My program, MSc. in City Design and Social Science, falls in the Department of Sociology. When compared with LSE’s Department of Economics, in terms of numbers of students, Sociology seems invisible. As a graduate student, constantly tussling about whether or not I was choosing the right program, this difference constantly confused me. However, now having completed my Michaelmas Term teachings, I can happily say ‘I am exactly where I want to be’.
Due to the small number of students in the department’s modules, we were introduced to our faculty members during Welcome Week and I was rather surprised to see them making an effort to remember all our names, and voila, the first session of my program, my tutor was addressing me by my name.
A common perception is that Indian names are complicated to write and pronounce. With just about 18 of us sharing a room, I had enough time to ensure my classmates were getting my name right! Of course, due to the small overall number, there were no dominant regional groups and I can happily say I am equally close to my Indian friends as I am to my overseas friends.
There are perks and downfalls to being part of a small department. Yes, we have fewer students, and thus we have less fancy small classrooms instead of lecture halls. No, there are not as many common rooms and study spaces for the small group of us. No, we cannot enter or leave a lecture as and when we want to as we know for a fact we will be spotted. Oh, and if we do miss a lecture, we can be sure that it will be noticed and so there is no chance of skipping school on a lazy winter morning to catch up on video lectures on Moodle. But every time we go meet your faculty for an office hour, they know who we are, where we come from and our underpinnings and so we don’t need to spend time on introducing ourelves again and again. If I am late or skipping a class, someone will call me to check up on me. I have time to catch up on everyone’s work in the class to know the different perspectives the teachings can and are taking. And oh boy, when we do have organised social mixers like a pub quiz, it’s so so fun and unmissable.
To be honest, this provision of personal interaction facilitated by fewer seminar slots, smaller seminar groups and seminar–sized lecture classes – as a Sociologist – has enriched my experience in more ways than I even at times realise. And it was perhaps this close knit community that I yearned for moving away from home for the first time. While Sociology may seem invisible at times, its small status as a department has made me, as an individual feel constantly visible.