Guest Blogger: Tarah Srethwatanakul
As this year’s General Course (GC) programme is coming to an end, I struggled to express my thoughts on the course because there is no typical GC experience. It is truly a customisable year: you design your own curriculum, choose from a flurry of clubs and societies to join (or not), decide which GC activities to participate in, determine how much you want to be involved with your ‘home’ department, and are free to live anywhere in London.
At the same time, you are fully integrated into the network of LSE students and genuinely have access to everyone on campus regardless of their degree programme. In my case, a sample of my friends here include a first-year Actuarial Science undergraduate, an LSE-PKU dual degree MPA candidate, a Media Communications doctoral candidate and a final-year exchange student from Sciences-Po. I have friends from all these programmes because there are no boundaries between degrees at LSE and this is one of my favourite aspects of being part of the community.
Photo source: LSE General Course Brochure 2013-14
Another benefit of the LSE network is being able to take advantage of the LSE Careers Centre and its many events. While careers events are mostly attended by graduate students, anyone at LSE is welcome to use their services and I’ve done exactly that, having attended a total of 8 seminars and 7 careers consultations. The highlight of the Careers offerings for me was definitely the Net-a-Porter presentation on the use of social media in eCommerce. There are also discipline and group specific events, such as the careers presentation tailored especially to GC students and a seminar with Muzaffar Khan for the Social Policy Society.
Most GC students also join societies and clubs to take advantage of all the events on campus. To illustrate the breadth of events available, this past year I’ve attended a truffle tasting with a Michelin-starred chef with the French Society, a mystery dinner organised by the International Development Society, and an online panel discussion with youths living in Gaza hosted by the Palestine Society. While I personally chose to be less involved with GC activities, it is entirely possible to develop a strong association with the programme by participating in GC-exclusive field trips and attending GC socials like the annual river boat party along the Thames and pub nights. The GC President, Rian Watt, even organised a Thanksgiving turkey dinner to make American students feel more at home!
I’ve also been able to commit to more stable positions, such as organising events for my hall as the Social Secretary of Grosvenor House and contributing to departmental feedback as the GC Course Representative for LSE’s Department of Social Policy. Since LSE is a very independent campus, I volunteered for these positions so that I could feel rooted to a cause and was able to meet lots of interesting people this way.
Overall, the General Course experience is what you make it and each student’s story will be different. Here’s what some of my fellow GC-ers have to say about their time at LSE:
Photo source: LSESU Student Rep Profiles
Rian Watt from Clark University University, General Course President
The General Course is not your typical ‘study abroad’ program. It’s for a full year rather than a semester, first of all, and there are no beaches to speak of (at least not beaches you’d want to spend time on). Instead, the General Course gives you the opportunity to spend nine months in one of the most active, intellectual, and engaging communities many of us have ever been a part of, and to live in a city that often feels like the center of the universe.
Of course, the size of the LSE means that no two General Course experiences are the same. We’re spread out across departments, halls, and outside interests, and I guarantee you there’s nobody (save perhaps Dean Hoffman) who’s met all of us. But there are some shared experiences: we’ve all been given the opportunity to push ourselves in some way this year, and to grow into a new idea of ourselves with London and this year as a part of it. For some, the growth has been bigger than for others – I know I’ve changed quite a bit, and there are some who are essentially the same person as they were when they came in. But we’ve all changed, in whatever degree, because of this life in London.
It can be difficult to meet fellow GC’ers who don’t live in your hall or aren’t in your classes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as everyone at the LSE is fascinating, but it does mean that the GC events which bring folks together at a pub (or, in one case, a club) have been particularly important. It’s been wonderful getting to know so many of you this year, and I look forward to keeping in touch once we’re back home!
Hoang Doang Trong from Clark University, General Course student
I think the General Course is amazing. First is the flexibility of choosing courses; I can choose whichever I like, not bounded to condition as the normal students. In my case, I take some from the Stats Department, then Finance, then Math — a combination that I don’t think any official LSE student could possibly do.
Second, “exploiting” the LSE alumni is like mining for readily available gold. I have been sending out emails to alumni, and some of them have been really helpful. One senior alumnus even let me meet him. So we have both our base schools alumni, and LSE alumni.