London: My Expectations Lagged Behind! Past Review

By (Business - Finance, Trinity University) for

London School of Economics (LSE): London - General Course, Year-Long Study Abroad Programme

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Studying abroad at LSE and living in London was by far the most life-learning experience I have had thus far. Professionally, my involvement at one of the leading universities on earth, within one of the financial capitals of the world, and having interned at a leading investment bank have certainly molded my aspiration to be a successful financial advisor for the buy-side of the market. Coming from Brazil, having studied in the US and Britain, I can now say that I have multiple perspectives on how people from different cultures approach business situations. Most importantly, I have become more culturally aware and hopefully an all-rounded individual in terms of having a broad perspective on things such as politics, philosophy, religion, amongst other widely debated areas. Academically, LSE was a very challenging year whereby the schools different dynamics to teaching, focused entirely on current events/case studies and discussions, greatly enhanced my critical thinking and ability to think outside the box. Although studying abroad at LSE is meant to be an intensive academic workload, I was able to develop solid friendships and appreciate the beautiful city of London, and even travel to other European countries when time allowed. My long-term goal is to bring back my international experiences and knowledge gained from developed countries to my home country, Brazil, and hopefully contribute to a prosperous development of our economy/culture.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Studying at LSE for one year was perhaps one of the most knowledge developing experiences I have encountered thus far. The academic atmosphere at LSE is a direct result of its location in central London, position as a leading social science university and its top-notch faculty, who are always seeking breakthroughs in their respective fields. On a weekly basis, LSE sponsors lectures, seminars and open-talks given by some of the most influential people on earth, including Presidents, blue-chip CEOs, and leading economists of the decade. If one were to put zero effort into learning, simply by living the LSE experience and by being surrounded by the LSE vibe, they would be acquiring valuable amounts of knowledge. In addition, LSE courses emphasize the applicability of knowledge in the sense that lectures and classroom discussions are almost entirely based on the most recent theories, empirical studies and world-wide events. Studying at LSE made me change from being a mere observer of facts to an in-depth analytical student. Coming from an American education system, it was quite a shock for me to not be frequently evaluated on course material as the year progressed. LSE relies on 100% of independent study for students to be successful in their year-end examination. The average student's workload is defined by substantial required and supplemental reading assigned each week. Two to three times in the year, a student will be required to hand-in a written exercise, however, the requirements of these exercises are relatively easy comapred to a standard research paper written in an American university. Instead, LSE focuses entirely on the year-end exam which is composed only of long-answer/subjective/empirically supported questions and requires students to be familiar with all reading material assigned. I personally felt overwhelmed with the amount of material needed to be covered for the exams and the lack of orientation as to how to prioritise certain topics. Despite its rigorous examination system, LSE's grading system is most definitely fair and pertinent to a student's acquired knowledge.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

My program, called The General Course, was absolutely supportive and effective throughout my year in London. The General Course is considered an LSE department where students can directly apply to become a fully integrated, or "visitor", student at the university. Although the administration staff was quite short in numbers, they benefited from high caliber individuals who managed to provide General Course students with an amazing experience of LSE, London, the UK, and even Europe. Not only did they provide a wide-array of events ranging from boat tours along the river Thames to weekends in Paris, but they were actively concerned with our health, safety and overall academic performance. The program provided weekly newsletters with a variety of advices and tips to succeed at LSE. During the first two weeks, the program was outstanding at creating opportunities for General Course students to mingle and establish friendship early on in the year. One positive fact about the program was that most of the administration staff had an American background, and thus were able to tailor their events to the majority interest. In my personal experience, I had several issues regarding course approvals and transferring of department, which were certainly resolved in a promptly manner due to General Course's supporting intervention, on-campus influence and ability to get things done. Dealing with 300+ students from various universities across the U.S. can potential create problems, but the manner in which the administration organised itself definitely avoided any serious issues during my time at LSE. The only reason why I didn't rate the program a Global 5 was because I felt a lack of events focused at mingling with local British students. It would have been interesting to see a greater interaction between the General Course and the overall LSE student body. Some changes have occurred, including the introduction of a "seat" on the Student Council solely for General Course students, but as this was recently established, I didn't quite reap its benefits.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Luckily I have a brother who lives in London who decided to share an apartment with me during my one year in London. Coincidentally, the apartment was located about 1 minute away from one of LSE's dorms, Bankside Hall, which was about a 25 minute walk from campus. Note that the walk included sceneries such as the millennium bridge and St. Paul Cathedral. Beautiful way to start the day.

* Food:

I am quite flexible with food. Around LSE there is a wide variety of cuisines including traditional english breakfast (Guido's) to Turkish Kebab's (Kings) to a delicious mexican restaurant (Nando's). Britain does embrace the fast food culture but the majority of easting places would be coffee shop style restaurants.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Due to its urban campus, I thought LSE would have very little extra-curricular activities available. However, upon arrival, I was surprised with the number of social societies available for students to participate in. I personally subscribed to the Football ("Soccer), Basketball, Investments, Economics, Business, Swedish, Muay Thai, Pool, amongst a few others. Although you subscribe to most of these societies due to spontaneity, it is quite hard to keep up with all events organized by each society. It is, however, the best way to mingle with local British students. In my case, the football society was definitely responsible for most of the british friendships I made. One positive initiative held at LSE is sponsoring social parties on-campus in order to bring students together and provide a safer social experience. The General Course program was also very responsible for students' interaction with the British culture. Monthly field-trips were organized to take students to different historical attractions in the UK, including Stonehenge & Bath, Cambridge and a trip to Scotland. In addition, the program organized several visits to local museums such as the British Museum, Imperial War Museum, Tate Modern and several others. The theatre was also a popular choice of program amongst General Course students. Due to London's cosmopolitan atmosphere, all backgrounds feel welcomed into the city. Although english is the predominant language there is a significant Asian culture/language influence which at times can blur the predominant British culture. Therefore, people underestimate the potential for culture shock assuming the easy-going British-American relationship, but in fact, the city of London is as diverse as it gets. You will find very contrasting backgrounds and views the more friends you make.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Students are completely responsible for their health issues. The program does a good job in guiding students to their respective health centres (every student has a different one depending on your residence location). By living in the UK, students are entitled to free public health services, however, the infrastructure and quality of service is quite precarious. Note that this varies with health centre, therefore, my comments are based on my personal experience. At one point I was having some headaches related to a bad eye condition, and due to extensive bureaucracy inherit of British health services, I was only able to see an eye specialists two weeks after I submitted my issue. LSE does have a medical centre on campus, however it is mostly for use of those students living around campus. I did not have any safety issues while living in London. I could walk anywhere in central London, whether it be at 2:00 pm or 2:00 am and I would feel just as safe. Policemen are promptly patrolling the streets, and a few laws such as, no open bottled alcohol on the streets, provide greater safety for students. One thing you will notice upon arrival is that every street in London has a camera (CCTV) for security purposes. Although you feel like you are being watched 24/7, you will feel safe.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Money requirements varies on a case by case basis, however I can anticipate that you will need about 70-100 pounds for transportation per month, about 200 pounds for food and expect high prices on entertainment venues such as movies and theatres. The STUDENT-nightlife is definitely affordable, but make sure to avoid street promoters, they WILL rip you off.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Direct Enrollment

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

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  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

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  • International Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? LSE is not your ordinary study abroad program where the focus is to learn a different language or submerge yourself into a different culture. The university prides itself in its academics and will assure you a high quality intellectual exposure, however it will depend on you to absorb the knowledge given that the school embraces an 100% independent study policy. Avoid creating expectations, especially coming from the US and assuming that because english is the primary spoken language, things should be quite simple. You will be living in London, please do something different every week, if not, everyday!