DU Beat got the opportunity to talk to Medhavi Mathur, Psychology graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, who is mastering in Organisational and Social Psychology at London School of Economics and Political Science. She gives us an insight into the life of a student at LSE and what it is like to live so far away from home.
Q. What apprehensions did you face when you decided to move away from home and to a different country?What should an Indian student keep in mind before deciding to undertake a course abroad?
It was in my fifth semester of under graduation that a friend of mine suggested that I should consider applying to the UK (primarily London) due to the diversity of course choices offered at the M.Sc level. I decided to give it a shot and applied to a number of universities across London after carefully considering their criteria for admission into several courses of study. Till then, I wasn’t even sure of stepping outside of India! This was going to be my first time outside of home, alone, and was initially very nervous about how the entire journey is going to be like.
After a month of applying, I started receiving offers from a number of universities. By that time I had decided, my choice to study in London would depend only on successful offers from two of the most prestigious universities – The London School of Economics and Kings College London. I finally chose LSE over KCL after carefully considering the pros and cons associated with the courses offered at the two colleges, the faculty, methods of teaching and because of LSE’s brand name and prestige. After all, it is the leading social science institution in the world.
I had visited UK in 2005 and loved my experience here in every way possible – be it about the magnificent surroundings, the most beautiful cruise on the Thames, the calm and peaceful environment, the diverse international cuisines available (yes, I love experimenting with different varieties of food) and how crazy one can go shopping here!
Definitely, all international students must consider their fit with respect to settling down into a global city with a diverse range of people and cultures and in a study environment which is in total contrast with how we have in India. It’s about getting accustomed to the rigour of academics, unlearning a little bit of how we’ve been trained to study and ultimately about being able to make the most that this vibrant and exciting city in the world has to offer!
I was always fascinated by life and culture outside of India and wished to study abroad. Who knew, this opportunity was in store for me!
Q. How is the education system in UK different from that in India (DU specifically)?
The education system in India is in stark contrast to how teaching takes place here in London. I had to leave behind my almost annoying habit of cramming the contents of various courses before every exam and rather learn about the practical application of the subject matter taught. The school assesses students on a continuous basis with respect to student presentations during seminars, class discussions, several short multiple choice exams and finally the summative assessment involving essay writing with respect to real world applications of the course content, examinations and finally the M.Sc dissertations.
Academic supervisors provide feedback on every report or essay you submit which further improves the quality of work submitted during the finals.
I feel that an education system which incorporates all the above listed elements in addition to teaching students how to carry out field work in the real world to learn about the practical value of what they are being taught will help students learn in a better and comprehensive manner.
The LSE campus provides superb academic and support facilities, such as the British Library of Political and Economic Science.
Q. How would you say your degree at LSE compares to similar degrees in other institutes in terms of syllabus/ subject content and future prospects?
Like any other student, I too dreamt of studying at a prestigious institution like London School of Economics and Political Science whereby I would have the opportunity of being mentored by one of the best faculty, interacting with a plethora of students from varied cultural backgrounds which would help in widening my horizons and give me a wider comprehension of the global community.
I opted for this course specifically as my prime interest lies in the social-organizational nexus and the academic stream provided by LSE is a synthesis of social and psychological processes with focus on interdisciplinary domains between organizations and communities. Since the mode of teaching involves lectures, seminars, independent study and a dissertation, it helps merge practical experience with deep academic analysis.
The course is impressive and optimally geared towards the fulfilment of my professional capabilities. As the course provides with the main theoretical and research modules used within work and organizational psychology, it has helped optimise my interest and nascent acumen.
I chose LSE for its continuous focus on excellence, inclusivity and achievement which makes it one of the best in the world alongside many others.
Q. One often hears about how international and diverse LSE is, is it true? If settling in and feeling at home is the easy part at LSE, what is the hardest?
About 150 nationalities are represented amongst LSE’s student body and the school has the highest percentage of international students (70%) out of all British universities – ranked second in the world for the highest proportion of international students.
In my program of study itself, there are people from about 30 different language speaking nationalities.
In the initial few weeks, it surely is hard as everybody takes their own time to get comfortable and mix with the others. However, as classes and seminars begin in full swing, the process whereby students participate in a range of discussions and give seminar presentations, makes the entire adjustment process easy. Study groups form over time and help in easing out the academic burden and tension as students discuss readings and their differing points of view.
The academic and non-academic staff is very helpful and willing to guide you in every difficult scenario you encounter.
LSE provides a range of support services on campus to ensure that the whole student experience is as rewarding and enjoyable as possible, and include academic guidance, advice and counselling, a faith centre, off campus support schemes and a medical centre.
Q. Being a college student living in one of the most popular destinations in the world, how do you manage your finances apart from college tuition? What do you find yourself spending the most on?
Many students worry about the cost of living in London, but to be honest it’s easy to live economically whilst still having a great time at university. This is because being a student brings with it a lot of financial advantages. As a student, I have access to discounts, cheap social activities, and the flexibility to do part-time work. An easy way to access lots of discounts at once was to get an NUS Extra card, which gets you 10-20% discounts on fashion, food (London is the place to be for all food lovers, like me), cinema tickets, travel and coach cards.
I tend to spend money mostly on travel and grocery. It’s a good idea to walk back from college one side and enjoy the breath-taking view simultaneously. When it comes to grocery, if you’re in a self-catered accommodation, it’s a good idea to team up with your neighbours in halls to do a group shop, and take turns to cook for everyone – bulk buying for a group is much cheaper (and less wasteful) than cooking for one. Once you’re into the habit of managing your money, it makes life a lot easier and less stressful!
Q. What is a typical day on campus like?
Every day on campus brings with it something new to learn. Be it about exploring a new building, or a café, learning about an unheard of phenomenon or simply being spell bound by the lectures delivered by the professors.
In addition to attending classes and seminar groups you are assigned to, students have a lot of readings to complete before their classes. As a result, the 4 floor LSE library is a home to students who have access to Mac and regular PCs (about a thousand of them, if not more) to complete their coursework and readings. The Library, which is a paradise for avid readers is equipped with additional high tech facilities and enables students and teachers to gain ample knowledge through the easy availability of a collection of outstanding national and international publications and journals. The school also provides superb academic and support facilities.
LSE also has one of the most prestigious public event programmes in the world. I was fortunate enough to have heard Amartya Sen speak about his latest publication in November last year. The school also offers several networking opportunities and has established a global network with a small number of high quality universities across the world. In my first week, I was confident to have made the right choice.
The LSE’s career service is extremely helpful as it provides comprehensive career guidance and employment services for students seeking information on graduate employment and further study. They run a wide range of career events on campus, one-to-one career discussion and CV checking appointments, and the website is full of information to help students research and achieve their career objectives.
With respect to sports facilities, there’s the LSE Students’ Union gym, an activity studio, a badminton court, a sports ground, a fancy Gymbox, tennis courts and a swimming pool.
Q. What has been your most profound memory at LSE so far?
There’s no one memory that I can enlist here. However, a department trip to Cumberland Lodge has been one of the most delightful experiences here with fellow students. The opportunity to explore the city of Windsor in addition to being served lavish English meals, engaging talks on a variety of phenomena and the dance bar was an exotic event in itself. Apart from that, a number of networking events and business dinners have helped provide insight into the real world of work culture and ethics. The prospect of discovering oneself while gaining an understanding of a different culture and people has further broadened my understanding of humanity. This has given me a chance to become an independent and free thinking individual.
The campus is always buzzing with activities and fairs, offers amazing in house eating cafes and has a bar of its own- LSE is responsible for providing a lavish environment to every student who is looking for a once in a lifetime experience.
Since LSE is located in the heart of London, there is never a dull moment. London offers more than nearly every other city when it comes to entertainment, culture and experiences. In addition, a plethora of shopping places and ambrosial cafes can never stop amazing you. If, you’re willing to tour around, London can never exhaust you. I was left awe struck by the view one gets to see at night from on top of the Jubilee Bridge. It’s a must visit on your stay in London.
Read more about our series on DU Alumni at the London School of Economics and Political Science.