I’ve just finished my first week of classes, and I think I’ve finally narrowed down my list, so here are the classes I will be taking this year:
Russia and the Post-Soviet States: Politics and Policy
Post Communist Politics And Policies
Soviet and Post-Soviet Foreign Policy
Contemporary Russian Society : Key Issues and Developmental Trends
Basic Economic Concepts for European Political Economy (quite possibly the longest name ever given to an economics class)
I’ve already been assigned to work on two presentations. Next month I’ll be presenting on the USSR’s planned economy for one class, and the key obstacles to Gorbachev’s economic restructuring in another. Exciting stuff, eh? You probably fell asleep reading the list of my classes…
The odd thing about UK universities (or, at least, LSE, as I’m not sure about other schools) is that we don’t have required reading, and you don’t have to run down to the bookstore and spend $800 on books. Instead, the professors will give you a huge list of “recommended reading” (and by huge list, we are talking 20+ pages listing books and articles). It’s odd, but it’s nice that you don’ have to spend a ton of money on books. On the other hand, I liked the structure of my classes at GW (“read chapters 1-9 of (insert book title here) by week 3”, etc).
Ah, funny thing happened in my foreign policy class. Our professor was asking how many students were from various degree programs (RPSS, Global Politics, Political Economy, etc) and then she said “Ah, and we have an intercollegiate student here. Where are you?” Guy raises his hand…Professor says “Right. He’s from the London Business School. Class, be nice to him.” The class had a good laugh. It was like, whoa, an MBA student in a foreign policy class? Crazy. So at the end of class, after the prof has gone over the syllabus, class structure, assignments, etc, she looks at the MBA student and says “Do you want to go back to the London Business School yet?” It was sooo funny. Well, anyways, props to him for picking up a foreign policy class.
I’ll post some pictures of my dorm later on, but it’s pretty nice. It’s weird living with a bunch of freshmen, though (or, as they call them here, “first years”). The majority of students here are undergrads, but they don’t seem like the crazy freshmen that you can find in the U.S…you know, like “OMG it’s my first time away from mommy and daddy, let’s go nuts!” No, the freshmen here are pretty chill…I think it’s because the drinking age here is 18, so they can all hang out in the bar downstairs and drink subsidized beer. Oh, and do you remember how at GW you used to get these flyers slipped under your door advertising night clubs and bars? Well, here you get flyers that say “Save up to 69% by subscribing to The Economist!” Exciting, indeed.
The food here is uhhhh…interesting. Dorm food sucks. British food sucks. British dorm food really sucks! Our restaurant was, up until a month ago, run by Aramark, so that gives you a clue as to the quality of the food. I was actually lucky these past few days, as my mom and two of her friends were in London (they were on a 9 day London-Paris tour) so I was able to enjoy some good food in London’s various ethnic restaurants…sooooo good, but sooooo damn expensive. So it’s back to cafeteria food for now, and every night I can’t wait to see what the Brits have cooked up for us. They serve up excellent dishes such as fishcakes with some weird tomato sauce, and salmon and broccoli stir fry. Mmmm tasty. Well, at least the dessert and chips (aka french fries) are good, and they do have Fanta, so it’s not completely horrible. Last night they served Chicken Kiev (Yesss!), which was actually quite good.
For lunch I will usually grab a sandwich from one of the trillions of sandwich stores you can find on Fleet Street. Two days ago, I came across a shop with delicious looking baguette sandwiches in the window, so I went in and bought one…and for �1.50, what a steal! Well, as I was walking across Blackfriar’s Bridge on my way back to my dorm, it started raining, and it was really windy…it felt like it was hailing, actually, and that if the wind was any stronger I would have been thrown off the bridge and into the Thames. The bottom of the paper bag that my sandwich was in got wet, and the bag ripped open, dropping my delicious sandwich on the ground…it was tragic…egg salad everywhere.
Shopping here isn’t the easiest thing in the world…and don’t give me this “But OMG, you can buy ANYTHING in London…Prada, Dolce & Gabbana!” NO, I am talking about practical stuff, such as a USB cable. I went to the nearest office supply store thinking that they would have one, but they didn’t, of course. What self-respecting office supply store doesn’t sell USB cables??? They sell printers (ok, so they only have 2-3 models) but no USB cables? Wow. So, I walked across the Thames to Argos to buy a USB cable. Argos, by the way, is a great store. There are no shelves, no products, no annoying a salesperson by asking where 10 trillion items are – basically, they have a bunch of catalogs (filled with everything! If you want it, Argos probably has it), and you look up the product you want in the catalog. When you find it, you punch the item number into this device in front of the catalog, and it tells you whether or not the item is in stock. If it’s in stock, you write the number down on a purchase slip, and take it to the cashier. After you’ve paid, you wait for your number to be called, and when it’s called, you go up to the counter and pick up your items. It’s really quite efficient, as the process takes less than 5 minutes. So anyways, I walked 2.5 miles just to get that stupid USB cable. There is a Starbucks every 10 feet here, but no place to buy a USB cable. Oh well, it’s good excercise.
Here I am with two authentic London “bobbies.” They were guarding the palace where Prince Charles lives, and they were pretty cool guys to talk to. I always thought it was odd, though, that the police officers here don’t carry guns. A city with a population of 7 million and yet the cops don’t carry guns? Wow.
I love the helmets they wear. I’m not sure what purpose they serve, but they are adorable. I don’t think “adorable” is the kind of image a cop wants to project, though. For instance, around midnight my friends and I stopped into McDonalds near Leicester Square to grab a McFlurry. This was quite possibly the weirdest McDonald’s I’ve ever been in…most of the people there were really dressed up…they had just gotten back from clubbing or whatever…it was like I felt underdressed…in McDonalds. Anyways, we were sitting at a table when suddenly these two guys started fighting (yeah, it was like a bar fight in McDonalds), and a cop ran in and broke it up…but the sight of this guy wearing this huge helmet and trying to break up this fight was just too amusing. And he had no gun, of course…armed security guards in the U.S. are scarier than these guys.
Well, I’m tired so I’m off to sleep.