At the start of this Lent Term, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my experience at LSE so far. Looking back, I have grown so much both as an individual and as a budding academic over the last few months. I’m more than happy to share the insights that I have gained so far, which I will continue to apply throughout the Lent Term and the upcoming Summer Term.
Regular meals matter
To be brutally honest, I was overwhelmed by the number of readings I was asked to do each week in my first term. In addition, after the first three weeks of lectures and classes, I was required to submit one assessment – either formative or summative – per week for my BSc in International Relations and History. Startled by the intensity of the course, I often skipped meals to save more time for readings. As skipping meals became an habit, I sometimes had lunch in Fourth Floor Restaurant in the Old Building as my only meal of the day. While this seemed to save both time and money in the short term, it wasn’t, obviously, a healthy choice in the long term! I ultimately ended up being seriously ill by the end of the Michaelmas Term, which made the situation even worse for me as I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. To break this vicious cycle, I’m consciously doing my best not to repeat the same mistake. Once I came back to London for the Lent Term, I set up an alarm three times a day to ensure that I force myself to have a meal when the alarm rings. Hopefully, this new routine will last until my graduation.
There is no need to compare yourself to others
At the beginning of the Michaelmas Term, I was committed to working at an international organisation after graduation, notably the United Nations. However, ever since attending the Discover | International Organisations event from LSE Careers, I have come to realise you need a master’s degree with relevant work experience – meaning that I’ll need both general and specialist knowledge in the field. The problem with this is that I don’t have any idea what I want to specialise in in the future. Additionally, I have realised that I love history more than international relations, but I am unsure whether I want to be a professional academic. As Michaelmas Term wrapped up, I went through an existential crisis as I saw my career goals drifting apart from what I’d expected. To add insult to injury, around the time I was growing uncertain of what I wanted to do in the future, many LSE friends were already applying for spring internships – so committed were they to their desired field of work. My anxiety grew over time, as I felt more and more pressured to determine my career path as soon as possible. The point here to remember, though, is that no one (absolutely no one) had forced me to choose and stick to a specific career right away. My hasty attitude was the issue. Once I’d freed myself from career-oriented expectations, I began to treat this term’s assessments as opportunities to explore my academic and potential career interests. Now, during office hours, I ask career-related questions to professors as I explain my assessment plans. This has been a game changer compared to my first term where I wrote essays to earn good marks. My goal for the rest of this term, therefore, is to discover myself, no matter how other students are progressing toward their own career goals.
Planning is key
My previous points boil down to the importance of planning. Now that I’ve been through the first term, I know how busy term time can be. To manage class preparations, assessments, commitment to society events, and career reflections simultaneously (and of good quality), planning is the key to success. I have marked important deadlines for each of the categories above on a calendar and planned backward to finish assignments at least a week before they are due. By doing so, I have enough spare time to conduct spontaneous research on future careers, as well as to reflect on whether I am going down the right track. Although this has made my Lent Term busier than Michaelmas Term, I’m glad I’m managing my time better.