Stalingrad. The Ardenne. The invasion of Normandy. Freedom versus tyranny. Democracy against Nazism. Armies of millions bleeding into the ground. Fleet of ships going down the ocean. Planes dropping bombs from the sky until they obscured the sun itself. Pictures we can’t even imagine today, though this was the bitter reality less than eighty years ago. Shortly after that, the European Coal and Steel Community was set up to end the bloody wars between the neighbors and to unite European countries economically, politically, and culturally. Surely, we can hopefully agree that a Third World War will not start. Since the founding fathers of the European Union, amongst others including Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi, Joseph Bech, and Paul-Henri Spaak, established the bloc, with what began as a purely economic union, it has now evolved into an intergovernmental and supranational organization spanning policy areas, from climate, environment, health to external relations and security, justice, as well as migration. As a German, therefore, it is saddening to see the United Kingdom have left the European Union; however, studying for EU students goes on as normal.
It took me exactly one single day to settle into my new environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Having attended a German-American school for the past twelve years shaped how I perceive the English language and my interactions with it. At school, we typically conversed in a mix of German and English, meaning that living in an English-speaking country was not too big a change. However, I must note that I did have to cut back on my ‘Denglish’ entirely. In Germany, without noticing, I became accustomed to interchanging and using words from both languages, while being sure that the interlocutor will comprehend; however, in the United Kingdom, of course, no one would understand my ‘I am heading to the U-Bahn in zwei Minuten’, sentence. It took me a week to overcome my code-mixing; however, the slightly bigger hurdle, though also negligible, I had was understanding the various British accents. I must say the UK is a very diverse country, pristinely represented in its culture, and specifically the accents. The Welsh have an entirely different accent. The Welsh, monophthongize nearly all diphthongs. I never knew cake could be pronounced /keık/. Then, there are sub-varieties of Welsh English: Northern and Southern Welsh English. Who would have known? Adding to that, the LSE being the epicenter of a melting pot, countless international students enhance the number of English accents as well. My general knowledge, aside from my studies at the LSE, has increased through meeting so many different students from around the world.
All these interactions made me realize, English is a lingua franca. Speaking English has defined me and how I articulate myself since the beginning. Nearly 20% of the Earth’s population can converse in English and as international trade expands every year, new countries come into contact with the language. Recently, I was speaking to an LSE student from Djibouti, whose father worked together with the Chinese to realize the government’s Belt and Road Initiative in the coastal country, and was told that the construction workers openly communicated in English. Instances like these made me verify my perceptions about the importance of knowing English and that studying in London at the LSE will only append to my experiences. Without English, studying in the United Kingdom would not have been a possibility and I am delighted to have learned it as I grew up. The IELTS test further prepares potential students to particularly study in the UK. With real-life examples from situations that could occur in the UK and a taste of the British culture, it is optimal for preparation.
The first term at the LSE recently ended with countless exams, essays, and coursework assignments. Studying in the UK is very different compared to studying in Germany. Through a holistic, relevant and personal teaching approach, materials are conveyed intriguingly. I thoroughly enjoyed the Michaelmas term at the LSE and look forward to the upcoming Lent Term. As we write the year 2021, the pandemic has impacted our lives for nearly ten months. School and university students have been hit substantially, as socializing is an important part of one’s educational experience. With vaccinations rolling out all over the world, hopes for imminent normalization are high.
Thank you for reading. Until next month, best wishes and stay safe.
January 2021 | Manas Goyal