My experience studying at the London School of Economics & Political Science informed my identity as a scholar and American abroad. By directly enrolling in the university, I was brought into the local student body in an immersive and meaningful way. The approach that LSE uses to structure the 'General Course' is impressive in that support for students studying abroad is available on campus — with a distinct General Course Dean and office.
Through the office of the General Course Dean, I was sent weekly newsletters informing me about extracurricular opportunities, chances to travel with my General Course peers, and how to navigate a new UK university structure. Direct enrollment was the perfect choice for me, as I didn’t want to stick out as a ‘study abroad student’. While abroad, I was an LSE student — engaging with campus politics and navigating the anxiety of exam-period — all with the support of my LSE-enrolled friends. That said, the General Course team made an effort to create a GC community and succeeded in facilitating a distinct network within the university. My fellow Tulane students at LSE were supportive resources that made me comfortable enough to engage with the international student body at LSE.
Studying abroad at LSE through the General Course is only possible for a full year. Of course, it was hard for me to decide to leave my home campus for an entire academic year! However, there are a myriad of advantages to studying abroad for the full academic year. One that I find particularly important is learning how to navigate a foreign city on your own. When I reflected on my time in London while still abroad, it was not necessarily smooth-sailing. That said, reflecting from back in the U.S. — I am proud of the way I navigated my resources and addressed issues as they arose. I do not believe I would have grown as an individual in the same way had I left London in December.
By the time December came, I was elated that my study abroad journey had not yet concluded. There was so much more for me to see, study, and experience in the city. Although London may not have been the most ‘foreign’ country to study in, there were plentiful opportunities for me to engage in multicultural learning both in and out of the classroom. The diversity of London can be best described along ethno-religious lines — therefore discussions around race and politics varied from my well-known North American context.
In regards to academic structure, adjusting to LSE’s calendar and workload was one of my most rewarding achievements while abroad. The UK university system is distinct from its North American counterpart in that there are half the number of contact hours with an intense focus on independent-study and self-initiated learning. Understanding the distinction between what was expected of me in London as opposed to New Orleans, I had to fine-tune my self-starting skills as a scholar. Engaging in four year-long modules, rather than 4 to 5 16-week courses – I did not receive a single weighted grade until March (7 months into the program). It is this structure that forces students to pick courses that truly interest them – and you can see from class and lecture discussions that students are in class not for the grade or ‘participation points’ (which don’t exist at LSE), but because they are truly fascinated with the topic at hand and have a vested interest in gaining new knowledge from professors who are leaders in their fields.
Although ‘LSE’ is the coined term of the prestigious 20th century institution, many forget that the university was first founded by members of the Fabian society who were radical British socialists. That said, the student body holds a diverse range of political leanings – and classrooms provide spaces to both engage with like-minded individuals and challenge yourself by debating with students who are either more economically-minded or radical than yourself.
If you’d like to speak with me about LSE, about studying in the UK or about study abroad in general, please make an appointment or come visit the Study Abroad Fair, Wednesday, October 18th, from 2-5 PM in the Qatar Ballroom of the LBC!