Today I went to my first public lecture at LSE. Public lectures are basically presentations done by top academics, policymakers, politicians, authors, and all sorts of renowned individuals. It is not just open to LSE students but also the public-at-large.
The title of the seminar I went to was “The China Challenge as Myth and Reality” by Professor Chen Jian. It was a great presentation and the Q&A session afterward was unrestrained and probing. Tough questions were asked and answered.
The speaker appeared to take a critical approach towards the anti-China movement, but at the same time he was able to confront the tough questions regarding China’s position on Tibet and Darfur. The audience may not agree with his perspective, but the atmosphere of free thought was alive and well.
These Public Lectures hosted by LSE really emphasizes the promotion of intellectualism at the School. Wherever your curiosity takes you, chances are there will be someone at LSE who shares your intellectual passions. Personally, I will check out more of these lectures especially the ones with an Asia-Pacific focus. However, there is something for everyone. I heard the president of Estonia is coming in a few weeks to give a lecture!
Overbooked! This is the word to describe my first week at LSE. On top of “shopping” for courses to see which ones I am interested in, all the inductions for the student societies that I signed up for seem to take place in the first week.
I joined plenty of societies just to see which ones will stick. Societies I signed up for include: Hummous Society, Business Society, Entrepreneurship Society, China Development Society, Asian Careers Society, Clare Market Review, Rowing Club, and others that I have already forgotten about. I plan to also check out the Grisham Club, IR society, inductions this Friday.
Just to make things more complicated, there are various guest lecturers coming to talk at LSE. As a side note, I scored a free ticket to see Thomas Friedman, the author of the World is Flat, speak next Wednesday. On top of it all, the career fairs and skills training seminars are already in full bloom. Everything is starting to get hectic, but in a good fulfilling kind of way. However, I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when seminars officially start and assignments pile up.
Overwhelmed by the number of course options to choose from, I am looking at the sessional timetable with a blank impression on my face, thinking I could maybe pick the classes depending on their days in the worst case scenario that I don’t get any of my 3 capped course options! I won’t be doing that but I might start reading something like ’decision making for dummies’. I have to say though, it makes me feel a little better to see that I am not the only one feeling this way- judging by the number of MSc students shopping around for courses. Hopefully all this will be sorted by the end of the week. In the meantime though I also have to sort out my council tax exemption- which has taken a whole new application system since last year and pay my water bill! Hopefully I don’t come across as grumpy, but I think the weather hasn’t helped much recently either ^_^. I will write more about the art of mingling with one’s fellow students once I check all the ticks on my ‘urgent solution requiring issues’ list. �
Arriving in London, I was greeted by liquid sunshine and a family friend that drove me to my dorm. All the basic student essentials were provided upon arrival at the drom. I got a bed, a reading lamp, and internet access. What more do you need?
It’s been about a week into Easter break. To no one’s surprise, the Library was bustling with students, once again, on the first day out of the Easter long weekend. If only people would stop recalling my books, I could legitimately spend my days at home instead of trekking to the school.
Not that the recalling of books would ever cease. I’ve been repeatedly amazed at how limited the book and journal selection is at the LSE Library. Recent books written on the most political and economic of subjects, such as the WTO, don’t exist, and their subscription to online journals is limited – you can’t access some journals volumes printed in the 1990s. It’s as if the school thinks the 90s is a decade long gone, of neither particular interest nor importance to students today. As a historian, I obviously object: history, of all things, matter more often and dominantly than we may like, recognize, or know.
I digress. It is now week 2 of Easter break and my review/essay-writing schedule stares at me from the bulletin board. This is no ‘break’ at all, with three assessed, 4000-word essays, 4 exams, and a thesis looming darkly over the back of my head. I would be tempted to call it a ‘break’, watching people leave residence for a week-long trip to the Eurocontinent, fly home to their respective countries, and/or party hard night after night… yes, for some it looks as though this is some ‘break’. But really, for all intents and purposes, if you seriously take a glance back to reality, this is what the Canadians call ‘Reading Week’. A good chunk of students go off to ski or snowboard or even dare to surf – if not, at least a camping trip of sorts would be in order. And of course, there are some who stay put, and do exactly what the week says it’s for: READ.
The belated posting of the 2008 exam schedule gave me a pleasant surprise, although it seems to have pointed a dagger to the throat for most others. I have three days in between each exam, and all my exams are at 2:30pm, instead of the dreaded 10:00am. I start with the easiest, and end with the most difficult. Not bad at all.
The assessed essays are a bit of a downer. As you can imagine, considering how all my work so far has counted towards 0% of my final grade, that the essays constitute 50% or more of my final grade is both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, my formative grades seem to say I should just play my game and if written in the usual manner, the outcome should be of a similar numerical figure. On the other hand, £13,000 goes down the drain should I royally screw it up. An all-or-nothing deal is not exactly we, the North American-educated, are used to – but, there is no turning back now.
If there is one fat, ‘F’ I should be receiving, it would be in Job Hunting. Job hunting sucks, period.
10 weeks sounds like a long time, but it really is not. The Lent term began in the second week of January, and its end arrived just as I started to feel like I was finally getting used to it. This sense of familiarity, however, was covered up by a hurricane of assignments (unassessed, of course) in the final two weeks. There was no time to look back and reminisce about where the 10 weeks had gone – papers needed writing, presentations needed completing, tests needed taking.
At the very end of February, I took an examination with the United Nations. The UN had been very mysterious about the format and content of their exams, so I spent the the last two weeks of February memorizing resolutions, conventions, terms, phrases, all 8 Secretary-Generals, dates, facts, and case-studies. The exam itself was not surprising, either in content or format. 3 full essay questions, and 8 short-answer questions – 4.5 hours of straight writing. Needless to say, it was a long and grueling 4.5 hours and my hand hurt at the end of it.
Preparations for the UN exam took up the last two weeks of February, so I ended up neglecting a lot of school work. Luckily, I had planned for this to happen, by being at least a week ahead of all my classes until those two weeks. Afterwards, there were only two weeks of school left anyway, and I simply played the catch-up game until the end. Not a big deal.
What really is surprising – and I say this knowing that I’m repeating myself – is how quickly the 10 weeks had flown by. The Michaelmas term felt much longer. Although there is one more term left in the summer, and a few classes here and there, this past Friday was the last day of ‘real’ classes. No more lectures to really attend, no more unassessed assignments to turn in. Three more assessed papers, four exams, and one thesis – and I’m done. Scary.
But I suppose they say that time flies while you’re enjoying something. In hindsight, the Lent term may have been more enjoyable than the Michaelmas, but I attribute this more to the fact that I knew my way around things in January than I did in October. Plus, I knew what to expect, and so more time was spent doing the work rather than figuring out the logistics (recalling that course selection was a bit of a nightmare).
11 weeks until exams, 6 weeks of Easter break. The first thing I did on my first weekend off since January? Read Harry Potter.
One of the first things I came across when I first started looking for jobs in the UK were the so-called ‘graduate schemes’. So popular among students here, as opposed to my home country where very few such programmes actually exist and are almost exclusively run by giant multinational companies. In the UK, however, graduate schemes are everywhere and increase year by year. So much that there are currently a few thousands of them available in the whole country, launched by a vast range of firms: from small, newly-established ones to the biggest, most famous and most respected ones. So far so good. But is each and every employer really ready, capable or willing to take on the significant responsibility to attract and reatain talented graduates who will make a real difference to the firm?
You may think there isn’t much going on beyond academics at LSE. After all, it is a pretty small school, with give-or-take 8,000 students total, and the campus is tiny. Athletic facilities are nearly non-existent, except for the so-called ‘sports hall’ in the Old Building basement with a pathetic basketball hoop and the basic gym in the East Building (which I actually don’t mind at all). There isn’t really much space for ‘hanging out’ and sitting around on the LSE campus, and hopefully this will be slightly ameliorated next year when they open the New Academic Building (when I’m not here anymore!).
But, despite the ‘pathetic’ basketball court at LSE, it has a basketball team. I joined the team in October during the Athletic Union day, and it may have been one of the best decisions I’ve made at LSE. Being made co-captain subsequently was nice, but what was more awesome and important was that I met a really fabulous group of girls – like-minded, fun, talented, and smart. In fact, we may have been a little too smart at times, analyzing certain basic basketball rules and the sheer nature of the game, but that was really what made it almost new for me. Indeed, I was used to playing the game with people who knew the game in and out, and I was also used to coaching a group who had no idea what the game was about. My team was an interesting mixture of people with a wide range of skills and capabilities – from the highly experienced to the not-so-experienced – but all so smart that it didn’t take much to explain the basics. Explaining the subtleties, however, was a very different task I had not encountered before.
The LSE Women’s Basketball team had, overall, a fairly impressive season record. We were entered into two different leagues: the BUSA and the ULU. We ended in the third seat for the BUSA league, and second in the ULU. But again, it wasn’t so much the game record I was concerned about (although admittedly, winning is nice); the entire team improved substantially over the course of the season, and our second-to-last game against the University of Bedfordshire (1st seat in BUSA), in which we played put up a huge fight (despite physical disadvantages!), stood as solid proof.
There are a few colleagues with whom I’ve become close over the school year. But the girls I met on the basketball team have probably been the most significant and most memorable. Yes, the facilities could be improved, but that would have merely been a bonus. The team gave me a good reason to meet people across departments as well as programmes (we were 50% postgrad and 50% undergrad) – and I’m so glad I took advantage of it!
Well…Michaelmas Term has gone so fast and it’s been so incredibly busy! Classes, readings, essays, presentations… A few parties and other opportunities to go out and have some fun but most of the time it’s been so stressful… Loads of things to be done in so little time…
2008 began with essay-writing.
Granted, not everyone’s 2008 started with essay-writing. Some people don’t have essays due the first week. Some people do, but have decided to ignore them for the time being. Some people don’t have essays due the first week, but it’s due in the first month, and their friends started panicking and getting stressed, so in a twisted form of peer pressure they decided they should start, too.
You can always count on the LSE library to be lively – keyboards clicking, queues forming, and printers spitting out paper – on the second day of the new year. I walked into the library, kind of surprised but actually not, that students were already at it on January 2nd. Who am I to talk, really? I myself went to get a few books, return others, and print some notes. I ran into a friend from class whose reason for coming to the library on the second day of January was, “Well, I live close by. So… I thought I should?”
“I thought I should.” – This is a funny reason, funnier because most of the students in that library probably would’ve given the same justification. In fact, this statement is applicable for a lot of things pertaining to life at the LSE. For example, job hunting. Last term at my residence, amongst our group of friends, there was a sudden rush to apply for business consulting firms. One friend did, followed by another, and pretty soon everyone was applying for at least one of the major consulting firms. The other day we looked back on this phenomenon and seriously wondered what had gotten into us. “I wasn’t even remotely interested in working for a consulting firm,” one guy said. “Until a couple of the other guys started to apply, and for some reason I thought, ‘Crap, I better do that, too!’ I don’t know what that was about. I guess I thought I should.”
I’ve thought about jobs more seriously since, instead of simply being carried away by my peers and the business/finance/investment tsunami wave that blasts through the student body sometimes. Writing a generic cover letter and tweaking it each time, I made a goal to send one off to some international organization – small or big – once a week. With creating a thesis topic came a realization of what aspect of international governance I was interested in, so then after that it was just about figuring out what organizations were out there, and writing the cover letter.
On a different note, London so far has failed to meet its reputation for being “gray all the time, damp, dark, misty, foggy, and depressing.” It’s a lot sunnier (knock on wood!) than Vancouver, and warmer as well. Still cold, but in comparison to Vancouver, London is slightly warmer. I love the buildings and how each borough is characterful. But, I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I actually like London. When you’ve lived in a few different places of different nature, the big cities begin to show similar characteristics and you begin to notice the things that work and the things that don’t. Perhaps I’ll take more time this term to get out and about through the streets of London, to figure out what this city is about besides its dusty but beautiful architecture, the double-decker buses, the weekend markets, and the museums.
For the time being though… back to the essay.