Wanderlust Wendy

Academic Purgatory

Phew! I’m done with my first and hopefully final (given I passed everything) set of LSE exams!! This honestly has been the worst academic purgatory I have ever endured. It was just so… long, and painful. Cramming 5, year-long courses worth of information in my head is definitely not anyone’s definition of fun. The evidence that this was horrible? I succumbed to Red Bull and *gasp* 5-Hour Energy. Throughout all the years of my academic life, regardless how tired I was, I never succumbed to Red Bulls. They are only for when I need to keep going at a party. Redbull Vodka is one thing, Redbull Studying is another.

In my review of the LSE after my first term, I said that perhaps the lack of continuous assessment encourages learning for learning’s sake. It forces you to keep up with materials and really learn the subject. That was what I thought then, this is what I think now: Lack of continuous assessment induces some severe cramming. It was pretty crazy how much information I jammed into my little brain within few weeks of time. Furthermore, it is actually encouraged to study strategically. There were some classes where I simply skipped weeks and weeks worth of information. Again, doesn’t seem to really induce learning, but rather, strategic cramming and test taking techniques.

It wasn’t until I started studying for exams did I begin to learn stuff for my classes. I kept thinking, “hmm, this is actually interesting, why didn’t I learn it til now?” And why was that? no exams? no learning. I am the quintessential product of Taiwanese/US education system. When I complain about these once a year exam that account for 60-100% of my grade, I think about those kids at Oxford who take ALL of their exams over the final two years under a 10 day time frame.

Talk about stress! Thank goodness I was in an African village just before this, and I am as chilled as one can possibly be under these circumstances. If I had to deal with this in my pre-Peace Corps self, I’d definitely end up in the hospital. And speaking of hospital, there are definitely several stories I have heard with people collapsing at the library, and so forth. The worst story I heard was a girl who had a panic attack during her exams. The proctor asked her to leave the room and went with her to get a drink at the café. The next thing you know, the poor girl apparently collapsed in the elevator, a janitor had to drag her out, and she was carried away by an ambulance.

For that poor girl, she is definitely not going to be able to graduate. The LSE rules on exams are so strict and if you miss it for any reason, the re-sit is NEXT YEAR. Yikes. And speaking of strict rules, you should see how crazy these proctors are. It’s really almost amusing how nutty they are about tiny rules. In the US, you just roll into your class and take the exam and then roll out. The only stress involved is making sure you know the material, and if you really do miss the exam for some medical reason, the professor can usually work with you to arrange a re-take. At the LSE, you gotta make sure you make it to your assigned exam room even if you are on your death bed, or else you take it next year. You not only have to remember a whole year worth of information for that class, you also can’t forget your timetable, your student ID, leaving your belongings at the front of the room, etc. etc. And if you still have a pen in your hand the SECOND the proctor calls time, well, you are a cheater.

Talk about unnecessary added stress, no wonder that girl had a panic attack.

Maybe a British person can explain all the rules and this education system in general to me. Because after 9 months, I still don’t get it.

At the end of the day, despite all of my criticisms, I did learn some valuable stuff this year at the LSE MPA. Not what I expected at all, but still has some merit. The big takeaway? There is collective action in everything that you ever do in life. No matter what subject of exam I am taking, I can throw that in there and earn a few points.

So I learned some stuff, and made it out of  this academic purgatory alive (albeit barely), and I’m glad it happened. At the same time, I am ready to close this LSE chapter of my life and move on to bigger, better things!

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