As the new academic year begins, we feature a blog from one of our recent MSc alumna, Ramona Martinez, about the experience of her first week
This blog first appeared on the Students@LSE blog here.
As I anticipated coming to LSE this year, I wondered nervously about the student culture and dreaded the level of academic competition I might find. I questioned, “What would my peers be like? Will all these folks be cold overachievers?” It is clear that the LSE attracts very bright students. An LSE alumna I knew told me the LSE climate is “intense.”
With the hype surrounding LSE’s academic rigor, I was a bit nervous to meet my peers and wondered whether I had what it takes to compete among them. I went to a mid-size, private Catholic university in southern California. I enjoyed the benefits of a personalied liberal arts education, but I wasn’t sure whether my time at this intimate Jesuit institution was the proper training for the challenges I might find at a premier international university.
Yet, as I settle into life here and meet the students and faculty at LSE, I happily find they are very far from intimidating. It is true that they are accomplished, have varied backgrounds, and come from all over the world. However, I find them to be warm, receptive, and earnest learners. Though they’re all exceptional people, no one has been immune to feeling overwhelmed as we take on graduate studies. We’re all leveled by the initial challenges of adjustment, but the process has been made easier by taking them on together.
While I ease into my new academic home, I regret that I almost counted myself out before I began. Those feelings of potential inadequacy remind me of a dialogue I had while participating in UCLA Law Fellows, a program for aspiring law students based at the UCLA School of Law. During one session while we were discussing admission and entrance to law school, an admissions director forewarned us that many people who arrive at law school feel overwhelmed in joining a group of exceptional people and may question their own abilities or feel like a fraud. This is aptly named “Imposter Syndrome.”
Imposter Syndrome often strikes successful individuals who cannot internalize their success and is particularly common in high-achieving women. I can now happily say that I do not question whether I’m supposed to be here, but I thought I might offer a few encouraging words to folks that might not be settling in as comfortably.
I think it is important to recognize that all of your success can’t be attributed to happenstance and luck; so don’t trivialize your accomplishments in this way. Appreciate the history and trajectory of what brought you to this moment. Acknowledge your personal narrative as unique and reflect on what you offer apart from others, especially if your path may be “non-traditional.”
I’ve been feeling mostly calm and excited during this first week of lectures, but on Wednesday I was suddenly overcome by a bit of anxiety in the morning. I got a headache and my stomach was upset. As I rode to school on the tube, I repeated internally, “I am not my fear. I am bigger.” With this, I regained mastery over what felt like tyrannical emotion and I’ve felt centered for the rest of the week.
So, when you might feel overpowered by what’s going on around you, perhaps recall, “I am not my fear. I am bigger.”
Wishing you well,
Societal psychologist academically interested in social representations and personally interested in humanistic psychology.