class who had never officially done it so I imagine it would have been harder for them in the beginning. However, the course is designed for everyone, no matter what your level of experience and since the unit is very structured, there is plenty of help and guidance from the university to help you.”

Do you have any special friends and teachers at University that you want to share?

I must again sing the praise of Danielle. She was always professional and made herself available whenever we had difficulties. Danielle was such a present teacher who was there to guide us through. The rest of my classmates were cool too. I enjoyed spending time with them, hanging out and we got on well. Class sizes at London Met meant there was a reasonable number of Chinese international students so we all immersed ourselves with other cultures. I wanted this sort of experience too. Many universities have so many Chinese international students that you may not get the full experience that studying internationally is meant to present. I am so happy that I was able to hang out with my Chinese friends whilst engaging with other local students.”

Did you do any voluntary or community activities?

As my course is quite practical, we received a lot of opportunities to help people whilst developing our professional skills. I was recommended by my teachers to attend some meeting and I was honoured to jump at the opportunity. All of these experiences were not possible to be acquired in the classroom and the volunteering experiences I had were very valuable.”

How did you find your first job after graduation? 

Initially, I found it quite hard to get a job after graduating only because interpreting is an incredibly competitive market for international students to get jobs. Nevertheless, I never lost hope. I submitted my C.V, researched the companies I was applying for and worked hard on continuing to build my skills. I finally found the perfect fit. My boss liked my language proficiency, quality of work and other personal skills I had developed. It’s really important when you apply for jobs that you pay attention to the details, particularly with translation work. I was beyond lucky and grateful that after my probationary period, the company sponsored me so I was able to get a visa and now I can remain in the UK.

How is your job now?

I love my job. My colleagues are very friendly and so supportive. I can help a lot of people when it comes to dealing with contracts and a lot of other things. It was quite challenging initially as it was a different environment than what I was used to. It took me around three months to adapt and adjust. I tried to learn very quickly so I could improve my skill set and add value to the company. I felt that my hard work paid off.”

Top 6 things you love about London Met 

  1. London is a multicultural city. It’s a fascinating city to live in because you’re entirely immersed in different cultures, events and festivals held at London Met. I was able to learn so much from friends and it definitely enriched my life. 
  2. Course leaders and teachers were great. I gained so much knowledge from them and they were always very professional and supportive. 
  3. World-class equipment: This was the highlight of my studies.  I got the chance to use the highest level of technical equipment, it really took my interpreting experience to the next level.
  4. Location: London is just the best, the city is so vast and yet busy at the same time. Also, it’s so easy to get around! The tube is just fantastic. 
  5. Scenery: I loved how I could just go on trips to the countryside anytime I wanted. Also, the architecture, art galleries and tourist attractions here are amazing. Because of the location, it also gave me so many more opportunities and activities. There was always something going on!
  6. Support services: The services on campus are always available, from counselling to assignment support. It’s available any time and the staff at London Met always strive for excellence in supporting us to ensure our experience on campus is a holistic one.

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