It was like nothing Brian Paul ’12 had expected to experience during his studies in London.
For a few weeks starting last November, thousands of British university students marched through Central London, voicing disdain for the substantial hike in their tuition fees. Paul found himself in the middle of the action. The economics major was just two months into his year-long stint with the London School of Economics, a thriving campus just a mile or so removed from the escalating protests.
“If I had heard about these protests from the States,” says Paul, “I probably would have seen them as ridiculous and not given myself a chance to understand their significance.
“The typical private U.S. university tuition,” he adds, “is about eight times the amount of what it was in the UK. But by actually living through the experience, I can at least understand where the British students are coming from.
“It doesn’t mean I agree with them. But at least I know more about the protests—and appreciate both points of view—than I would have while in Bethlehem.”
Of course, life in London is not all about avoiding protesters. Now back for his second semester at the prestigious school, Paul relishes the chance to interact with one of the most internationally diverse student populations in the world—peers who have their own unique sets of philosophies, cultures and academic acumen.
With just one exam, focus must be steadfast
He also sees a vivid contrast between his coursework in London and here at Lehigh.
“There’s a slightly different approach to economics here in London,” Paul says. “At the LSE, economics is at the core of mathematical studies. Also, take a look at my class schedule. I take the same four courses for the full academic year. This allows for more of an in-depth understanding of the material.”
“And at the LSE, I spend a maximum of 10 hours per week in class or lecture, while the majority of the work is done at home, and my only grade comes from one final exam in June after completing two semesters worth of work.”
Which makes staying focused difficult at times, Paul readily admits.
“I’m still undecided if this grading approach is better than what we have at Lehigh, but I’ll let you know after final exams.”
Though the London School of Economics is a short tube ride from many of London’s top destinations, Paul has put aside some time to experience the rest of Europe. He’s already made treks to Dublin, Munich, Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris and Edinburgh, and has his eyes set on other cities over the next few months.
“You don’t get much better than the London School of Economics,” Paul says. “My time here is already providing me with a different way of viewing economics and will be a great addition to my Lehigh economics degree.”