War Studies and finding my way in London

Henry Brown UG buddy photoHi there! I’m Henry and I’m currently in my second year of a BA in War Studies. I have always been fascinated by history but when I came to examine War Studies as an option, I was hooked. My diverse interests in areas such as 20th century conflict, the Ottoman Empire and cultural representations of war have mapped perfectly onto the breadth and flexibility of the War Studies course, making my time at KCL especially enriching.
Prior to my arrival at King’s, I had never lived in London (or indeed any major city) before and in that respect I can totally empathise with anyone in the same circumstances. I’m therefore happy to share any advice, based on my time in London so far, and try and ease the concerns some of you may have about living in such a thriving city.

My first term of university

Rishav Das  UG buddy Photoby Rishav, 1st year Economics & Management student

This September, I joined King’s College London to study Economics & Management. I moved in from Singapore, and so joining King’s was not only a change in learning environment but also a brand new city, and country. As a result, it definitely took me a while to settle in. That being said, my first term here has been exciting and filled with new experiences that make me look forward to the next.

London is a big city, and there is always something to be doing. When I first arrived, I took the time to walk around the different parts of the city to feel more comfortable in this new location. By doing so with some of the people on my course, it became a great way to make friends. Meeting new people is a significant part of university life, and so I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the other students. King’s is home to an international community of students, and so I’ve had the opportunity to meet different people from all over the world.

Another big change was joining university residences. My flat mates, who I am now close to, were the first people I met when I arrived. This obviously made me quite nervous but what I realised was that everyone was on exactly the same boat. We spend a lot of time together, especially since we’re in self-catered accommodation. We’re all learning from each other’s cooking skills, some of which can be quite unique, to say the least!

The first term of university has obviously been centered on the time I’m spending studying my course. So far, Economics & Management has been enjoyable. It’s a big change from sitting in a small classroom with only 15 students to now a lecture over 300. Because our degree involves management modules we partake in lectures with the management students, too. This makes lectures another great way to meet people. I’ve found the course a mixture of new material and topics we learnt at school. What’s interesting about recapping the topics from my A-levels was the different perspective the lecturers take on explaining these ideas.

A key aspect of my first few months at university has also been joining the swim team. This has been a great way to keep fit, and form closer friendships with people who I see almost every day during training. I’ve found that sports teams, and societies in general, are in abundance at King’s and have been a great way to keep myself active outside of class.

Why I chose Political Economy

I grew up in Montreal, Quebec. Coming from Canada, a place that was so influenced, throughout history by the UK – in terms of culture, immigration, and government – coming to the UK to university always seemed like a natural choice for me. In a way, moving here has enabled me to understand my own culture in a more thorough way. While I was immersed in British culture, I also felt strangely at home in England.

Specifically though, I chose to come to King’s College London for three main reasons:

1. The degree course that I am undertaking now (Political Economy) is impossible to find at any other London university. While many universities have politics departments and economics departments, these departments are almost always completely separate. This means that even if you are doing a degree that combines the two, you are dealing with two divisions of the university which are completely unrelated and which don’t necessarily coordinate in any way. This can lead to administrative issues, such as scheduling problems, but also to wider issues, like different modules not applying to each other or not going together well. At King’s we have the Political Economy department, which is completely focused on making sure that our experience is as complete as possible, and that our modules complement each other well. This way, we students can be assured that they have the deepest possible understanding of the subject.

2. KCL’s reputation as an amazing university, not only in the UK, but also around the world was definitely another reason for deciding on coming here. This will help in the future with getting summer internships as well as getting onto graduate schemes when I complete my degree. King’s reputation also ensures that its students have many opportunities to go abroad on exchange. While I did not end up going on exchange, as I preferred to stay at King’s in London, the option to do so was a clear draw when I was applying.

3. The impressive alumni network that King’s has helps students both while they are at university and after they graduate. Personally, King’s alumni have helped me through their involvement with Enactus KCL, a student society that I am a part of. Enactus KCL helps to set up social enterprises around the world and has many business advisers to help us with this task. Almost all of these business advisers are King’s alumni.

Giulian, BSc Political Economy

First Term at King’s

A lot has happened in ten weeks. Too much to tell and some things, I probably just shouldn’t mention, but so far my university experience has been fantastic. I’m not just saying that to make you want to come to King’s. I have met a bunch of lunatics whom I now call my friends (all Geography students might I add). I have joined the girls’ football team and we are crushing the league tables and probably most importantly for my degree (that’s why we’re here after all), I have learnt to Harvard reference… it’s not as bad as you think. I have handed an essay in past deadline and have survived. Moral of the story, don’t submit an essay at 12.29 when the deadline is 12.30. It won’t work out for you. I have gone on two field trips, one to Heartwood Forest, one to Shoreditch and the compulsory boat trip social. Yes I know…compulsory…social. I’ve learnt about things in human geography that I never thought were part of the subject; post humanism and post humanities just to give one example. I didn’t even know what those words meant at the start of term.

Personally I am more of a physical geographer; tectonics, biodiversity etc, but I have also really enjoyed the human geography lectures, even if they do appear seemingly obscure at first. The linkages that our lecturers make between some of these topics and their relevance to geography is mind blowing… that’s when doing the set reading helps you to understand a topic and it really is worth doing. As for choosing between BSc and BA Geography, it doesn’t matter in your first year. You can change from one to the other in second year if you want.

One thing I would say is to keep an open mind. Geography is about so much more than you could have ever imagined. That’s why I love it so much. I never quite know where a lecture is heading, or what I am going to learn when I walk into one. It’s also incredible to learn about the contributions that some of your lecturers have made to their fields of research. Thus far all of my lecturers have been very enthusiastic and engaging and you know they are good at what they do when they set you published journal articles to read, that they have written!

If you have any questions about the course or university life, please feel free to ask me. If you aren’t thinking of living in halls, I can also give you some advice as I live in private housing that I didn’t find through the university. Good luck with any upcoming coursework and have a fantastic Christmas!

Amy, BSc Geography

Why I chose King’s

When the time came to consider my university choices, I would be the first to admit that the process of searching was somewhat daunting. The commitment of three years of my life was something that required careful consideration and yet, irrespective of how I refined my search, the options available were too numerous to be systematic. I knew that I wanted to undertake a history course, preferably one focused on military history, but of the many courses on offer there did not appear to be one that grabbed my attention. It was at this point that my sixth form history teacher happened to mention, almost offhand, that King’s College London did provide a certain BA in War Studies and, after flicking through the prospectus, I signed up for their open day – more out of curiosity than anything else.

When the day came, I had my usual sense of nervous excitement on coming to London. Having lived for the most part in villages and small towns, the prospect of studying full time here still left me with feelings of uncertainty. Upon arrival at the Strand campus, I’ll be honest, King’s was not entirely striking next to the palatial structures of Somerset House next door. With a few minutes to spare before the first talk, I wandered through into the main quad which swept away my first impression as I admired the campus from the inside and, having taken a quick peek into the King’s chapel (which would become one of my favourite spaces in the college), I was smitten. It is in places like this that you appreciate that, in its modest and imperfect way, King’s is a beautiful environment to work in.

The introduction to the War Studies course told me virtually everything that I wanted to hear. The breadth of study, ranging from the purely historical to examinations of war and culture, was ideal for my broad interests. The department they described sounded like just the sort of close knit and eccentric crowd of which I wanted to be a part. Ultimately, I took from the introductory talks the lesson that in War Studies I would, for essentially the first time, have the opportunity to study exactly what interested me rather than have to hunt it out within a standard history course.

A view from Waterloo Bridge toward the City of London

Winter’s evening view from Waterloo Bridge toward the City of London

 

After this, I joined a tour group for student accommodation at Stamford Street, just across the river from King’s. As we crossed onto Waterloo Bridge I couldn’t help but gape at the sweeping view on both sides – with the towering structures of the City to the east and the ever recognisable Houses of Parliament to the west. It was at that moment that I fully processed what studying at King’s would mean – it would mean taking a course that I was truly fascinated by in a city that would never cease to impress and held seemingly limitless possibilities. It was an opportunity I would be mad to refuse and one that I was positive I would not regret accepting. Although I would still have to cultivate other options and try and consider every possibility equally, I felt at that moment that I had already decided that this was the right place.

Henry, BA War Studies & History

My first term at KCL

My first term at university was possibly one of the craziest times in my life. I was staying in university housing, and since I hadn’t brought anything from Germany in terms of bedding or cooking equipment, my dad and I went to the big Tesco and filled a trolley to the point of nearly overflowing. What we didn’t consider in this endeavor was how we were planning to get it from the Tesco back to where it needed to go; needless to say the taxi drivers of London didn’t love us that day. Another endeavor was trying to get my debit card, which my bank kept sending to the wrong branch. Getting settled in terms of administrative stuff can be a bit overwhelming.

Despite these minor problems getting settled in, my first term was still great. I got to meet so many new people and experience so many new things. I was lucky because some of my friends from home had come to university in London and two even went to King’s with me. This meant that whenever things got a little overwhelming, I was able to see a familiar face.

My top tip to anyone starting university would be to check the details of your first lecture. I didn’t. This meant that I first went into the wrong building and once I found the right building, I had no idea which room I was in. However, I was able to ask a friendly face if he was attending the same lecture I was and he said yes. A year later, I moved in with him and he has become one of my friends. So the story isn’t all bad.

Some of you might become nervous about the demands of coursework and exams. Even in my third year I can get very nervous about entering exams. In the end, it all comes down to how much you’ve prepared. Sometimes it might be better to stay in and study rather than going for a night out. The lecturers are also all very nice and will help you out if you ask them, so never be afraid to ask. Yes, it might mean you will need to go to their office hours, however, in the end it will help your grade.

So, I hope my slightly embarrassing anecdotes have helped calm your nerves a bit about coming to university. In the end, the most important thing to remember is that these will be some very exciting years and you should make the most of it, join that society and actually go to the sessions and socials, speak to that person sitting next to you in induction. Make the most of the experience and you will not regret it.

Tiffany, BSc Business Management

‘Geography has to do with everything’

I am often asked why I chose to study geography and, for me, the answer is very clear: to learn more about the world in which I live. A vague answer? Yes – but that’s what is so wonderful about the subject of geography: there is no universal definition or conceptualisation of what it is or what it should encompass.

‘Everything has to do with Geography, and Geography has to do with everything’ (Judy Martz) is one of my favourite quotes because, in my opinion, it really sums up the essence of the subject. Throughout my time at King’s I’ve been given the opportunity to study everything from water and development to political ecology, natural hazards, terrorism and public health. I have come away with such an in-depth but wide-ranging knowledge and understanding about so many different aspects of life, which has constantly challenged the way I see the world around me.

Undoubtedly, however, the biggest credit to the subject has been in its ability to transform me into such an inquisitive member of society, who is constantly wanting to probe into why and how different processes take place, and what can be done to change these for the better. As a human geographer, my focus is on understanding the dynamics of cultures, societies and economies and putting this in the context of places in order to recognise the differences across the world.

The relevance of the subject is like no other – it changes by the minute, adapting to the dynamic world with which it is concerned. So many of the world’s current issues – at a global scale and locally – boil down to geography, and require the inquisitive and problem-solving nature of the discipline in order to help solve them. Without an understanding of the world around us – the people, processes, systems and structures involved – key issues cannot be addressed. Said best by Michael Palin: ‘Geography is a subject which holds the key to our future’ – and after three years of studying it, I couldn’t agree more!

Geography is, in the broadest sense, an education for life and for living. The knowledge that you can expect to gain through studying it – whether achieved through formal teaching or experientially through travel and fieldwork – will undoubtedly help shape you into a more socially and environmentally sensitive, informed and responsible citizen. As a result, the career options after completing the degree are endless, and the skills learnt throughout the degree are hugely transferable and incredibly in-demand.

With the rate in which our world’s environment and society are changing, combined with the growing interest and attention on issues such as climate change, development and social cohesion, there really has never been a better or more important time to study geography. It is one of the most relevant courses you can choose to study and undeniably helps to stimulate your interest in and wonder about places, people and the environment.

Stephanie, BA Geography

5 Ways London has Changed Me

Emelie

Despite having been a Londoner for only 3 months, I can already feel the impact of living in such a terrific metropolis. Here are the 5 ways that London has changed me so far!

1. No Need To Shout – It’s Just A Fox
The first time I saw a fox in London, I got so surprised and excited that I had to take a photo of it. Nowadays, I have seen so many foxes that I (almost) don’t react anymore. They are on a constant hunt for food, and most of the time completely harmless. However, there have been a few accidents, which have led to new businesses offering to kill annoying foxes.

2. Right is Wrong and Left is Right
Yes, I am talking about the left-hand traffic. When moving to London, the first thing to learn is what way to look when crossing the road (if you’re from a right-hand country like me). Luckily the City of London is aware of confused tourists and newcomers not having a clue of what way to look, and have therefore painted instructions by the majority of the zebra crossings. I have just about learnt to remember what way, but the painted arrows have definitely saved me several times!

Emelie pic 13. Walk Fast or Don’t Walk At All

Anyone who knows me previous my move to London also knows that I am the slowest walker in the world. My friends would always slow down for me, and it took me ages whenever I had to walk somewhere. However, 3 months in London and I am faster than ever! In London, everyone is always on their way, always walking with a goal, heading towards a new meeting. To walk fast doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is stressed or in a hurry, it is just the way to walk in London. If you walk too slowly on a busy road, be prepared to hear a few annoyed Brits tutting behind you.

4. Prepare For Any Weather
If you haven’t heard about the London weather before, then now is the time to get familiar with it, if you’re thinking of moving here. The weather in London changes more often than the guards at Buckingham Palace. I carry around an umbrella, an extra jumper, sunglasses and gloves everywhere I go, no matter what the sky looks like when I leave home in the morning. After a few months in London I have learnt that even if it seems like the sunniest of days, the sky can at any time turn grey and before you know it, you are completely soaked (unless you had that just-in-case-umbrella with you, then – well done!)

Emelie pic 2

Classic London sky – sunny and cloudy at the same time.

5. Distance Is Relevant
I knew London was a big city, but I didn’t realize how massive it actually is. I already knew a few people around in London when I first moved here, but it has turned out that we all live in different parts of the city – and it can take up to an hour to go from my home to a friend’s. That makes spontaneous meetings quite tricky. However, some distances are not at all as far as one might have thought – considering the fact that the most popular tube journey by tourist is the one between Leicester Square and Covent Garden, despite being the two adjacent stations with the shortest distance.