How to make the most of your ESPS experience?
Being an ESPS student is very rewarding, both academically and personally. Academically, what I enjoyed the most was the ability to choose from a wide range of modules from almost any department. This enables you to pursue all the different interests you may have, be it anthropological, political, economical, or anything really! In other words, you have the freedom to make of your degree what you want it to be. By the time you graduate, your ESPS degree becomes a reflection of you as an individual. I can’t think of any other course that offers something as unique as that.
On a personal level, ESPS enables you to meet a fascinating crowd of smart and ambitious people from all over the world. An ESPS year group is made up of about 50 students. This means that you have the opportunity to form lasting friendships with each and every one of your peers and to come together as a close group of friends over the course of your studies. Your ESPS peers will be of invaluable support throughout your time at UCL, especially when coming back from your year abroad and in the last couple of months leading up to the handing in of your dissertation!
If I were to give incoming students advice firstly, it would be to get together as an ESPS group as soon and as often as possible. Make sure no one feels left behind and always try to be as inclusive as possible. This will only make your ESPS experience more rewarding and enjoyable. This could include going for a drink after a core module, throwing Christmas parties, organising a trip somewhere during Reading Week, or even just setting up a Facebook group to keep in touch.
For me the best advice I received was to make the most of my year abroad! It is really up to you to have a good time and come back fluent. Try and live with locals, take up a hobby or activity that will enable you to meet locals outside of university and try and integrate as much as you can with the local culture. All this advice applies, of course, to your life in London as well! Make the most of UCL, join clubs and societies, explore the city and make the most of student discounts whilst you can!
Thirdly, do your readings! Although it may at times seem tedious and a waste of time, you will actually enjoy your lectures so much more if you keep up to date with the readings. Otherwise, you won’t find out until you actually do the readings a few weeks before your final exam that the module was really interesting! Unfortunately, by that time you missed out on most of the academic rewards already…
Finally, don’t be shy to ask the administration for help. Experience has shown that although on paper it may look like you can’t do this or that, can’t pick this module or learn that language, if you ask nicely enough and argue your case convincingly to the administration, a solution can usually be found to any of your problems.