One week in, one midterm down. When each class is only three weeks long, the pace moves fast. But never once has it been overwhelming. The university does a great job of organizing the classes and providing social programs to let you interact and get to know your peers outside the classroom. The London School of Economics (LSE) provides an array of activities for students who wish to sign up. There are weekend day trips to Stonehenge and Oxford, and evening musical outings to The Lion King or Les Misérable. But you do need to be prepared to spend some time in the library and do the assigned class readings.
The instructors expect you to come prepared and know your material. Each class consists of two components: a lecture and class discussion. Together you have a total of four hours of class time each day. One day here at LSE is equivalent to a week’s worth of material for your typical Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday class at IU. There is a common vibe amongst students; focus on classes during the day, and experience the city and social activities at night.
Not only do the professors turn up the heat inside the classroom, but I’ve also been experiencing the warmest heat wave in London in the past decade. The temperatures might not be as blistering as they are in Bloomington, reaching 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the warmest of days, but few of the buildings around town have air-conditioning. The lack of AC does make life sweaty and uncomfortable at times, especially when riding the Underground (aka the subway) or one of the thousands of red double-decker public buses with all your closest friends. Still, public transportation is one of my favorite aspects of London. I have found the public transit systems to be quite easy to navigate. A quick download of the Underground tube map on your smart phone can get you anywhere you want to go in central London. The LSE campus is ideally located for those who wish to experience the sights of London. The campus is located two minutes North from the Thames River and within walking distance of many of the city’s great museums and attractions.
Classroom and dorm life parallels my experiences at Indiana. Introductory classes have large theater type seating and big projector screens, professors make constant use of PowerPoint slides, and a dorm room is a dorm room. Like many classes at IU, my class has been broken down in to a computer lab component that focuses on applying course concepts in Microsoft Excel and a lecture component. Academic life is easy to adjust too, and really not that different from university life back in the US.
One of the biggest cultural differences is the pub culture. The university has three school-sponsored pubs on campus. The campus pubs provide students with an ideal way to socialize after class. In London it seems there is a pub on every corner, and it is quite popular to get together with peers or co-workers in the early evenings. The current streak of warm weather has made most evenings enjoyable and served to bring about some great conversations with other students.
The summer school student body is definitely diverse. The two nations with the most representation are the US and Australia. However, I think I have already met a person from nearly every European country. On the first day of my class we had every student introduce him or herself and state their nationality. I find the list of countries to be quite impressive and will list them for curious readers in no particular order: Denmark, Venezuela, Greece, Germany, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, United States, India, United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Thailand, Poland, Canada, Holland, France, Japan, Brazil, Peru, Romania, Spain, and Hong Kong.
The current heat wave has actually been a delight to many of the LSE Summer School students. Many of the students here from countries in the Southern Hemisphere are here studying during their winter breaks from school in their home countries. You forget that in some places July is the coldest month of the year.