Rewarding and Unique Experience July 17, 2019

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 10/08/2018 to 06/14/2019 with

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?
I've gained a lot of perspective on the diversity that exists in the world in all aspects of life, and gave me a different educational experience that I had at my home institution. It helped me learn in new ways, and also allowed me to appreciate my institution at home more. But more than the academic experience, I gained the opportunity to travel around in Europe a lot, play on the sports teams for LSE, and truly immerse myself in an experience that was outside of my comfort zone. I've become more independent and expanded my horizons immensely.

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.

The UK education system is very different and incredibly reliant on students to be self motivated and proactive in their education. There is very little class time and interaction with teachers, and 90% of the learning I did was on my own time in readings, research, and projects. Given the prestige of the institution the environment is very competitive but incredibly rewarding if you're willing to put in the work. One must take full advantage of all the incredible resources available at LSE, it is incredibly rare.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The General Course is a very organized and well planned program for students coming from all over the world. There are many events (such as parties, socials gatherings, concerts, etc) that allow all general course students to interact and get to know each other. Furthermore, it is easy to also participate in events for all LSE students. It truly feels like you're an LSE student for a year, as you take all the same classes, do the same work, take the same exams, and can participate in the same sports/social/extracurricular activities. The only thing that was a little bit of a problem was that sometimes professors would be unaware that General Course students are graded slightly differently than regular LSE students and in some occasions it could put a GC student at a disadvantage. For example, projects that LSE students do (formatives) don't count for a grade, and thus professors tend to grade harder than usual on those, but formative grades do count towards a GC student's final grades. But this is very small and I don't think has a huge impact on the overall experience.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I didn't stay in LSE housing but rather UoL houseing, but the location and experience was wonderful nonetheless. I stayed right by Kings Cross station and had access to the entire city through the tube, and was a walkable distance from campus.

* Food:

Food on campus is accessible, reasonably priced, and pretty good. But there are also a lot of cafes, restaurants, etc near campus which is convenient.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It was easy to integrate as I was active in participating in different activities. I joined a sports team which is easy to do at LSE and I'd encourage students to attend the club/sports fairs at the beginning of the year, as my volleyball team was a huge part of my social life there and also allowed me to travel a little to compete. Furthermore, I worked part time at a local restaurant and was really able to interact with locals and tourists alike, which was a whole different experience.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Health care was amazing in the UK. With your visa, you pay a small health fee and have FULL access to NHS. All you have to do is register with a local GP, which you can do easily online, and you have easy access to any health care you need. My doctor was great and easily accessible.

* Safety:

London is overall pretty safe, as it is always busy even later in the night. I've walked home at 1-2am after work all the time and never felt too unsafe. One just has to be aware of your surroundings and walk in well lit/populated areas. The bigger danger in London is theft, me and several people I know had things stolen e.g. wallets, phones, money, etc. You just have to be very careful and wary of pickpockets and people who may approach you/trick you and take your stuff when you're not paying attention. Secure your stuff very well in your bags, zipped up, and if you don't have to, don't bring too much cash/credit cards and other important things with you.

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

LSE is a prestigious university, and as a history and political science major it was a very rewarding experience, especially because I took advantage of all the unique opportunities available at an institution like LSE. You get to live and attend classes with local students and are fully immersed as truly an LSE student for the whole year, which many other programs do not allow. London is also an incredible city, and you can easily (and cheaply) travel to many parts of Europe and you will have a lot of free time to do so. It really opened my eyes both academically and personally to a whole new world. The professors are amazing and so knowledgeable, and you meet really interesting people from all over the world. The fact that it is a full year program is also great because just one semester wouldn't do the school or the city justice.

Finances

* 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)

London is a very expensive city to live in, and even in student housing the rent is very high. Food tends to be expensive but I was able to budget decently well and cooked every night. I tended not to eat out and attend social events as often because I could not afford to do so all the time. I worked 20 hours a week at a restaurant which helped pay for my groceries, but I still relied on my parents and loans to pay for rent and tuition. Some plusses are for example phone plans are much cheaper in Europe, and you don't really need to pay for textbooks at LSE as everything you need is available online or at the library. Overall, one has to be very careful and if your budget is limited, find a job like I did to cover your basic expenses.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent between $70-$90 a week on food and other expenses, including public transport, occasional social events, phone bills, etc.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Try to walk as much as you can, London is a very walkable city and public transport can add up pretty quickly. Eat out as little as you can and stick to simple places if you must, e.g. the cafes on campus tend to be cheaper and offer cheap meals compared to other places. I worked 15-20 hours a week waitressing and it did not really affect my studies and was actually a rewarding experience, it could give you a little extra cash for food and travel.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

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

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The Location
  • The Classes
  • Travel
* What could be improved?
  • Financial Aid/Cost
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The only real struggle/negative with the experience for me was how expensive it was. I had to take out extra loans and my family really struggled to pay for this. It was difficult because I already accepted the offer and committed to go, and it wasn't until a month or so after that that LSE informed me they wouldn't give me any financial aid. My family was supportive and tried to make it work but it was very difficult, and my home institution was not helpful at all in giving me information on this. At most they recommended I applied for scholarships that only amounted to 1000-2000 dollars which was not nearly enough for what I needed. I wish I could have been better informed and prepared for this.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

IR202 Foreign Policy Analysis

Course Department: International Relations
Instructor: Chris Alden
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The course was challenging and the material very interesting and engaging. However the lectures and classes were pretty dry and not very helpful. The teachers and professors pretty much just recited information from the readings and were not very engaged overall. Most people didn't go to any lectures and classes and just did all the readings before the exam and did just fine. Overall the assessment was fair enough and the topics interesting, but the experience wasn't as engaging and rewarding as my other courses.
Credit Transfer Issues: no issues
Course Name/Rating:

GV262 Contemporary Political Theory

Course Department: Government
Instructor: Dr. Laura Valentini and Yonatan Levi
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The course was very challenging but also very rewarding, because the readings and subjects can be very dense and thought provoking. I thoroughly enjoyed all the discussions, projects, papers, and exams in this class and felt that I learned a lot. The professor did a great job of tying this to relevant current affairs and I found I left the class with a new perspective on the issues in the world. The professor and teachers were very knowledgeable and helpful and they were very helpful and gave great feedback.
Credit Transfer Issues: No issues
Course Name/Rating:

HY118 Faith Power and Revolution: Europe and the Wider World 1500-1800

Course Department: International History
Instructor: Dr. Paul Keenan
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The content and assignments themselves were not super challenging, but because it is an intro course, it covered a very wide range of topics which made it hard to understand any one of them in depth. This was challenging because there were immense amount for readings on topics every week, and they were all very different from each other. Nonetheless it was a good overview of a huge part of world history, but overall I don't feel that I learned that much or anything too meaningful. There was usually a different lecturer every week depending on their expertise and that week's topic, which was neat because it allowed us to learn from people with great understanding of the topic, but also allowed much less interaction with the actual professor from that class. And some lecturers were much better than others. The class did make use of some field trips like to the portrait gallery, and we were able to utilize a lot of local resources for our final research project. The papers and exams were all assessed very fairly, but sometimes the feedback wasn't as helpful or clear as I would have liked. I'd think I wrote a great paper and not do as well and vice versa. Overall it was a good class.
Credit Transfer Issues: No Issues
Course Name/Rating:

HY245 US and the World since 1776

Course Department: International History
Instructor: Dr. Megan Black and Tom Ellis
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The course was incredibly interesting and I think i've learned more in this class than I have in any other one as a history major. The readings and assignments were all very interesting and thought provoking, and it was a very unique perspective on US history, as well as a very in depth analysis that gave me a new understanding of everything going on in the country today. The assessments and exams were all very fair, and the final was a take home project which allowed much more in depth analysis of the topics. The professors and teachers were very knowledgeable and available for help, and their feedback was very helpful and I felt more comfortable and did better on assignments as the year went on. I would highly recommend this class for history and non-history majors alike, it was a very rewarding experience.
Credit Transfer Issues: No issues