Recent international alum, Charis Yeap Khai Leang, shares her experience studying at the LSE for her MSc in Development Management. She tells us about her her fears, hopes and dreams. No one said it was going to be easy…  

There are so many things that I am truly grateful about having come across at the LSE this last year. Conducting the research consultancy project for Transparency International with a “dream team” has created a friendship that will hold a special place in my heart despite geographical distance.

I remember feeling an array of emotions as a fresh business administration undergraduate student preparing to enter LSE for the MSc of Development Management program. My interest in development emerged from my work outside university including internships in the Malaysian government and positions in charitable organisations, so many of my friends and family did not expect the transition. Prior to my acceptance, I had spent months researching about the program and the university. I looked through the course catalogues, staff directory, student forums, spoke to several alumni of the ID department and even enrolled in LSE Summer School to make sure I had a complete understanding of what exactly I was getting myself into. Just like everyone else, I was ecstatic to receive an acceptance for the 2017/2018 school year because I had fallen in love with the unique elements of what the university had to offer. However, it came with several challenges that I had to tackle even during my time at LSE. These included reassuring my family that there exists a diverse career path in development and my personal ability to adapt to the unconventional approach of a development manager.

With that being said, of course I was still a little afraid! Would I be able to make friends? Will I be treated like a child because of my lack of experience? Am I smart enough in comparison to my classmates? What if I pick the wrong courses? Will any of the professors even remember my name? There were so many new things about being a Master student that I knew I had to learn. When it came to orientation week, I realized that these fears were shared amongst all my classmates, regardless of age, qualification, or nationality. I realized that all of us in the ID department were unique because of our diverse backgrounds and interests, but we all shared the passion for making the world a better place in any way we possibly could. So I faced my fears, met some pretty amazing people and made the most out of my intense year at the LSE ID Department. Many aspects of my experience exceeded my original expectations. I felt like I was constantly learning something new from my advisor, professors and classmates every single day. We were given the chance to access the extensive LSE network of alumni and organisations along with an abundance of social science literature. Most importantly, every individual could personalise their experience. With advice from some professors, I chose the courses, consultancy project and dissertation topic that I found most interesting. With the little extra time I had left, I was also volunteering outside of university, taking LSE LIFE courses, and learning Spanish with the LSE Language Centre.

There are so many things that I am truly grateful about having come across at the LSE this last year. Conducting the research consultancy project for Transparency International with a “dream team” has created a friendship that will hold a special place in my heart despite geographical distance. Additionally, I will remember the feeling of pure relief and exhaustion as the whole class stood outside the George IV Pub after our last exam. Finally, some cherished memories will be the long informal conversations I had with professors, such as my advisor Professor James Putzel, that remind me that my future will always include moments where I must continuously remind myself what impact I want to have on the world. Overall, my time at the ID Department hasn’t been perfect but how I feel now that it’s over has made every ounce of frustration and stress worth it.

Dear incoming students, be prepared for what could be the most rewarding year of your lives so far. Amidst all the exciting nights out and early morning classes, always remind yourself why you are here and don’t forget that you should always put your well-being first. Good luck and all the best for the next year!


Charis Yeap Khai Leang is an MSc of Development Management 2017/18 Student, who is currently the Secretary-General of London International Model United Nations 2019 and preparing to pursue a PhD in Economics.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the International Development LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science.