A shrill voice rings out, “This is the Piccadilly line to Heathrow” breaking the rhythmic pumping of the Underground’s wheels. It’s a beautiful summer night, one that must have inspired many a romantics. I am heading back from Angel to catch a flight back to Istanbul in the morning, caught up in my thoughts of the past six weeks. And that’s London for you: the true cosmopolitan, with its perfect weather and finely pressed suits, its enchanting accent and breathtaking views. This is the London that inspires, and I have just spent the summer of 2011 studying at the King’s College London University.
I was looking for something productive to do over the summer, and stumbled upon the concept of summer school. Some of the world’s most prominent institutes run a series of courses for three to seven weeks in their campuses over the summer – attracting students all over the globe for an intense academic experience. From the mesmerizing scenery of the Charles at Harvard to amidst the trimmed lawns and punts at Cambridge, summer school provides an extraordinary opportunity for students to explore a different institution, study a diverse subject and make friends from far-flung nations.
Studying at London, especially in the KCL has always been a dream for me. The KCL is the premier economics, politics, and science school in the world – boasting central bankers, Nobel Prize winners and super-successful billionaire businessmen as its alumni. I applied to do programmes on ‘Managing International Conflicts’ and ‘IR Theories’ and was accepted quickly. A couple of friends also joined in, and we looked forward to exploring London, the student way.
Classes at the KCL are intense, taking place through the week including a three hour professor lecture and an hour hour tutorial with a teaching assistant each day. The teachers are phenomenal: my professors were Hubertus Jurgemlienk Ph.D. International Security from University of Oxford and Mark Fliegauf, Ph.D International Relations from Cambridge University. Of course, you have to top the classroom lessons with some self-study and preparation; many a student fell behind because they couldn’t keep up with the pace of teaching. The curriculum is cutting-edge, and textbooks include latest publications by leading scholars and authors – keeping one updated with the latest in the field. The tutorials are phenomenal – we have been to Commonwealth Secretariat, DFID UK, ECFR London, and MSF UK which were unique chances for me.
Unlike the Turkish method of education, the KCL simply does not believe in ‘spoon-feeding’; one is left to fend for oneself if one has not revised oneself. I also had two exams over a three week period: which required me to put in a couple of all-nighters. Thankfully, nobody is judged by the length of their answers, and concept clarity is the main focus of the examiners. In contrast, a vast majority of students in my home university, have been ‘taught’ the importance of length of their answers as well as the need to ‘reproduce’ the textbooks word-to-word. I also had conversations on future career paths with my professors over a dinner with my other friends at Convent Garden.
The learning doesn’t stop in the classroom. The KCL attracts students from all corners of the globe; some say from more countries than the UN has member nations. Interactions with these people can significantly broaden your thinking.. The networking opportunities in that glorious campus and charming residences is unmatched by any country club in the world. Most of the people I met at London are close friends, and even one year later, we easily pick up from a past conversation.