Students sit in their chairs in their university halls – sometimes without moving for hours. Anyone who studies now does not look to the left, not to the right, just straight ahead: at their laptops. For hours, days, weeks, terms. The intellectual maturity of almost 2.4 million students is currently taking place in a small box, closed to the public. Compared to our cohort in the earlier years, social life did, of course, take a hit. With these everlasting restrictions, it still seems surreal to realize that one term has passed. At the time of writing this, I am also halfway through the second term.
Six months in London have passed with many positive impressions. The view from different disciplines and the discussions with students from various countries have made studying at the LSE an enriching experience; not just academically. Life in London has always inspired me to discover new things every day. Originally, I thought that the current pandemic will paralyze certain kinds of social activities; however, I am glad that the university still tries to offer numerous digital extracurricular activities. The network of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is unique and very special. As part of LSESU university society committee, together with other members, I was able to host many different kinds of social events with renown international politicians, business leaders, industrialists and civil servants like Tony Blair, Olaf Scholz, Carsten Spohr or Ursula von der Leyen, just to name a few. Experiences like these shape one's character! Furthermore, recently, we had a Nobel Memorial Prize Winner in Economic Sciences teach our economics course. The LSE, as such, is not only a place of education but also a temple for self-development, which I am very glad to be a part of.
The LSE isn’t easy. Teachings are rigorous but stimulating. Academic papers, problem sets in economics, mathematics exercises, class worksheets, aside from daily lectures dominated my past six months. From mid-December to mid-January we had a “break” where most students prepared for the January examinations. Usually, shortly after Christmas, I would be travelling to Bali, Bora Bora or Botswana; however, the pandemic, as for everyone, ruined all travel plans. I was lucky to escape back to Germany and be tested negative, though. The new variant of the coronavirus, B.1.1.7, was found two days after I left London for Berlin during the Christmas “break”. Surprisingly, after fourteen years of construction, I arrived at the new airport, BER, in Berlin. After having completed the exams in Germany, I returned nearly six weeks later. Immigration, due to the Brexit, understandably, took longer.
Upon arrival, I was welcomed by the many friends I had made in the short time-span. The support structures amongst friends are something that I regard as extremely valuable at the LSE. With an international student body, you not only become friends with people from different countries, but you also learn about their cultures and unique experiences. As someone who has travelled to more than 60 countries, I see myself as a cosmopolitan person. In the past, after having travelled through newly industrialized countries and having seen the need for technological innovations in emerging market economies, I identified a gap in the market and developed an app-based financial services company. I judged the emerging market economy to be demanding of a novel innovation, which is now highly regarded by more than 500.000 daily global users. Still, there is so much to know, you can never know enough. Even after having travelled to East Asia, previously, still, rather unheard of for me, I celebrated Chinese New Year – Year of the Ox – with friends doing a Lohei (魚生), a prosperity toss of different kinds of vegetables and raw fish. It involves a group of people gathered around a table, chucking its contents to the ceiling while saying auspicious Chinese chants before eating it—it is assumed that the higher the toss, the better the prospects and fortune in the year ahead. Such festivities would have gone under if I were to study at a university with a culturally homogenous student body.
Academically, I have received many inputs. However, for me, even more, valuable than academic merit is the quality of extracurricular activities at the LSE. With the second term nearing an end, I am surprised to see the time have gone by quickly. Despite the difficulties of the current pandemic and its collateral damage to the millions of students worldwide, I can say that I am still very grateful to be able to pursue an international Bachelor degree. Of course, a corona-free society would make things substantially easier; however, I am delighted to be a #partofLSE.
February 2021 | Manas Goyal