I put our next conversation in the form of an interview, its topic being “what to do in the time after our last exam and before we receive our results“. The content doesn’t exclusively reflect my own experience but I mostly drew from discussions with friends and myself. Hope the exchange will provide you with supplementary ideas on how to spend a fruitful break after exams. Although I made their names up, Davide acts as the imaginary interviewer while Enrico plays the imaginary student-interviewee.
Without further ado, I leave the stage to our two speakers.
Davide – Enrico, welcome to our studios. First things first, how’s revision going? A rather stressful period, isn’t it? Exams are approaching and time seems to run pretty fast!
Enrico – Hi Davide. Thanks for having me. Indeed, it’s the most intense period of the year. Revision’s peaking, the subjects are finally taking a well-defined shape, and I’m starting to link diverse topics together. Hope the exams will be fine.
Davide – Good luck with them! Now, students look forward to their last exam and think of what they’ll be doing thereafter. You’re almost a final year student now, how do you employ your time after exams?
Enrico – It depends. I did different things. After my first year, I followed a programming course with Matlab through Coursera. It was nice to explore a different area, after a year of full immersion in maths and econ! I had a lot of fun. On top of it, I gained some very useful skills.
Davide – Awesome. Did you take other courses over summer breaks? [Note: the imaginary guys live in the Northern Hemisphere; it may well be winter elsewhere].
Enrico – Yes, I managed to squeeze a few extra courses in between academic years. I learnt a lot from a module on ‘Philosophy and the Sciences’ as well as ‘Climate Change’. Actually, whenever I can, I still read and improve my understanding of these subjects. You know, it’s amazing how they fit well with economics.
Davide – Suppose one’s had enough of courses at the end of the year. What could students do other than taking further classes?
Enrico – Well, there are plenty of books waiting to be read!
Davide – Such as?
Enrico – Hmm… what about novels? Have you ever read Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop?
Davide – No… but there’s a shop amongst the LSE buildings named ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. They say it inspired Dickens himself! A fascinating story surrounds it. You should have a look.
Enrico – Thanks, I’ll do that. You should have a look at the book though!
Davide – Hahaha! All right, fine. Apart from books, how about travelling?
Enrico – Actually, I think of books as a cheap form of travel. Anyway, you’re right. Visiting new places broadens our horizons. Experiencing different cultures, music, smells… even different political problems is absolutely enriching. Often, however, travelling implies considerable costs.
Davide – Sure enough. Depending on the location, it may be quite expensive. However, we do have alternative solutions like Couchsurfing or other smart ways to minimise travelling costs, don’t we?
Enrico – True. Otherwise, if possible of course, we can travel by volunteering. After all, we have the privilege of being students. Why not share our knowledge with people who cannot afford higher education, if not primary or secondary in some cases?
Davide – Good point. Plus, while volunteering or staying abroad, one could learn new languages. Am I right?
Enrico – That’s right! On top of intellectual benefits, learning new languages opens up new potential labour markets where we can supply our skills. A major investment in our own future! There are free virtual platforms on the internet like Duolingo, from which beginners can start.
Davide – Speaking of virtual platforms, Enrico, what do you think of our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)? How would you use it during a comparatively relaxing period of the year?
Enrico – I think it’s a rich environment indeed. Irrespective of our specific degree, we can access several courses across different departments. With regard to your second question, I’d take advantage of a ‘relaxing period’ – as you called it – by scanning through different domains, perhaps beyond our official study plan.
Davide – What do you mean? Could you give an example?
Enrico – Well, take economics, for instance. Do you know what Keynes once said?
“The master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher – in some degree. […] He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. […] He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood, as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near to earth as a politician”.
So, isn’t it great to have access to an organised VLE full of auxiliary resources from the realm of politics and international relations, sociology, history, or geography and environment, among others?
One could stumble upon Hobbes’ Leviathan, bounce off somewhere else, and land on Ball’s Critical Mass. But, at that point, why not to dive into IR and ask ourselves what Kenneth Waltz, say, would have said about the current state of affairs…
Davide – Wait, don’t you risk losing your bearings in the meantime? I mean, reading widely is good but isn’t that too much?
Enrico – Define ‘too much’. See, it depends. My point is that, if we’re genuinely interested in understanding how a system works, be it a remote portion of the universe, a human society, an animal, a branch of law, or whatever our passion is, then ‘too much’ becomes meaningless.
Davide – Agreed. Nonetheless, don’t you think students might want to make sure their passions won’t clash with given constraints? By limiting time spent on ‘extra-curricular’ adventures, making a plan, or something like that?
Enrico – Definitely. In this respect, last summer, they wrote something about how to plan your studies on our very same Blog. Apropos of the Blog, Davide, don’t you find it’s an extension to our ‘academic circle’, an additional virtual milieu where we can share ideas and discuss with external readers as well as fellow students?
I’ve been learning a great deal from other bloggers. A few days ago, for instance, I ended up reading an intriguing post on ethics and commenting on it. It’s wonderful to exchange points of view through the Blog. I hope more and more students will participate over here!
Davide – Thanks for bringing that up. Likewise, I’ve recently read a post by a Greek colleague of yours, whereby she highlights some of the benefits of being physically active. May I then suggest ‘mens sana in corpore sano‘ as our closing motto for a productive and healthy summer?
Enrico – Approved! I love outdoor recreation. We should embrace sport, dancing, and any kind of artistic impetus keeping us creative, healthy, and mentally explosive. Sometimes, the way in which societies develop and jobs shape our lives can make it increasingly difficult to maintain some of our defining human traits. So, let’s not distance ourselves too much from nature. We should always try to feel her breath while following her rhythm. If you live in a metropolis, you might find Thoreau’s Walden a captivating read!
Davide – Enrico, thanks for joining us today.
Enrico – Thank you, Davide. My pleasure.
That was it from our two guests, whom we thank very much. I was told that, unfortunately, time constraints prevented them from addressing other pertinent topics (e.g. summer internship). Should you, reader, want to add your views or personal summer – again, winter if living on the opposite hemisphere! – experiences, please join the debate by commenting below. We welcome the most diverse opinions!
As a personal note, here’s what I’d take from our friends’ words.
The summer break is an opportunity to calmly investigate our needs and desires. The options seem unlimited. We could lose ourselves in some activities or projects we have been pondering throughout the year, like creating apps, learning foreign languages, or reading novels. We could venture beyond the academic perimeter by researching thoroughly our favourite topic; in turn, this might pose constructive and intellectually-stimulating challenges. Furthermore, we could get to know ourselves a bit more by testing our limits via sport, internships, or volunteering experiences.
Briefly, we could do anything we deem important for our mind, body, or personal development!
Oscar is studying for the BSc Economics independently in Italy.