I went to London to study Economics and Mathematics at London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). I was at LSE for the entirety of my junior year. I attended the General Course program, which gave me the chance to take courses from any department at LSE. Students only had to take two courses from their assigned department. I was part of the Mathematics Department, and I took Real Analysis and Algebra & Number Theory. I also studied courses from the Economics, Economic History, and Philosophy Departments.
Both my academic and social life at LSE were a lot different from my life at Franklin & Marshall College. LSE has an urban campus, set in central London, and it has a lot more students, both undergraduate and graduate. Therefore, the social life there is mostly outside of campus. London is dynamic and diverse. No matter what your interests are, there is always something new to experience in the city. Whether you are into sports, history, music, or theatre, there is so much to explore in London. I spent most of my free time enjoying the art scene in London and visiting different places in the UK.
The academic life in England is also very different from the academic life at F&M. The courses at LSE are yearlong. There is only one examination, which is at the end of the year. Unlike other undergraduates at LSE, General Course students are also graded on their course work. The final grades are composed of both course work (50%) and final examination (50%). Being used to constantly submitting homework, taking tests, and having presentations, I had difficulty motivating myself to study for my courses at the beginning of the year. It took me at least a few weeks to get into the habit of reviewing lectures even when no one asked me to do so. The classes abroad were also very different in size. Most of my courses were taught in lecture halls that served 100-200 students at once. However, once I got used to the different style at LSE, I did not have trouble doing the necessary work and getting good grades.
It was not very difficult to transition back to the US. I am an international student, and frankly, I am used to change. Academic life here is definitely different from the one in England. Whereas the challenge in the British system is finding motivation, the challenge in the US is keeping up with assignments and tests while spending the necessary time on each class. Despite these challenges, falling back to the rhythm of classes was fairly easy for me. I was mostly concerned about my social life, as I was coming back after more than a year abroad. I was worried that finding my place in the clubs and organizations that I was already a part of would be difficult, but I made a point of actively seeking to be involved in all of them to make my transition easier. I believe making the extra effort to get involved again made it a lot easier for me to bounce back to my life in America.
My study abroad experience definitely impacted me for life. It helped me get to know myself a little better by challenging me to adapt to a new culture and try new things. My time abroad helped me to understand the importance of finding the best fit for myself. Now I also have a better idea of where I would like to end up in the future.