Since the graduate traineeship is intended to be preparation for a Master’s degree, this is the time of year where people start thinking about their applications and applying to various universities. My experience of this so far is that it is about five times harder to do this for an international applicant, as I am, than it is for a person who did their previous degree(s) in the UK.
At the moment, I am trying to piece together my application for UCL. Besides the completed application form, I need two references, one of which has to be academic. This meant I had to ask my German degree supervisor for one. I explicitly told him when I emailed him that I needed it in a signed and sealed envelope. He sent it to me – the envelope was sealed, but not signed, and some Deutsche Post or Royal Mail employee fragged the seal a bit. I am going to include it in the application and hope it will be okay. The writing on the front is, after all, in his handwriting, and there are about a dozen stamps from my home university on it.
Also, I need a transcript. German universities do not usually issue transcripts, so what I had to do was compile one out of all my records, then scan those records and send them plus the transcript to my home university, who then issued a transcript for me. UCL also request that translations are accompanied by a certified copy of the transcript in the native language. However, there is a sentence on my English one that it certifies that it says the same as my individual records, so I hope that it will suffice.
Furthermore, English is not my native language. I have lived and studied in an English-speaking country for seven months, I will have worked in one for fifteen months when I start my course, my teaching in germany was partially conducted in English, and my M. A. dissertation was written in English. I have as of yet no idea if that is sufficient, or if I will have to take an immensely expensive test to certify that my proficiency in English is sufficient for studying in England.
Once more, I am made very aware of cultural differences. English referees will be familiar with the procedure, especially if they are academics, whereas even a German university lecturer is at a loss to complete the requirements for an acceptable reference.
Another part of the English application process that is nonexistent in Germany is the personal statement – a piece of writing much like a covering letter for a job aplication, wherein the applicant explains what they will bring to the course, why they should be considered for a place, and what their particular interests are. Again – somebody who has studied in England will have done this at least once in their lives before their Masters application. I am lucky in that I had to write one for my application to the exchange programme with Ireland, so I have at least a vague idea what is expected.
Still, the bottom line is that applying for an MA takes a lot of energy in any case, and much more so from international applicants than natives. And I am an EU citizen, so I don’t even want to imagine what it entails for people from overseas.