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Sheetal Kumar

January 15th, 2014

Looking back…

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Sheetal Kumar

January 15th, 2014

Looking back…

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

This Christmas was my first at home in the UK for a few years, and I’d forgotten what a whirlwind month December was. Waiting for a train with my suitcase full of presents, I stood in the shelter on the platform, the wind whipping and whirling, loud, long gusts lifting the rain against a grey sky thick with cloud and smashing it against the sides of the small but welcome haven. Tumultuous weather that seemed to capture quite neatly the sort of mad energy that surrounds the few weeks before Christmas and ‘festive period’, the vibrancy, the heightened sense of expectation and heady speed at which everything seems to happen.

The first week of the month slipped discretely from my attention as I wrote an essay, after which I emerged realising that only really a week remained of the first term and Christmas related social events were piling up as the terms’ deadlines were over and a long break beckoned, a whole month free of classes (albeit with essays to write). An ice skating trip with classmates, amidst the grand splendour of Somerset House, the departmental Christmas party DJed by one of our own professors, interspersed by many excuses to eat mince pies, drink mulled wine and generally revel in relative post first term ‘freedom’ and suddenly it was Christmas break, and the first term was over, packed with memories.

Christmas and New Year, filled as it is with social commitments, is a time to see people you may not have seen for a while. It’s the time to respond to the same question many times over, ‘Haven’t seen you for ages!… How is everything going?’ to which the response is invariably the same, although details omitted and added depending of course. The end of the year as well is inescapably a juncture at which to reflect, reconsider the year that has unfolded and the one which awaits around the corner, as yet unopened, unwritten, and unlived.

I found myself responding and looking back with already a tug of nostalgia for a time that has become ‘the past’ sooner than I could have imagined.  The past 10 weeks at LSE have especially flown. Each week has been stretched, expanded and layered with new and different experiences, new knowledge gained, attitudes remoulded and friendships made, so that it seems like so much more than 10 weeks must have passed, even if it also feels like fewer due to the speed of their passing.

In my last post I wrote about how a focus on critical analysis in class creates different perspectives, more profound but also sometimes quite simply more mystifying. Reflecting on this, I thought how the experience could be akin to that of a botanist who unravels something of how the plant world works. Far from ruining the appreciation of the plant being studied, its dissection, and the introspection of its many parts and understanding of its mechanics does not take away from the consideration of it ‘outside in nature’. Rather, it awakens a heightened understanding of its place in the greater scheme of things and deepens an appreciation of the complexity of the real world.  At the same time, such study fuels both humility and curiosity and a desire to engage further and understand more, aware of the many limitations on that understanding. Saying that though, the essay writing process can sometimes be a trying one as unpicking the knotted tangle of ideas and mapping them coherently in one’s mind is like facing a disordered pile of many small jigsaw puzzle pieces, and trying to find the contours amidst the jumbled parts.

Christmas break is necessarily filled with cheery indulgence (or overindulgence) as well as the inescapable readings and writing or guilt that results from not doing them and the dissertation in its earliest, embryonic phase. It’s a flurry of moments, and as soon as the gusts settle, after another year has burst forth, both new and old commitments beckon, and hopes, expectations, and apprehensions flutter the pages of another chapter.

Being a master’s student is not all critical introspection and wrangling with essays in the library of course! In my next post, I will write more about the ‘social’ side of the London student experience…

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Sheetal Kumar

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