For a long time, I dreamed of studying something I loved at a top university. So, when I received my acceptance letter for the MSc International Social and Public Policy at LSE, I was beyond thrilled. Before coming to London, I had a few ideas about what the experience would be like. Not surprisingly, it has exceeded all of my expectations. While this has been one of the most gratifying times of my life, it has also been among the most challenging (and I would not change it for the world!).
In addition to gaining much knowledge and strengthening my critical thinking skills this year, I have learned some personal lessons along the way, which I believe are worth sharing. So, if any current or prospective students are reading this, here are four pieces of advice from my experience at the LSE:
Give it a go
Whether it is volunteering for a student role in the Department, participating in events and activities, speaking up in seminar (which terrified me in the beginning!) and even writing this post, my time at the LSE has taught me the importance of pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone.
University is a space where we can try new things while still having a safety net. So why not make the most of it? Opportunities are out there to learn; you just need to be attentive and take them. Do you want to write an essay on something that matters to you, but you are not certain it will be interesting for other people? Do it! I believe that facing your fears and putting yourself out there is an achievement in itself. In the process, remember, your best is enough. It is all about growth and progress, not perfection.
You do you
I remember my academic mentor saying this once when I was overthinking what to do my dissertation on (as usual!). It is such a simple yet meaningful advice, but it can be easy to forget during stressful times. For me, it is now a great reminder that there is no better way to ensure that I am giving my best than focusing on what works for me.
From my experience, especially when assessments are underway and the pressure is high, it is tempting to compare your progress to others. However, doing this can make you lose perspective and block your own creativity. Thankfully, something I have learned from studying Social Policy is that there are rarely any straightforward answers, and that there is no single ‘right’ approach to things. What works depends on multiple factors and the same principle applies for people. Everyone’s process is different, so trust yours!
It can be hard. However, opening up to people about my struggles has been such an important part of my journey at the LSE. I think, especially when studying abroad, the uncertainty of settling in a new country, along with the pressure of performing well academically, can be quite overwhelming.
Being a student at the LSE is meant to be challenging. However, sometimes it may seem like everyone is managing fine except for yourself. In reality, you might be surprised to find out that others are feeling the same way, but you will not know this until you talk about it and give others a chance to open up as well. Really, some of the best relationships I have formed at the LSE have come through having honest conversations about myself. So, do not be afraid to reach out to your peers (and even to faculty). We are all only human after all!
Enjoy the ride!
Studying at the LSE can definitely feel like a rollercoaster sometimes. It has its ups and downs and, again, its own set of challenges. But in the end, it is such a unique ride and wonderful experience. Every lesson you learn and every person you meet will have an impact on your life, so make them count.
I remember during our programme introduction in the first week, one of our professors told us that time would fly without us even realizing. Now, a few days away from turning in my dissertation (yay!), I completely agree. I think it is easy to get caught up on the daily pressures of your studies, but remember that coming to London is an experience which is broader than just assessments and grades. Make sure you give yourself time to explore the city, go on adventures and, most importantly, get to know yourself. Do the work, embrace the growth, and let yourself enjoy it!
Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Social Policy Blog, nor of the London School of Economics.