2017 has been an extremely eventful year and the first three months have flickered by in no time, but more about the eventful things later! The onset of April means, for most of us students, exams are around the corner. This is by no means my intention to set in ‘testophobia’ amongst all of us taking the University of London examinations. On the contrary, this serves as a perfect occasion for me to share some tools that have proved beneficial!
More than three years have rolled by in a flash from I enrolled with the University of London International Programmes, as a student of BSc Accounting and Finance, under the academic direction of the LSE. Since then I have experienced the troughs and crescents of life – from changing my stream of study from Accounting to International Relations, witnessing the tragic death of one of my aunts, taking immensely challenging and rigorous exams, attending demanding lectures at the LSE and the SOAS summer schools, performing Indian classical music at SOAS, to even trying a hand at punting in the River Cam (which by the way was almost a flop)! With the results of my third year of study being declared (and which I am quite happy about), it feels a bit surreal to think I am onto my fourth and final year of study with the University of London and LSE. Back in India after spending one of my most productive and busiest times in London, I must confess that getting to tour the Senate House – the nerve centre of the International Programmes has been highly inspiring.
The image of the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi lying on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea sent shockwaves across the world, throwing some light on the scale of the tragedy that thousands of people have been facing in the past few years. Tune in to any world news channel and it would not be a wait too long to stumble across scenes of families like ours walking the tight rope of life, miles after miles, in large numbers, 24/7 only in search of peace and a good life. According to the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), more than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015. Thousands have died trying to sneak into Europe ‘illegally’ on flimsy rubber dinghies.
From fleeing war zones, conflict areas, civil wars, bombings, ruthless and mindless terrorists, to paying ransoms to mafia networks for risking their lives, to being rejected by the EU nations – these are the stories of sacrifice, human resilience and courage to defeat the evil forces. While it is not exactly in our hands to change things for the better completely on our own, the least we can all do is stand #WithRefugees. I have pledged my support for these precious lives in distress by signing the #WithRefugees petition. And I urge the UoL and the student fraternity at large to appeal to the governments to do their best in making the world a safer and better place for all, this World Refugee Day on 20 June.
We live in a digital age where our lives are surrounded by iPhones and smartphones, and my life is no exception. Notifications flash on my iPhone screen quite often, most of them carrying breaking news from around the globe. Though most of them hardly catches the eye, the one that did came from Nairobi, Kenya. On April 30, the Kenyan government decided to set fire to a huge stockpile of ivory amounting to about £70 million! This set me pondering about the scale and the magnitude of the illegal trade. Having already said ‘huge’ stockpile, this actually isn’t. Keeping the estimates in mind that rampant poaching has led to over 100,000 elephant deaths between 2010-2012, the stockpile accounts for only a puny fraction. It contained only 105 tonnes of ivory from over 7,000 elephants, and 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn – which is still a huge number!
Since my last post about my trip to London last summer, a year has passed by with the jolly Indian winters filled with music and preparation for the upcoming May examinations which will be crucial for me. A lot has happened in the world in the last four and a half months that is relevant to my studies, which I will write about in my next blog (hopefully really soon!). Similarly to some of my co-bloggers, it was a personal feeling that sharing some study techniques and addressing some study dilemmas may be of some assistance to me and may also help some of my fellow students. Sitting for a 100 course module, Contemporary Sociology in a Global Age, two 200 course modules, International Organisations and Foreign Policy Analysis, and a 300 course module, Security in International Relations, has turned out to be quite a challenge. A syllabus spanning 48 chapters where every line counts, exhaustive readings and a lot of writing has been no docile pet to tame and will certainly not be one when I take two consecutive exams on the 11th and 12th of May.
This ‘Friday’ was not one of the most common Fridays that are usually in store for me. Soon after rushing to my French class in the afternoon, it was time to brave the lashing quintessential Kolkata monsoons to attend a ‘mehfil’ where my guru Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty would be demonstrating the importance of lyrics in classical Indian music. Mehfil’s are typically cozy Indian get-togethers where people come, not in huge numbers, for a event which are usually cultural ones. With my heart still in a daze pondering over the topic of discussion, my mind swiftly cuts in to the next thing in my schedule – a game of balancing sides which I have quite got used to playing. I would be flying to London to attend the LSE Summer School in a few hours. Packing was hardly done and the apartment was a complete mess, bearing not a great deal of comedy compared to the situation portrayed by Jerome K. Jerome in his novel. Reaching home in a dog tired state, there would hardly be scope for any kind of feelings to percolate and surface. However it did: it was a strange amalgamation of excitement, joy, fear, anxiousness, a gut feeling which was indicating that perspectives were going to be changed. Writing about my 2015 summer stay in London could be possible from a thousand different ways: as a travelogue, a poem, informing about the Summer School and counting. However, here I want to share with all of you about my experiences as a student of International Relations with the University of London and the LSE, as a humble student of music, and what I gained from the time.
Over a month has passed since I finished taking my second year UoL exams. But this time was a bit different. I was not a BSc Accounting and Finance student anymore but a student of BSc International Relations. Not to drag this blog again into exams, I would say as minimum as possible regarding the exams. Admittedly, I could deliver as per my expectations and my preparations, though I don’t expect to achieve results to the best of my capability. Still, a notch above in performance compared to the previous year, and hopefully the results reflect it. This improvement may be attributed to me getting used to the environment of the UoL and the LSE. They have almost become my home and I need to fantasize hard to feel like an alien – which I used to feel on joining the International Programmes during my very first days.
Life seldom runs like a Rolls Royce on the highway, giving us enough reasons to brood over rather than smile. Since my last post, we have moved on to the next year. So my best wishes to everybody on a new year, I know it’s not that new. This interim of six months has been both good and not so good. Results of my chartered accountancy examinations have been out. Well they have been as per my expectations, though a disappointing one indeed. The sunny side of it has been reading International Relations as a programme of study. Continue reading
‘Are you happy in the Navy?’, this was the signal passed to a neighbouring vessel by Lt Leo Joseph Gradwell during a German air raid. An Oxbridge barrister, adept in six languages, he was not quite the man one would imagine fighting the best German warships with only a yacht sailing certificate. Captain of one of the British merchant ships of the ‘scattered’ PQ17 convoy, he had a Times Handy Atlas to stay alive after being ordered to disperse at the lurking threat of the the Nazi warship Tirpitz. PQ17: well, it’s obviously an intriguing code name though quite a historic one. PQ17 was the code named convoy containing British and American ammunition, weapons and aid that were sent to the Russians to prevent the unstoppable Germans from capturing Moscow; crossing the hell rough Arctic ocean. Dating back to the venerable Second War, PQ17 Arctic Convoy Disaster has been tagged one of the most infamous naval disasters in the history of warfare. This may seem to have no connection to that of an 18-year old prat’s life. Self-confessedly, even I would have been in the dark about PQ17, like most other people, had I not stumbled upon the documentary broadcast on the BBC, presented by the legendary, albeit controversial, Jeremy Clarkson.
Time to draw the connection.
The time since I last posted my blog, it has been quite a hurricane for me. And I think I have survived. To say simply, the time has not been the rosiest. Managing the increasing burden of the examinations and the mounting backlog of my music lessons simultaneously has been one of the trickiest legs among all the examinations that I have taken. Admittedly, I have not been out of my home for most of the time – this has been the most vexing parts. It is indeed no child’s play to self-motivate and keep the pace ticking to gobble up the endless miles of the syllabus. Much has been said, opined and written about the much anticipated exams. So I won’t further add to the discussion, though I don’t think I would be able to resist.
There goes a saying, ‘Time and tide waits for none’. While I had focussed on my exams and music (relatively limitedly) the world had not been still. A lot has happened. India has undergone one of the most significant changes in its governance, Narendra Modi (our new PM) taking not only the national but the global media by storm. Not only India, democracy has triumphed in nations such Afghanistan, South Africa and Iraq. The case of Afghanistan has been awe-inspiring proving that all humans have hope for something better. To add, South Africa has re-elected their leader – President Zuma. Seen from the bird’s eye view, a silver lining can definitely be seen peeping from the black, sombre clouds. Witnessing the rise of a man from the echelons of a naïve tea-seller to that of the leader of the largest democracy, to the dew-fresh hopes in Afghanistan for sunny days ahead, it has really ignited my zeal.