Apr 5 2011

Life, London, LSE and IR: the first two terms

Some of our first year BSc IR and MSc IR students have kindly written about their experience of IR, LSE and London during their first two terms of study:

BSc International Relations

International Relations at the LSE is one of the most interesting, fascinating, and stimulating, but also challenging and demanding degrees to choose from. It offers a broad view on the functionality of our global society and provides a well-rounded package of academic knowledge in various fields, all inter-related and essential for world politics.

There are four modules for all BSc IR students. The two compulsory first-year modules are The Structure of the International Society (IR100) and Modern International History Since 1890 (HY116).  IR100 is a great primer course for incoming students offering a comprehensive introduction to the degree, explaining fundamental IR theories and mechanisms such as sovereignty, realism, balance of power and polarity. The department encourages the application of such theories in real-world situations and happenings in the second term when we study weapons of mass destruction, the rise of China, global governance and globalisation.  While IR100 is a good introduction for IR, HY116 provides a perspective of the origins of these theories and previous iterations. In line with the LSE motto, we are understanding the causes of things: It is important to review the past to be able to evaluate properly the present.

Languages are a fundamental tool in a globalized world and essential for students of International Relations. The department therefore encourages especially first year students to take a language course, which is also possible outside the degree, then as a certificate course.

However, studying at LSE includes more than just the academic life. The vast number of student societies and sports activities brighten up even the most rainy London day and balance out the time spent sitting in the library reading and writing for classes. Many internationally orientated societies, such as the Grimshaw Club, affiliated with the IR Department, the UN Society or many national societies offer a great opportunity for intellectual exchange and social contacts.

Andreas Kopp and Venessa Chan
First Year BSc International Relations, 2010/2011

MSc International Relations
LSE and London: get out and enjoy the ride!

The LSE is an outstanding academic institution, that’s probably why you’ve decided to go here in the first place. I still remember that I was impressed by my very first lecture in international politics by Professor Buzan (who unfortunately for you, will retire soon). Make sure that you’ll attend all of the lectures, because they will provide you with basic understanding and research questions of International Relations. Some postgraduates don’t have an IR background, so don’t be afraid in the first weeks to speak up in the seminar and especially to ask questions when you cannot entirely follow the debate. You’ll probably hear sighs of relief of your fellow students because they wanted to ask the same but didn’t have the guts to do so.

But not only the academic merits make the LSE such an intriguing place to go to, London itself has a lot to offer. Take for example the events that LSE can host due to its central London location, amongst others I’ve seen Gordon Brown, Aung San Suu Kyi (on videoconference), Lord Brittan and Javier Solana. And if you’re done studying for the day, you can enjoy yourself in Covent Garden, walk along the Thames, go shopping at Oxford Street (don’t forget the Primark at the very end of Oxford Street for some very good bargain shopping), or visit the British Museum: all within walking distance!

True, London and the LSE can be very overwhelming in the first few weeks. You have to get used to your new environment and that can take some time. Reading more than 10 books in a week is rather challenging, and finding your way in the ant heap called London can also be quite confrontational. London can be the ultimate city to unwind when going to the theatre and for a drink afterwards, but walking through the city during the weekdays or taking the tube can be quite a stressful undertaking. You will notice however, that after a few weeks, when you finally found the shortest route to the School, that a bus ride is cheaper and more fun, that Hampstead Heath is a  wonderful place to find some rest, and a bag of chips at the Wright’s Bar in Houghton Street is only 95p; it all starts to get better.

But what makes the LSE an unforgettable experience right from the beginning, are the people you meet during term time.  You will notice that making friends is one of the easier bits, and you’ll be amazed by the people you will meet. Although the majority of postgraduate IR students are from the US, Canada and Europe, you will certainly find people from all over the world. Take advantage of this: not only will your new friends provide you with new perceptions on the world; you will have lots of places to crash when you’re travelling it.

So don’t think that LSE is all about studying in the library and not coming out of it, (this is in fact possible as it is open 24/7 from Lent Term onwards), but LSE is about getting out there: ask yourself and others challenging questions and meet and engage with others. This is where you will learn the most so: turn off your computer and GET OUT THERE!

Merel Vogelaar
MSc International Relations 2010-11

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