As a somewhat unconventional exam season draws to a close, many LSE students are now entirely done with their studies. For many, this is a conclusion of their journey in formal education.
I include myself in this. Although a Londoner by trade, I started my stint in higher education in the cold North in Newcastle-upon-Tyne – a wonderful little city with the world’s most frustrating football team.
For a fresh-faced youth straight out of school, this was a culture shock. The first term was a blur of emotions, and personal crises. Oh, to be 18 again.
Despite this start, the next three years were an unforgettable experience, of making some wonderful friends, of trying – and failing – many different activities, and beginning to develop my academic interests. And the city was amazing. Indeed, I hope all readers get a chance to visit Newcastle. Just remember to bring a jacket. A warm one.
The second chapter was even more challenging. I had decided quite early in my first year that I wanted to do a master’s, and applied to a dual-master’s programme between LSE and Columbia University in New York in my penultimate term at Newcastle. Anything to delay the inevitable job search. I arrived in the US – slightly less fresh-faced this time – in August 2018. This was an even greater shock than three years prior.
This is something that a large number of international students will likely relate to, regardless of where they study. Upon arriving in New York, I was overcome by how far from home I was. The sense of dislocation was profound. Additionally, the step up to master’s-level education was notable, to say the least.
While this sounds alarming, I feel it is important to be honest about this. There is nothing like starting afresh in an entirely new city. And certainly there were some tougher times. Yet while it was daunting, studying abroad was also tremendously exciting. In this year I was also lucky enough to learn from some truly inspiring people – teachers and fellow students alike – and to live in an incredible city.
After four years of excitement, the next step was perhaps the most daunting of all – to move back in with the parents. Yet returning to London to study for the second part of my master’s at LSE has not left me reeling. Far from it. The courses I have taken have continued to challenge my assumptions, raise my eyebrows, and generally occupy a lot of my waking hours and conversations – much to the annoyance of my friends who aren’t doing a postgraduate degree. The dreaded fear of missing out has also never come, thanks to the array of sights and activities that London has to offer. There are also some huge positives to living at home. I have personally found it to be a wonderful experience being back. The notable improvement in food quality and room tidiness is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.
It is devastating not to be able to celebrate the end of this journey right now, given COVID-19. I can only hope that this opportunity will come in the not-so-distant future. Until then, I hope that this whistle-stop tour of my own experience in higher education can provide some readers beginning their own journeys with some directions: of what it is like to begin this experience; of what it is like to be an international student; of what it is like to live back with one’s parents.
If it remains debatable as to whether I have become much wiser in these last five years, certainly I have learnt immeasurable amounts from those I have met around me, at every stage. I wouldn’t have changed LSE – or Newcastle or Columbia – for anywhere else in the world.