Tuesday, August 12, 2014

LLB in Laws @ LSE

I’ve been wanting to write exclusively about my first year at LSE for a while now because I was once that curious, eager pre-fresher, half terrified by the tales of cold, competitive coursemates yet half excited at the prospect of the magical overflowing opportunities they said would come with LSE and all the while wondering if all of that, if any, were true.

So without further ado, how is life at LSE?

A Week In The Life

University is a stark contrast from being at school because when it used to be no big deal to have classes at 8am with barely a break till 4pm, upon entering university, any lecture or class in the morning feels awful.

We are very spoiled and it is probably going to be the most flexible time of your life. I had 8 hours of lectures a week and even fewer hours of classes (depending on the term). I once detailed a weekly schedule here but here’s a more timetable-centric one.

Monday

10am – 11am = Lecture
11am – 12pm = Class
12pm – 2pm = LSE100 Lecture (I often give this a miss and read the lecture slides instead)

4pm – 5pm = Lecture
5pm – 6pm = Class

Mondays are the busiest days for me because I have 3 lectures and 2 classes on the same day. Classes require preparation so I often try not to leave it to the weekend or I struggle a fair bit. If I get really desperate, I prepare for my first class at 11am the weekend before, and spend the time from 12pm – 4pm preparing for my 5pm class.

Tuesday

10am – 11am = Lecture

1am – 2pm = Lecture

3pm – 4pm = Lecture

Wednesday

Wednesdays are LSE’s half-days and most of my friends don’t have classes/lectures on this day. For me:

11am-12pm = Lecture

Thursday

9am – 10am = Class

11am – 1pm = Lecture

Friday

9am – 10am = Class
10am – 11am = Class

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As you can see, there is a lot of ‘spare time’. I found myself busy with Debate Mate, Malaysian Society, and the preparation needed for class, but really, in university, the world is your oyster! Open-mouthed smile 

Lectures & Classes

Some lecturers are good whilst some aren't so much, but in my experience, they ended up in LSE as lecturers for a reason and they’re either famous, have been published somewhere, or are wonderful in their own way.

However, some of them, possibly due to their overwhelming levels of genius, are terrible at explaining things to students.. But on the plus side, they write a lot of the textbooks so you could always just read what they wanted to say. Also, they're really good with replying emails so if you're not too shy, then emailing them tends to clarify a lot of things.

This doesn’t matter too much though because you have classes after that which consolidate the lectures and are taught by wonderful teachers who are also extremely capable and qualified (although some are a bit strange and too busy to entertain students).

Unfortunately for Law students, most of our lectures aren’t recorded so you don’t quite have the option of staying home and watching them later on. The slides are uploaded beforehand though so in the event that you really cannot attend (read: cannot get out of bed), you could get a basic idea and go on from there. Most of our subjects don’t have one consistent lecturer for the whole year and you often get different speakers coming in to deliver lectures on the same course. I personally found this refreshing, but I know that some really don’t like the change so it’s worth noting!

As for classes, I enjoyed the classes in LSE tremendously. The classes aren’t very big (about 15 students a class) and because everyone has such different opinions and the teachers are really willing to challenge normal assumptions if you keep up to date and do your readings (which you MUST MUST MUST), you can stand to gain a lot from it. It is such a different experience - going to class and having the teachers tell you that they disagree with the textbook or with another teacher. But, I must emphasize that if you didn’t do your readings (which I will touch on a bit more later), you’ll be fairly lost.

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Where I find myself napping between classes

My experience in classes were great because I had mostly wonderful teachers who encouraged discussion in our learning, but I heard from my friends in more quantitative subjects (like Accounting, Maths, etc.) that some of their classes felt redundant because all the teacher did was discuss their homework. They chose not to attend these and LSE will alert your academic advisor if you don’t attend three in a row.

Study Time

The reason why our timetables are so flexible is probably because the bulk of the work is done on your own. A standard reading list for one class for a subject would be approximately 100 pages and even more if you read the entirety of a case. Some classes like Tort or Contract would have over 5 cases for you to read for one class and each case could be up to 30 pages long.

I used to struggle at the beginning in an attempt to read the whole case which I ultimately wouldn’t completely understand anyway, but towards the middle, I turned to casebooks and Wikipedia which made my life a lot easier. The teachers don’t recommend it though (of course they wouldn’t) because we do need training on how to skim through cases well, but because my classes were all grouped together and I’m a fantastic procrastinator, I had to resort to those means. I found it preferable to entering class with good knowledge of one case and hardly any on the other ones but each to their own!

I would say that to keep up with your classes and lectures, about a minimum of 3 hours of independent study a day is required.

The workload is a not a joke and there is a lot of reading involved in this course. Most Malaysians take up courses like Accounting, Economics, and Actuarial Science with minimal reading and more problem sets, meaning that whilst they have homework (and us LLB students don’t), I've had to say no to a lot of outings because I've had to stay inside reading.

But it's manageable. I mean, you have to plan it out. Make notes when you revise so exam time is less daunting and I was fortunate enough to find myself in an amazing group of friends who were willing to share their notes and essays. I can say that it seems almost impossible to read EVERYTHING you're supposed to and I probably didn’t by the time exams came about about but lectures and classes are helpful and reading just broadens your horizons a fair bit.

 
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A few of those amazing friends! Missing Michelle & Annie here!

Although I was busy with the work, I also had plenty of time to do other things. I coach debate to some kids once a week, join debate competitions, am a Malaysia Club committee member, and co-wrote and produced Malaysia Night this year. I managed to get an overall 2:1 for my exams, but it is also worth noting that at LSE, first year Law exams don’t count to your final degree so take this year to explore, enjoy yourself, yet still have an idea as to what’s going on.

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With the girls of the LSESU MC committee at LSE’s New Academic Building

Atmosphere/London

A lot of people talk about how competitive LSE is and I think that whilst that is true, because I found myself a good group of friends, I didn’t quite feel it. Also, in my experience it could be that Law didn’t seem as competitive as other courses because whilst everyone else were hunting for internships at banks and investment companies, Law students don’t often apply for vacation schemes (Law internships!) until 2nd year. Some students are more interested in the Bar and apply for mini-pupileges instead so competition is less saturated.

A concern that many have is about London as an environment. I personally love London for the same reasons that some would hate it. It is a city of tourists, who jostle by you on your way to class, snapping pictures of your school, and it is a city of work, where the tubes are silent as people have their phones plugged into their ears and where you find yourself walking by a group in onesies one moment, and a man in a suit the next.

But it is also a city with so much to see, filled with all kinds of people! The tourists are entertainment on their own and you could always join them (like I do!) in exploring the city that has so much to offer. I’ve spent my weekends at musicals, parks, restaurants, museums, shopping malls, and whilst it can be frustrating having to wait in lines for over half an hour to eat and whilst being on the tube at rush hour feels like borderline auto asphyxiation, there are a lot of ways to have fun!

LSE itself is a 10 minute walk away from Covent Garden, is right behind Lincoln's Inn which gives you such a lawyerly-barrister feel and is amazing to be around, and is also surrounded by the city without being too busy and noisy. I grew up in KL and love the city, so it could be a personal preference but because its so bustling, the only way you’d ever get bored if is you decided you wanted to be.

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Those famed red telephone boxes

DSC_0066Tulips at Brunswick Square Gardens

DSC_0338Touristing at the Natural History Museum

DSC_0242Then touristing again at Greenwich

Halls

In first year, I lived in International Hall which is an Intercollegiate Hall comprising of students from all across London. There were some days where the food was so bad that I gave up on it after a bite and cooked instant noodles for myself, but there were other days where I lined up and asked for seconds.

The best part about living in a catered hall has to be the people. You meet them everyday for dinner and is often just the right amount of company to chase the loneliness away.

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DSC_0025Some of the Malaysian IH boys and girls

The LSE Student Union Malaysia Club produced an accommodation guide which has been made available here.

Even though the location of my hall was relatively near (about 10 minutes via a shortcut if I’m walking really really quickly), there were some days where I wanted nothing more than to hop into a car and go. In London, this isn’t as likely a possibility as in other towns where students rent cars to get around. But the walking did me good and you could always move somewhere closer after your first year.

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My room in IH – not the neatest around!

I never had to deal directly with Student Services but they can be rather inefficient with fee payments and managed to mess up my accommodation forms  when I first applied. But it’s really just standard Malaysian inefficiency beneath the facade of "Sure, miss we'll definitely get it done by today,” which could be better or worse, depending how you look at it. 


Expenses

London is an expensive city with rent being almost ludicrously so, especially when you compare with your friends in Coventry or Manchester who can pay almost half of what you pay a week for a room twice as big. But it isn’t that difficult to budget if you’re careful and there are many opportunities to earn money along the way.

The Debate Mate programme I’m involved with pays £20/hour and there are various experiments that students can sign up for in return for monetary compensation. Some experiments from LSE Behavioural Studies Lab involve nothing more than a survey for £10, whilst some can pay up to £20 an hour if you play a game or go for an MRI scan.

I have a friend who participates almost every week and has earned a lot of money.

As for meals, most good food can be bought for under £10 and if strapped for cash, there’s a Hare Krishna man who comes to LSE and serves vegetarian food for free during lunch hours. There’s always a line though but hey, it’s free food! And it can taste pretty good too!

There are also a lot of discounts and offers for students as well so there’s plenty of ways to save money and be entertained for free (or for cheap, at least!).

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I hope what I’ve written here will be useful to some and if there are any other questions, feel free to sound off in the comments below! Also, if you’re an LSE student and have had a different experience to share, you could email me or comment too! 

Signing off with love from LSE’s misunderstood mascot,



A beaver.

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