5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

To start studying at university can feel like entering a completely new world, and suddenly there are a billion different things that you are supposed to deal with. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be as hard as it might sound!

  1. Starting university usually means moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone and most people are very eager to meet as many new friends as possible straight away. This can be quite nerve-wracking, even if it is also fun and enjoyable to get to know new people. However, there is no need to panic if you don’t meet your best friend the first day. There are so many ways to meet people at university: at lectures, halls, sport clubs, societies, and other events. Just try to be open and say yes to anything that sounds exciting. And remember, it’s okay to spend a night in bed with Netflix too!
  2. London is a massive city, which can be quite daunting and stressful. When I first arrived I tried to avoid the metro as much as I could, as everyone was moving so fast in such a compact space. However, I made sure to have extra time whenever I needed to use the metro, so that I could take it easy and didn’t need to run for a train. Soon enough I got used to it, and now I take the metro all the time.blog 2
  3. When it comes to your actual studies, one very useful thing to find out when you start are the rules regarding participation at lectures and seminars. Some lecturers take attendance whereas the majority don’t, and at some seminars you cannot miss more than one or two before it will start really affecting your grade. Several students from my year failed their modules because they had missed too many seminars, despite getting good grades on their coursework. Also, you wouldn’t want to miss seminars anyway as this is the place where everyone gets the chance to ask questions and share their views – really useful!
  4. I was absolutely lost among all the reading we had to do during my first few months at university. I felt like I didn’t follow what was going on, and that I couldn’t use what I just read. Eventually I learnt that with most readings, all the key ideas will be shared in the introduction and then repeated in the conclusion. So, if you have 10 books to get through in a week, my advice now is to read those bits first, and take your time to understand it, and then look through the rest of the text for more extended explanations. In addition, write down the name of the author when you take notes – this will come very handy when you write essays or prepare for your exams!
  5. As mentioned, I felt that London was way too big when I first moved here, and everything seemed to be extremely far away. I spent almost all my time either at university or at home, and couldn’t really absorb the rest of the city. First of all, that’s OK. When arriving in a new city, it is important to get to know the areas where you will live, work or study, as that’s a way to make yourself feel at home. Now, after almost a year of living here, I still think London is huge, but have learnt my way around a bit more through exploring new parts of the city, and that makes the city feel “smaller” and more homely.

Good luck with starting uni! It might be scary at first, but you will grow so much and won’t regret it!

Emelie, International Relations

5 Budget Tips for new Londoners

Anyone considering moving to London would have heard that “London is SO expensive”. Still, it is one of the most popular cities to study at university in. For students on a tight budget, there are still plenty of ways to get around and make the most of London. Here are some tips!

  1. You are likely to spend whole days in the library, at least during the exam period, and one of the best ways of saving money in this case is to bring packed lunches. Constantly buying lunch and others snacks can end up costing more money than expected, and therefore any homemade pasta salads, sandwiches and other treats will definitely save you valuable pounds. It might sound tricky, but all you need is a few extra minutes in the morning to prepare it, or make a big batch of your favourite dish and have one box already done for each day of the week!
  2. Despite London being expensive, there is actually a vast amount of free stuff going on around the city all the time. Time Out (http://www.timeout.com/london) is a great page to use in order to get to know all the latest events. In addition, King’s have guest lectures and other events several times a week, and many societies can get free or discounted access to try out different things. As soon as you start looking, you’ll notice that there are free activities everywhere!

blog pic 1To the left: Last year I went to a lecture with UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon, and only had to pay half price on the ticket as I am a King’s student.

To the right: a light show called Lumiere took place in London in January, and was free for everyone to enjoy.

  1. Your student card is your best friend when it comes to saving money. Just by showing it, you can get 10% off in most stores, entrance fees and even at restaurants. Remember to always ask, as some shops might not have any signs regarding the student discount. If you want to get even more discounts, you can get the NUS card (http://www.nus.org.uk/en/nus-extra/) which can make your Spotify subscription and Amazon purchases cheaper!
  2. Transport is one of the most expensive things in London, and it’s hard to avoid the costs. As a student, you will get a discount on any tickets, but it’s still not cheap. I usually try to take the bus in rush hour, as the Underground price increases at this time (if you use pay-as-you-go) whereas the bus costs the same any time of the day. Also, the bus is generally much more comfortable than the sweaty metro. However, I would also recommend to actually walk as much as you can. You might live too far away to walk to university every day, but walking is a great way to explore London, as well as get some exercise and save money!
  3. Last but not least, go to the Fresher’s Fair in the beginning of the year! Not only will you get information about all the societies at King’s, but the amount of free things you get will last a long time. I didn’t buy a single pen throughout my entire first year, as I managed to pick up so many during the fair. Besides that, I also got notebooks, coasters, lots of snacks and other various items that might come in useful when you’re living on a budget.

Emelie, International Relations

Pros and Cons of Living in Private Accommodation by Emelie

For anyone deciding between King’s halls and private accommodation, I am here to tell you a bit about what it is like to live in private accommodation as a university student. I live in a rented one-bedroom flat with my boyfriend and I chose to live in a private flat because we wanted to live together, and because I have already lived in halls and therefore felt I could benefit from a different experience. Here are my pros, cons, and best advice for living in private accommodation whilst at university!

Positive Aspects

At first I was really worried that I’d be the only student not living in halls, but that is definitely not the case. There are many other students living in either private flats or at home, and they all have the same eagerness to meet people at university. That means I haven’t had any problem meeting new friends even though I do not live in the halls. It is true that I have had to make a bit more effort as I am slightly further away, but I have made lots of lovely friends through talking to people in my course, going to events and joining different societies. If there’s a will, there’s a way!

The best thing about living in private accommodation is the flexibility; it’s great to be able to choose for myself where in London I want to live, what kind of place it is, the length of my tenancy, and with whom I’d like to live. I’ve heard some nightmare stories about people that don’t get on well with their flatmates, and how bad a lot of students are at keeping the kitchen clean, and personally I don’t think I’d enjoy living in that kind of atmosphere very much. Hence, I am really pleased with my choice of accommodation!

I always like to study at home, as it is really quiet and no one that interrupts me (and I can have candles!)

I always like to study at home, as it is really quiet and no one that interrupts me (and I can have candles!)

An additional advantage that might be a bit more personal is that I get to decorate my own home, which I absolutely love! This might not apply for everyone, but for those of you interested in decorating and creating your own personal space, this is a great opportunity when living in private accommodation. Of course, this is still possible to do in halls, but not to the same extent. Also, I’ve heard that candles are forbidden in most halls and since I am a candle lover, I’m lucky to be able to light as many candles as I want on a cosy movie night!

Negative Aspects

One of the hardest things for me has been to learn how to deal with bills and other practical things that come with living on your own. This was a first for me, and it has taken some time to get used to. Luckily, people in customer service tend to be very helpful, and have guided me through everything from installing a Wi-Fi box to understanding how to read the electricity meters… Even if this sound boring, it is a part of growing up and you will have to learn it at some point, so why not now?

However, I have to say that if you want the typical “uni life” with flat parties, students all over the place and so on, then living in private accommodation might not be your best choice. My neighbours are all much older than me, and sometimes I can miss having lots of students around me. If you have never lived away from home before, then I would recommend staying in halls during your first year, as it is a good transition when moving away from all the home comforts.

Practical Advice: Cost and Taxes

When it comes to cost, it really depends. King’s College London has several student accommodations in which the prices are substantially varied. The same can be said for private accommodation. Location, size, facilities, and other factors will all contribute to the price of the flat. In my case, I think my rent is cheaper compared to what my friends in halls are paying. However, the halls are usually located within walking distance from university, whereas my flat is located slightly further away and thus I tend to take the bus or the tube.

Remember that if you live in private accommodation, you shouldn’t have to pay council tax – you can pick up the papers necessary to sort this out at the King’s campuses. Also, ALWAYS go on viewings for the flats you are interested in, as there are people who sometimes advertise fake listings to trick you out of your money. If you don’t live close enough to do so, ask a friend or a relative to go on your behalf.

For finding private accommodation, I recommend http://www.zoopla.co.uk/ . This site is very easy to use, and you can choose different criteria that match what you are looking for. Tons of new flats are put up every day, and be sure to get in touch with the agency/landlord as soon as you find one that you like, since the market is moving so quickly.

Please get in touch if you have any further questions!

International Relations


International Relations Modules – Emelie’s Thoughts

I have noticed that prospective students at King’s offer holder events normally have the same questions about modules: How difficult are they? How can one prepare for them? What are they really like?

So, I thought it would be useful to reflect on my modules and give some useful advice about what they are like. Just remember that these are my personal opinions regarding the modules. Also, there is no guarantee that these modules will be exactly the same next year. Rather, see this as an overview of what your first year at King’s could offer.

The modules I have had are International Relations Theory, Introduction to International Economics, History of the International System, Conflict and Diplomacy, and Contemporary Security Issues.

International Relations Theory

In this module we learn about theoretical approaches to concepts such as human nature, the state, anarchy, war and peace. It teaches us to “see the world through different glasses” as my lecturer puts it. We also get to understand how theories have developed throughout history, and how they relate to each other.
Best part: My favourite thing about IR theory is that there is a vast amount that each reveal a very different way of understanding the world (some of which I agree, others not so much!)
Hardest part: As there are so many different theories, I find it quite difficult to remember which one is which. The good news is that it does get easier with time!
Advice: You might recognise some of the theorists if you have studied philosophy. If not, don’t worry! We go through each and every one thoroughly and with many recaps, so you will definitely get all the information you need. Try to apply the theories to real life cases to make them a bit more graspable.

Beautiful Maughan Library – where I do most of my readings for the different modules.

Beautiful Maughan Library – where I do most of my readings for the different modules.

Introduction to International Economics

This is the module that I get the most questions about – and for good reason. I had never studied any economics before starting at King’s, and was really worried about what it would be like. Luckily I found that I wasn’t the only one; a majority of students in my course haven’t studied any economics before. In Economics, we start Term 1 with a lot of theory. However it gets better in Term 2, as we study different models and approaches to international trade. Term 2 has more real life examples which makes it easier to grasp.
Best part: I have actually realised that economics is useful for understanding other parts of social sciences, such as globalisation, migration, and inequalities. These are topics that I am much more interested in, and I am happy that I have been able to use economics to learn more about these.
Hardest part: The module is fairly fast paced, and I have sometimes found it hard to understand each component before having to start a new topic.
Advice: If you are struggling, ask your tutor for help. They are there for you and want to make sure you understand as much as possible; so far, my tutor has been very helpful. A few weeks ago we sat down for 45 minutes to go through a couple of models, and I am so thankful for having that support! 

History of the International System

In this history module, we look at how the international system has changed from the 17th century to the present. We go through important historical figures, wars, moments that have changed history. The first half is quite focused on European history, whereas Term 2 is much more global.
Best part: The module is so much more engaging and challenging than I thought it would be, and has actually made me rethink several parts of history!
Hardest part: As expected, it is hard to remember all details (unless you have an exceptional memory when it comes to years and dates). Even if it is important to know when things happened, there is still a lot of focus on other aspects such as the relationship between states in the international society and how modern history now is connected with previous events.
Advice: I find mind maps pretty useful when it comes to history, as you can build upon each week to get a greater understanding of how all the different leaders, wars, and revolutions are connected to each other.

Conflict and Diplomacy

We had this module during Term 1, and Contemporary Security Issues (see below) in Term 2. To be honest, I would have loved to have had this module all year as it is my favourite so far! We study contemporary conflicts and the diplomatic struggles therein. All the topics are very relevant, and you will probably know a bit about them already.
Best part: We had a roleplay where all students represented different countries involved in the Syria conflict. I enjoyed it as it was really interesting to try and understand why each country is making certain decisions, and then to have more perspective on the issue (I represented Turkey!)
Hardest part: Diplomacy requires so much knowledge about the relationships between countries, and sometimes it is hard to remember all the details. However, it is really useful to learn why countries act towards each other the way they do.
Advice: Read the news! This is useful for every module; the more you know about the real issues and discussions in the world, the more you will be able to apply what you have learnt in the different modules.

Contemporary Security Issues

In this module, we discuss and examine various security issues such as terrorism, nuclear weapons, migration, climate change, and so on. All the topics are really pertinent to what is happening in the world at the moment.
Best part: My seminar group is really diverse, and accordingly everyone has different opinions regarding what is a threat and how it should be dealt with.
Hardest part: We always try to see each problem from as many angles as possible, which can be hard but really interesting!
Advice: Use your personal experiences when discussing a certain topic – and (again) read the news!

For King’s description of the modules and more information about the International Relations BA, click here http://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/international-relations-ba.aspx


By Emelie, International Relations

Why I chose International Relations at King’s


Did you follow the proceedings of the Climate negotiations in Paris? Or perhaps you have paid attention to the diplomatic manoeuvres following the shooting down of the Russian jet by Turkey? Or are you more interested in the legal disputes in the South China Sea over airfields, natural resources and shipping lanes? Or perhaps you are intrigued by the role of social media, transnational networks and non-governmental organisations in global politics? Depending on your interests, all this and much more can be part of your IR degree in King’s.

The study of International Relations has traditionally meant studying relationships between states. In modern times, however, a host of other actors need also to be considered. In the King’s IR programme, you can pursue the path that interests you most. Whether your focus is on the foreign policy and bilateral diplomacy, the influence of the non-state actors or the many economic dependencies and the independent agency of international institutions, the decision is yours. Students take set modules only in their first year and after that everyone is encouraged to focus on topics that they feel most passionate about. In the final year, you will also choose a regional specialization module giving you deeper knowledge of a certain region. Furthermore, reflecting the inter-disciplinary nature of international relations, the IR students have modules available also from the European and International Studies and Political Economy departments, while the regional modules are offered by the King’s Global Institutes.

In the Department of War Studies, the learning experience goes beyond the classroom. Lectures and seminars are frequently accompanied by different department-run events focusing on a particular aspect or situation in international politics. Given its central location in London and the many professional and academic networks, moreover, King’s hosts more high level speakers than an average student can fit into his or her schedule. In addition to the events organised by the university, the wide spectrum of different student societies, and the co-operation with other London-based institutions, think thanks and policy-centres, ensure that every week is packed full of extra-curricular opportunities.

In short, its in-built flexibility, multi-disciplinarity and reputation made the King’s IR programme the number one choice for me almost three years ago. Needless to say, I have not regretted my choice. Over the next couple of months, I hope I can tell you more about studying IR in King’s as well as living in London as an international student. And of course, if there is anything I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Embassy Visit with Diplomacy Society

King’s is not only a place for studying; it also offers many opportunities of meeting new people and testing new things. There are currently more than 260 societies at King’s, including everything from sports to volunteering.

At first, I found it a bit overwhelming with all these societies, and wasn’t sure which ones to join. However, after browsing around at the Fresher’s Fair (where all societies gather) and checking what events they all could offer, I decided to join a few. One of these was the Diplomacy Society.

The Diplomacy Society https://www.facebook.com/kingsdiplomacy/timeline  has many different kinds of events, but one of their specialities is to arrange embassy visits for the members.

emelie visit 1

In November last year, we went to the Norwegian Embassy in London. It was my first ever embassy visit and I found it all so interesting. Our group of smartly dressed members spent a couple of hours with two staff at the embassy, and they told us about what it’s like to work at an embassy, what goals the Norwegian Embassies have in the UK and around the world, and the Norwegian-British relations.

Previously, I had imagined that working at an embassy would mean to mainly discuss political matters and a lot of bureaucracy, and even if those are still two main parts of an embassy, there were many other things going on too. For example, the Norwegian Embassy is promoting Norwegian culture in the UK through inviting bands and artists to different events here.

emelie visit 2

At the moment, the Diplomacy Society have a few more visits planned for the spring term, e.g. to the Danish and the Brazilian embassies. I hope to be able to visit some more embassies during the spring, in order to compare their different ways of working and their relations to the UK.

If you want to find out about all the societies that King’s offer – find them here: http://www.kclsu.org/joiningagroup/

Photos belong to the KCL Diplomacy Society.

Emelie – International Relations