Currently I am in the midst of my spring break at the London School of Economics, meaning that I now have five weeks off from classes. That means that I have nothing but time now for the next few weeks. Obviously I need plenty of exam preparation so I can’t just take a month of school work, but it does free up much of my day to day scheduling. Unfortunately, with the lack of hard deadlines and relatively wide open schedule that LSE students have, many fall victim to the trap and binge watch every episode of a seven season TV series. At least for the moment, I’ve been able to avoid this massive pitfall.
It is crucial for me to step my preparations for exams still, however. One of the major difficulties that I have preparing for exams is the stark difference between the United States and United Kingdom exam procedures. In the United States- and Saint Joe’s in particular- exams are generally based on short answer question, identification, and perhaps one essay question over the course of a one hour time period. The United Kingdom structures its exams much differently. The typical United Kingdom exam is a period in which you cram three fully concocted essays into three hours each exam. The most difficult part of the exam format is without a doubt the time constraint on each of the essays. I took a practice exam under these exam conditions and I have never in my life believed that an hour could fly by so quickly. With more time studying the topics and much more practice under exam conditions, I will hopefully be able to spout what I’ve learned here into a coherent and representative essay that gives me an A.
While I may not realistically walk away from my time here at the LSE with straight As, but there is no doubt that I am going to walk away from my time here a different person than I had started. In my opinion, I will leave my time here at the London School of Economics as a more intelligent, globally aware, and more confident in myself and my abilities. If the year accomplished little else, I now understand the crucial importance of quoting and referencing others. But I believe that the most important realization that I have made in my time here has been the understanding of the term the “study abroad experience.” The experience is more than I ever imagined I could have taken from my time abroad.
The benefits of exposure to the different cultures, peoples, and cosmopolitan cities are just the tip of the iceberg to the qualities that study abroad presents to students. Perhaps the most important ideal that study abroad instills in its participants is the adoption of the “study abroad experience” culture. With this culture one starts to appreciate the value of travel, different cultures or customs, history, and ultimately experiences. The entire nature of the study abroad culture is an attempt to cram as many experiences into the few months that you are abroad. Those experiences can be museums, city tours, new food, plays, nightclubs, parks, or countless other tourist attractions. If someone can honestly argue against having as many experiences as possible for a year, then I think it can be realistically said that they aren’t having the right kind of experiences and may need to go abroad more than anyone. Filling a year with new experiences is something that all should do. It has affected me so much that I want to continue this philosophy when I return to the states. This study abroad culture is something that I will carry on with throughout my life. That, I am sure, will be the farthest reaching and most valuable component of my study abroad experience. That is the reason that I am most thankful that I went abroad. Neither because I developed a network of intelligent and interesting friends, nor because studying abroad has been shown to make you more employable and valuable to businesses. The culture of seeking travel and new experiences is what I am grateful for and what I am hoping to develop continually throughout the rest of my life.
Before coming over to study abroad, talking to other students who participated in study abroad always described it as an experience. Naively I thought they were blasting about their time abroad to seem more worldly and cool. I now understand that they were being completely honest with me as studying abroad is just that – an experience. Taking the plunge into another country with a different culture is an experience that few people have, and I am now lucky enough to count myself among those few. I implore anyone reading this blog to take that plunge and live the study abroad experience. I did, and I certainly do not regret it at all!