By Emma Buchman
Just one of the many benefits of particpating in the Hansard Scholars Program is that while all of my friends started classes during the final weeks of August, I didn’t have to begin classes until the middle of September. The majority of our time has been spent in orientation and exploring London. Alas, classes finally began for us last Friday, and now the semester is truly set in motion.
The main focus of this course is our internship. Most of us are working for members of Parliament while a few of us are working for lords or committees, all of which are demanding jobs that will require many cups of tea daily just to get through the day. Everything else that we do is meant to complement the internship and help us learn British politics from a realistic perspective. This includes two lecture-based courses held once a week, two hours per course, and a dissertation of roughly 7,000 words on a subject related to the work we will be doing in the internship.
For the past few weeks, most of us have been existing with the idea of, “I tried to read the syllabus and wanted to die so I watched ‘House of Cards’ instead.” This essentially means that we have yet to experience the true panic that any extensive amount of college coursework will bring (though it does help when the program leaders continually tell you how rigorous this program is). With our first deadline approaching, many of us are trying to figure out what the theme to our individual coursework will be and how we are going to choose a topic for a thesis when we haven’t even started our internships yet.
So far, our biggest responsibilities have been to learn how to navigate the tube and to not spend all of our money in pubs. Our internships begin around Oct. 6, and we will work for eight hours Tuesday through Thursday for nine weeks. On top of that, we will begin to worry about policy papers and that dissertation. It will be a challenge to keep all of that in check while still trying to adjust to living in such a large and expensive city.
The most effective thing to do will be to separate the two experiences from the other as much as possible. Though I have been trying harder to keep an organized calendar and leave more time to do assignments, my strategy at this point is to keep the same study techniques that I used at Washington College and not let the cultural factor influence my coursework.
There will be plenty of time to continue learning about this new place, both negatively and positively. I have been in London for almost three weeks now, giving me considerable time to adjust to the time difference and some of the cultural differences that are brought up every day.
Being in a new place will affect me, surely, but it doesn’t have to affect my studies. If it does, to me it’s an indication that I’m not coping well with my new environment. I had part time jobs on campus that I had to work around, and I need to treat this internship as just another job. I’ll be pushed to the limit, but that’s what this program (and higher education in general) is for. That and spending all of your money in pubs.