Studying International Relations makes one see the world in a new way. For someone who has lived most of his life in the Northern corner of Europe, the South Asian regional particularities never deserved close attention. Headlines of Finnish casualties in Afghanistan, an American drone strike in Pakistan or an election result in India were always unique, disconnected events. During the past two weeks, however, the different modules have overlapped to the extent that I can no longer perceive any of these events separate from one another and the regional context. Such is the power of studying.
In practise, studying means reading. For understanding every conflict, dispute and disagreement, there is always a host of competing explanations. While absorbing information and making up your mind on Kashmir insurgency, Indian naval development or the question of Tibet, it is easy to forget the other side of life in London. With all that this city has to offer for a curious mind, this is of course simply unaffordable.
Depending on your interests, you can choose from 260 existing university based societies or find a group of like-minded students to establish your own. Alternatively, whether it is a passion for shawarma or Jazz, there is probably nothing you cannot find from the city itself. Other than enjoying improvisation theatre or hunting second-hand books, I personally wanted to do something that has an impact. Being elected as Vice-Chair of the Young European Movement London, I feel I can contribute to the discussion of UK’s place in Europe and its role in the European Union.
However much it might feel so a night before an essay deadline or a big event about federalism, that is not the whole story. Having lived here for over a year already (and being somewhat over-social for a Finn), many of the highlights have nothing to do with the degree or volunteering. Instead, the highlights of many or most of the weeks are the people that have appeared in my life. It is the people you can enjoy your first ever thanksgiving dinner with, or a 3am traffic jam at Oxford Circus after a night out. Christmas time is especially notorious for all its social obligations. Looking at my calendar for the last two weeks of the term, one can see much more ice skating, Christmas markets, fondue nights, Stammtisch, and other end of the year happenings than academic talks.
Finally, since London is a hugely popular destination for travel, it is not rare at all to have a friend or a family member visiting over. If perhaps detrimental for the core readings for that particular week, it does offer a perfect excuse to go and eat out even more than usually (and on a budget if it is a family member) and see places that you might not dare go to on your own. The feeling when you can tell the direction of the traffic to your guest without looking at the arrow painted on the ground? Yep, you may call London your home.