And I demand brutally honest answers.
1) LSE100. Objectively, how is the famed [and apparently hated] course?
2) Are the professors approachable? [law in particular]
3) Do the professors really teach well?
4) How is the study atmosphere?
5) How are the exams structured?
6) How hard is it to get a first?
7) Can one get a first without compromising on a good social life?
8) Is LSE's emphasis on "independent learning" really just codeword for "Nobody gives a crap about you"?
9) Is the Student Union effective?
10) Are many students really that irascible and radical about their political views?
11) How is the social life?
12) Is there a generally snobbish attitude towards international students?
13) How competitive does it get?
14) What's with all the "scandals"?
15) LSE has 40 graduate scholarships for only Indians, but not a single undergraduate scholarship for international students. Looking at the fee structure, I can only ask emphatically, WHY?
Any one question, or all. Doesn't matter. But I need answers.
Experiences vary. Attitudes are subjective. I get it. I just really, really want to know what I should expect before I firm [or even consider firming] LSE, because I've heard a lot of things from friends.
I'm sorry if I seem a bit... authoritative. But, you know, big irreversible steps are going to being taken at this stage, so I can't afford to leave any stones unturned.
A decent social life, a good degree, and strong employment prospects. Is this an impossible trinity?
In Michaelmas Term of 2015, fresh faces went around school excited for a new chapter of their life, eager to explore all the opportunities, resources and challenges that the renowned London School of Economics and Political Science had to offer. Getting to class was probably more challenging than class itself at the start, but soon the freshers managed to navigate the complicated compound with ease and made the school their own. They became more settled in, and were warming up to the rigor of their school work.
And when Lent Term came around in 2016, all these students had to go through the ritual of LSE100 (ready or not!). So, what exactly is this LSE100 then? According to the LSE website, “the LSE Course is LSE’s flagship interdisciplinary course for undergraduate students… brings you into the heart of the LSE tradition of engaging with big questions… will enhance your education and experience at the School by complementing your disciplinary training with an understanding of different ways of thinking…”
What the LSE100 course is in practice, however, is a two-hour lecture (at 9am for some) and a class every week with weekly homework of portfolio questions. It is also an assessed course – which means group presentations and summative essays. Not that exciting anymore, eh? Indeed, there were groans from the quantitative students: “readings?!?! essays?!?! presentations!?!?” Murmurs also came from the qualitative students: “graphs and statistics?!?! More readings on top of the unending books and articles we have to do??!!”
To put the concerns of the qualitative students at ease first: graphs and statistics might seem foreign and daunting, but it is refreshing to have visual representations and information conveyed clearly and quickly in tables (rather than reading a thousand-word essay just to derive a one-line conclusion). While there are about two to three readings a week, they are relatively short – around 10 pages or less each (the use of ‘short’ here will be highly contested by the quantitative students) – and will be quick to get through.
As for the quantitative students: this might not be of much comfort, but the readings are (relatively) rather short and simple, so it could be much worse! The presentation is unfortunately unavoidable, but data and graphs are expected in the presentations so in splitting the work with your group mates your forte will definitely come in handy. I go to all the LSE100 lectures with a friend who is studying Math and Economics. At the end of the second lecture, as we were leaving, he said, “Perhaps I should have taken a qualitative course.” This was extremely surprising to me, for he is genius at Math and I absolutely couldn’t fathom him doing anything else. In spite of his struggles with the readings and portfolio questions occasionally, he acknowledged that such issues we were discussing were indeed salient and provided an understanding of the world (a practical application of sorts) that Math was unable to provide.
For the 2015/2016 batch of freshers, we started with the topic of ‘Poverty and Inequality’. I am proud to say I made it to all the lectures for this module, except the one in the last week of Term where I’ll have to admit, I was already in holiday mode, and a walk to school in the cold for a 9am lecture was not the most appealing thing to me. Lectures are recorded however, and most people choose to watch the recordings online.
‘Poverty and Inequality’ was heavily laden with statistics, maps and data, which was a little challenging for me initially. However, the shocking statistics and interesting maps (such as Charles Booth’s poverty map of London) helped me to understand the issue in a much clearer manner, and revealed the gravity of the situation. The lecture that struck me the most was the one where Alpa Shah poignantly asserted that the ‘Generation of Wealth and Generation of Poverty are two sides of the same coin’. As we are growing and preparing to be contributing members to society, the issue of poverty in equality is unavoidable, and especially here in London. Many of us at LSE are from relatively privileged backgrounds and with our place at LSE, are undoubtedly in a privileged position. It definitely prompted me to reflect on the opportunities I am fortunate to have, and the role I can play in reducing poverty and inequality now, and in the future.
This week, we have just started our next module: Nationalism. I briefly encountered this topic in Junior College (the equivalent of high school) in a governance and civics engagement enrichment programme. I found it really interesting then (although a little hard to grasp with the vague definitions), and so I am really excited to be delving deeper into this contemporary concern! Debates and discussions over issues of nationalism are in the headlines every day – salient examples include the refugee/migrant “crisis”, religious minorities, Scotland’s appeal for independence from the UK and the upcoming UK referendum to leave the European Union.
So for me at least, the additional workload is definitely a chore, but the issues deliberated are definitely a core part of an education at one of the leading social science universities in the world. But at the same time, perhaps the course itself should be equally debated about. What are/were your experiences with LSE100? Leave a comment!
An over-enthusiastic storyteller cum budding anthropologist attempting to travel and understand the world, while munching on french fries.
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