Maryann Thomas shares her rich encounters at London School of Economics.
Expectations are high for any student who travels overseas to study. I landed at Heathrow airport and stood in immediate awe of London’s cosmopolitan bustle, ready to start my Masters in Media & Communication at the London School of Economics & Political Science.
In place of brilliant architecture, creeping ivy-covered walls and a sprawling campus, expected of a “university,” the LSE campus is scattered across a row of adjacent buildings in Central London. While you will quickly learn to get about town via the robust tube and bus system, the one thing that might catch you unawares is the infamous British weather — drizzles, grey skies and occasional sunshine.
You can opt to live in the university accommodation which is the relatively affordable option, considering London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. On my first day, I was taken aback to find that I was mistakenly roomed with a guy. It turned out that he had studied in my home city at IIT-Chennai! Once I got that situation fixed, I was then roomed with a Singaporean girl, with whom I had my own share of ‘cultural differences.’
Each course I took had a lecture and seminar, spread over 10 weeks of each semester. Daily readings had to be done before each lecture, while the latter encouraged us to discuss what we heard at the lecture. Each course had either an exam or essay submission which would determine our grades. As is common with Indian students who study abroad, it took a while to get used to the free spirited education system which tested concepts and application, over ‘bookish knowledge.’ My professors were among the best in their respective fields, and each encouraged me to explore and understand the subject material.
Popular haunts of student life include The Three Tuns, the on-campus bar, LSE Garrick, for fresh home-cooked meals, and Wright’s, a British-style sandwich shop. Campus was always bursting with activity, with the Students Union having over 150 societies, as diverse as food appreciation, environmental affairs, visual arts or entrepreneurship. Around 1 p.m. every day, there would be a queue snaking up near the campus on Houghton Street. The ‘Hare Krishna' guy (From ISKCON -The International Society for Krishna Consciousness), would be offering free plates of hot food. My classmates were mostly American, Chinese and European. Networking opportunities aside, it is also a great place to know people from different cultures and cultivate memorable relationships.
Needless to say, life in London is enriching — from its landmark ‘touristyness’, innate cultural diversity, vibrant fashion, art and entertainment scene, or to indulge in my favourite activity, people watching. My advice to new students is to explore the city, travel a lot while you are there and make it to every social event possible. You will need friends when you are lonely and crave familiar food and company.
The writer graduated last year from the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics