Enjoy while it lasts!

The busy last weeks of the term have made me think about two pieces of advice. First, schedule your work. Getting the most out of the teaching depends on scheduling your readings and assignments, but it also enables you to have a (degree of) social life. That is where the second piece of advice comes in: have a bucket list. With that, especially a shared one with friends, you ensure that when you are not studying you actually leave your flat and the newest episode of House of Cards and get something in return for paying rent in central London.

To be sure, it feels like we just started our second term and had plenty of time to schedule, plan and complete our different assignments by the end of term. And yet, a quick look at any social media platform last week revealed many of us staying late hours at Maughan library battling against the old archenemy – the maximum word count. Having spent most of my evenings in the library for the past two weeks, I have to say that as long as you reserve enough time for the process, it can be very enjoyable. Moreover, in our Global Politics module we were tasked to set up our own research question based on our own interests. Now that the work is done, if anyone is keen on the Chinese naval modernization (War and Global Conflict- module), the future of the Arctic region (Global Politics- module) or the utility of military force as a tool of statecraft (Statecraft, War and Diplomacy- module), I am always up for a chat!

Longing out from the library

Longing out from the Maughan library

The other big thing occupying everyone’s time has been the module allocation process for our final year. Ranging from ‘Ancient Warfare’ to ‘Nature of Riots’ and ‘Political Economy of the Middle East’, putting twelve options down from 38 in order of preference was not an easy task. Eventually we would get one regional specialization (I chose ‘Russia in the 21st century’) as well as two other taught modules while the dissertation module would be based on independent study and regular meetings with a personal tutor. Perhaps something that I have learned this term is useful to share here: be proactive in asking for help from those who have been in the department longer than you. While the seminar tutors or your personal tutor cannot obviously give feedback on the exact content of your essay, they are always happy to discuss the general structure or point you towards useful readings.

In the end, despite all the papers and presentations, those are not the things I will remember from this term. Instead, I will remember the amazing event we organised together with three different King’s societies regarding the perceived Clash of Civilizations between Muslims and Christians in Europe, the talk by UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in RUSI, the end of term social in a German beer garden and the charity concert where three friends of mine were singing. Books and articles are there whenever you need them, but for the really important things, you only got three short years.

Celebrating the end of term with a duck burger

Celebrating the end of term with a duck burger in South Bank

The end in sight?

The first month of the term has been a busy one. After the usual back-to-university shock of the first few weeks – how did I ever manage to do so much reading per week last term – there were several exciting things happening at the same time. It felt as if the whole university had decided to jump past the couple of cold months ahead and focus on summer instead.

First, our professors in different modules started making references to possible dissertation topics. Second, some of the seminar leaders have taken a habit of constantly mentioning some third year optional modules, which we “might want to take” next year. Third, the career service is now occupying a sizeable chunk of our department’s weekly student newsletter with information on different events and summer opportunities. To be sure, the recent email about the summer programme in South Korea certainly caught my eye. Too bad us students are still expected to finish some 10,000–15,000 words of essays (depending on which modules you picked for this term) before we can seriously think about summer.

Alongside our lectures, the busy feeling is partly due to the diversity of other activities available around the campus and in London. The impressive set of exciting events on European politics organised by the King’s European Society two weeks ago filled every single evening of that particular week. Not that I am complaining, considering my field of studies, knowing the Secretary General of the European External Action Service – EEAS (a kind of Foreign Office for the European Union) is not exactly a disadvantage.

Sometimes these extra-curricular activities can have an even more direct impact on your studies. The other week, I was fortunate enough to attend a discussion about the relevance of ambassadors by two British diplomats in Chatham House using my King’s credentials. It goes without saying that my presentation on the very same topic in a seminar for Statecraft and Diplomacy – module the same evening greatly benefited from the experience. A similar opportunity this week, this time run by the Royal African Society, on the prospects of the year 2015 for Africa was a useful supplement for the regional lectures in our Global Politics module. You thought Ebola has affected Africa? Think again.

Given the recent info session we had regarding our module options next year, a few words about the final year are in order. Out of the four full-year modules we will have, one whole module will be writing the dissertation itself. Another one will go to the regional specialisation option and the last two can be selected from some 30 (!) options. Do I know the options? Not yet, but I will definitely express my frustration here when I get the details and start the tough job of narrowing it down to two!

Late night essay writing

Late night essay writing for Statecraft and Diplomacy module on the relevance of ambassadors and overseas diplomatic missions

Late night walk back from the library - or somewhere else, crossing the Waterloo bridge is always worth it!

Late night walk back from the library – or from somewhere else – crossing the Waterloo bridge is always worth it