Assuming that if any post-graduate student is reading this blog around this time of the year is procrastinating gives me a slight relief as that is exactly what I am also doing by writing it. That is of course unless they are all already at the ‘graduate pub’- George.
Exams begin next week for most Government Department Masters students. Students are scattered around the ‘campus’ with a selection of places to study: from the Shaw library for those who like to work with ‘natural light’ and home comfort, all the way to the Lincoln’s Inn for those who enjoy working with nature per se. I have also moved away from the “bee-hive” -as some like to call it- i.e the Library for a change, to the NAB, where everything is high-tech and where coffee breaks are no longer an excuse to go out as you can walk around with a mug of freshly brewed tea of your own with just the right amount of milk.
Revision period allows one to evaluate the entire year at once. Going through the syllabus and selecting strategically the courses to study and those that overlap makes all the links in various aspect of different courses much clearer. It is perhaps the one chance in the year where you really get to evaluate your knowledge- and obviously prepare for the exam. This is probably the highest virtue of the British ‘individualistic’ system in comparison to the Continental or the North American model; it values individual opinion and originality. This is not to say it should be equated with individual study, in fact quite the opposite. As every student has their own view on the issues studied it becomes even more useful to organise group study sessions to share varying views on course material and help out. You are encouraged to be involved in group study as sharing work/ideas allows one to be more competitive and provides encouragement to do even better. This could perhaps be called a form of peer-pressure, but in a positive, motivational sense. Reminding me then of the group study factsheets I have to prepare for tomorrow’s session, before making my way to the George. I guess I will have to continue about the virtues of studying at a later stage.
I have not been doing very well in terms of posting messages I must admit and considering I post about once each term it was about time!
When I think back there have certainly been some interesting moments in the Lent term. Although not in the same context, the occupation of the Old building by students protesting against the war in Gaza and the heaviest snow in London in 18 years literally freezing life in the city along with LSE for 2 days will be remembered by all students
On a more personal note, I will also remember how earlier this semester I almost burned Garrick down (!)- by mistake, after not having realised the romantic tea light candles placed on the tables. As a consequence part of my notes caught fire ( an alternative method for getting an extension on your essay than “the dog ate it” excuse) but thankfully another decoration on the table- the little vase filled with water and gerberas came in handy as I managed to put out the fire. It wasn’t as heroic as I make it sound but hopefully I won’t be remembered with this event for the rest of the year.
Yet again I will now write about the library as I spend most of my time here.The LSE library is my source of inspiration! Considering the library is already open for 24 hours- unlike previous years when this was only the case during exam period- I can’t help but think that we are somehow being told to begin revisions for examinations at the end of summer term. I realise this is so because students asked for it but still I think it generates some pressure. Speaking to fellow library-goers I understand how it can suggest to them to: study as much as possible. Or maybe not, some people are more nocturnal than others and it’s good to have such flexibility. And the library has showers too, so no need to go home! But if we are as environmentalist as our colour coded recycle bins suggests maybe using so much electricity is a waste as the library is not running on full capacity. Just a thought.
Next up; choosing a dissertation topic. With admiration towards people who are already doing their research for their dissertations my search for an idea let alone a topic has so far been mostly in vain! So if anyone has a topic to spare, I am open to suggestions. Otherwise, Students-dissertation-topics-yet-to-be-found UNITE! I think the main problem is, as for most others who have not yet been able to settle on a topic would agree: we are simply spoiled for choice! No reference needed to the Chinese proverb :May you live in interesting times. Well, that we are. Suffice to look around.
Interestingly, this saying is the first among a ‘trilogy’ of proverbs and guess what the second one is: May you find what you are looking for. I’ll have a dissertation topic please!
Here is a list of motivational things that may be helpful to find what I am looking for. No candles involved this time for safety purposes.
1/ looking at the syllabus of your favourite course- the topic that you wanted to do your presentation on but someone else got it, now may be the chance to get it back- in greater depth;
2/ jotting down ideas in a ‘special’ dissertation notebook (getting a new notebook for this purpose only may even be a motivation) as geeky as this sounds;
3/ asking other lecturers/professors’ opinions in addition to your supervisor is always helpful – even outside your department as they may have a completely different perspective to your area of study.
4/ listening to politics/government/economics related podcasts from LSE events you missed or other useful sites that you can easily upload on your mp3 player. You can listen to these on the go or sleep-learning could also be an alternative!
6/ starting from a bigger concept to then move to a very specific part of it rather than trying to come up with something very specific immediately;
7/ Looking at the “Areas of Further Research” section in a journal article that you enjoyed. Maybe your dissertation topic was there waiting for you but you didn’t print the bibliography to save money on your printing account;
8/ Going to the pub: in between the library and your classes of course ehmm. Bouncing off an idea to a friend can spur new ideas in you. “Creativity can only flourish in a responsive environment” says a manual on “creative teaching” (!!?).
Finally, enjoy the last two weeks of Lent term, you still have plenty of time to think about your dissertation – and the library will be open 24/7 to assist you in this process.
The 4th week of the Lent term has officially ended. Time has been flying as usual. After talking to a few friends, there was an informal consensus that Term 2 (Lent) has been more enjoyable than Term 1 (Michaelmas).
One reason I suspect for this occurrence is that the initial expectation many students set for the LSE might have been too unrealistic. For newcomers, a lot of hype and therefore expectations are created about the LSE and by the LSE. There is the illustrious alumni list, the self-proclaimed title of the “most international student body in the world”, and the world renowed faculty members. As well, the LSE publishes these tacky but curiously compelling graduate salary statistics that add another dimension to the LSE hype. Last but not least, the brand of the LSE provides a certain illuminous qualities that raises the expectations to an intangibly high standard.
The expectations of something great and spectacular is ever looming for some prospective student. Disappointment mounts when reality does not live up to expectations. However, the winter break between the Michaelmas and Lent terms provides an important adjustment period. Students adjust their Lent expectations to fit with the experiences they received in Michaelmas. It does not mean students lower their expectations in particular. It just means that they have a more realistic set of expectations about what the LSE is all about. The actual qualities that the LSE possesses are revealed and students are able to see the school without the initial expecations whatever they may be.
The tip I have for prospective students is to arrive with an open mind. Expectations are, of course, constantly present, but if you are willing to abandan the expectations based on hype and experience the LSE in all its faults and glories, you may end up receiving more than what you expected.
Happy 2009 everyone! My plane leaves for London in less than 48 hours. I am currently sitting in the dining room of my parents’ house in snowy Vancouver trying to make some resolutions for the New Year. Below are some of my top resolutions:
1) Take the time to explore: It is easy to get caught up in the great LSE bubble. Between the curriculum and the extra-curricular, it is easy to forget that this is probably a once in a lifetime experience studying in London. At least once a week, I will take the time to explore this town and live its stories.
2) Exercise more: Year after year, to exercise more is probably the perpetual resolution for most people that make resolutions. Exercise has been shown to be excellent for physical health, emotional wellness, and mental acuity.Overall, I am actually doing quite well in the exercise department. If I walk to the LSE, which is approximately a 40 minute return trip, I get all the exercise I need. Although the motivation to take the bus increases dramatically during rainy London days, the thoughts of saving some extra pounds in my wallet and off my butt provide the motivation to keep my feet on the road.
3) Eat more fruits and vegetables: maybe not more, but at least one serving of vegetable and one serving of fruit a day. The cost of food is surprisingly reasonable in London when you shop at supermarkets. There is no reason not to eat well.
4) Learn to not accumulate things: There are always events happening at the LSE and around London. During these events, people like to give you things…food, pamphlets, brochures, pens, notepads, etc. The natural impulse is to take it, and bring it back to your dorm where it will sit for weeks until you have no idea where you got it and what to do with it. The first part of this resolution is to take fewer things to begin with. The second part of this resolution is to do something with whatever you got (business cards, stationary, food, etc) within 48 hours of getting it.
5) Don’t overbook: This resolution is simple. I have come up with three strategies to keep my schedule in check: 1) never double book, 2) always go for quality over quantity, and 3) start to block time aside to think/reflect/explore/do nothing. It is most difficult sticking to the second strategy, because I always try to cram as much into my day as possible thinking I should maximize my time at the LSE. However, there is a equilibrium point where productivity and enjoyment drops off when there are simply many things on the plate. How this equilibirum is achieved is different for all individuals.
One of my flat mates told me about the 4 types of LSE students (although I think this joke has gone around the block a few times):
type 1: Those that want to be millionaires
type 2: Those that want to be BILLIONAIRES
type 3: Those that want to RULE the world
type 4: Those that want to SAVE the world
Which type are you? Which type do you aspire to be?
After some thought, we agreed that these options are silly stereotypes which are not necessarily mutually exclusive in nature meaning you could be all of them or none of them. However, it describes well the driven student culture at LSE.
LSE has a reputation of being very “career driven”, but overall, the environment is quite friendly. People here have different goals and aspirations, so the common theme is achievement rather than competition.
Manuel Castells, a sociologist that has interesting things to say about the information/network society was a guest speaker at the LSE a few weeks ago and at one point mentioned how blogging on the internet is in fact a very social thing- it was a relief to hear this as I was starting to feel like I am writing mini-monologues!
This week so far, I have dedicated myself to find alternative ‘study spots’ around the LSE. As geeky as this might sound, I am quite satisfied so far, sitting comfortably on a red couch at the Shaw library, trying to finish my Italian homework for this evenings class at the LSE’s Language Centre. The echos of the choir practice in the room opposite helps me make up words in Italian by providing the right mood. Finally, seeing the day that I am a Level 3 after taking Italian lessons on and off through out university, it feels like an accomplishment to write a 500 word letter to my invisible penpal in Italy! Another spot, is the NAB’s 8th floor, with a great view of London City side especially. The couches however, I should admit are too modern for me. But it seems no-one else has discovered that place yet.
As the end of term approaches, I realise how time has passed by so quickly. Next week may be the busiest week of all with several essay deadlines and presentations due. I’ve started to feel the LSE library has become my second home- seeing the same people in their same spots each day, I get a strange sense of familiarity with the people I recognise (although our conversation hardly goes beyond: ” do you mind if i draw the blinds?” or ” i don’t think that toilet is occupied”). I hope to return to a less-hermit-life-style after next week and then I will have other things to write about than exciting ‘study spots’.
In a school as international as LSE, you feel a need to learn more languages because almost everyone here is bilingual and it is not uncommon to meet trilinguals. Conveniently, LSE has the Language Centre offering weekly lessons at the price of 200 Sterlings for the academic year.
After getting assessed for both Japanese and French, I decided to take the French Level II curriculum. Although it feels a bit like suicide adding another item onto my already over-committed schedule, it would be good to get in touch with my bilingual Canadian heritage and brush up my rusty high school French. As well, with the large concentration of francophones at the LSE, maybe I could even find someone to practice the language with.
Yesterday, the LSE Career Service hosted the 2nd International Organization Day. It was basically a recruiting event where international organizations came to talk to students about working at their respective organizations. Those that came included the United Nations Secretariat, World Bank, UNICEF, IMF, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, and more! Coming from a relatively small liberal arts university in Canada, it is quite amazing to me that the United Nations would bother to do on-campus recruitment events.
Admittedly, the reputation of the LSE provides opportunities and access into some very prestigious organizations. However, it is not the case to assume a degree from LSE is a golden ticket to your ultimate career. At the end of the day, the name of the School may provide you with an edge, but it is still up to the individual to work hard to seize that opportunity. After checking out a few recruiting events, I plan to come up with a list of organizations that I am interested in applying to. The list will probably include one or two international organizations, but probably more private companies. To me, the type of position and the culture of the organization seems more important than its official categorization.
A friend of mine recently wrote me an email saying her ultimate career aspiration is to be a combination of diplomat, artist, and environmentalist. The positions she listed touched on some essential points. For any satisfying career, it is essential to meet the following three criteria: 1) monetary security, 2) personal fit, and 3) worldly contributions. Regardless of how you define the three criteria, the best jobs are the ones that can put food on your table, allow you to be yourself, and provide you with a platform to make positive contributions in the world.
After the second week of “shopping” for courses, I am still torn between Globalization and Democracy and Global Political Economy of Development as my elective requirements. The lectures and seminars are all quite fantastic, so the goal this weekend is to do as much reading as I can and decide from the readings which course content captures my imagination best.
The best and worst thing about the LSE is how driven all the students are. It’s inspiring to have so many motivated people around you, but it is also a bit daunting when you just want to eat potato chips and watch funny Youtube clips all day. Overall, I feel positively influenced by my schoolmates. Seeing everyone hustling about, you cannot help but to catch the groove.
The end of first week was hectic and a little overwhelming.
All the societies and clubs that I signed up for seemed to schedule their inductions and annual meetings all at the same time. Course selection is still up in the air. Furthermore, job hunting atmosphere of the school is already in overdrive. Within a few days of starting classes, many students are already updating CVs, sending in applications, and deciding the route to take in this dismal financial climate. On top of it all, I was assigned 500+ pages of reading for my core course.
My strategy for the next week is to be get a regular routine in order, and to be more selective about the projects I take on. Quality over quantity, this motto shall serve me well!