Find out more about Varun who is studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics BSc...
Why did you join UCL?
I decided to stay in London for university because the cultural offerings alongside the multiculturalism that the city provides whilst being a student are really valuable in ascertaining a rounded education. UCL has been great in allowing me to explore my interests whilst giving me access to a lot of resources that I’ve really benefitted from in the last couple of years. The PPE course at UCL is unique in its structure as a BSc and has a more critical approach than is offered by most other universities.
What were your first impressions of the department?
I’d say the people; the Department of Political Science is very friendly! It’s a warm, welcoming department where, because of its size, it’s easy to get to know everyone and people are willing to help you out where they can which is nice at an institution as large as UCL, where it can be easy to feel a little bit lost. Given this is now my third year at UCL, I’ve become well acquainted with Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, and I really do like the location of our department- Tavistock Square is a great place to be because it’s not as busy as Gower Street and there are lots of nice café’s with good coffee nearby to work in- especially on Marchmont Street!
What is the rest of your cohort like?
I’m in the third cohort of PPE students at UCL. There’s about 40 of us which is great because it’s a familial environment where you’re able to get to know all of your coursemates fairly well and it’s large enough for there to be difference in opinion which makes for good debates in our politics seminars. It’s a fairly international group of people which is nice because there’s a lot of different perspectives and interests to learn from. What’s especially nice about PPE is you do modules across three different departments which makes it easy to meet a lot of insightful people who share similar interests.
What do you like best about your course so far?
Reflecting on the last couple of years, the interdisciplinary nature of the course has been great. Being able to study metaphysics whilst simultaneously studying justice and public policy was a particular highlight in my second year. Now that I’m in my final year, being able to study discourse in context of international development has definitely been the favourite part of my course. It has been fascinating and has provided some really interesting material to make me reconsider the way in which things are framed, whether that be my own media consumption or how we view ‘prestigious’ journals in academia, to whether I can change my conception of time and how this could impact my studies and future career.
Though, I must say as President of UCL’s Q-Step Society, a completely unbiased opinion: Q-Step and quantitative methods has been an integral part of my degree and I definitely recommend choosing to take it on as your methods stream because you gain some fantastic skills through learning how to code for three years… and join the society committee!
What have you enjoyed most in your time at UCL?
Being part of a bunch of different societies has been a really integral part to my university experience. Whether that’s been attending the public debates in my first year, performing with Live Music Society or Jazz Society, being on committee for Q-Step or going along to documentary film screenings, I’ve learnt so much and met an incredible range of people. Getting involved in the society life of the university allows you to meet amazing people from all over the world with different skills and interests, from whom I’ve learnt a lot and tried out new activities because of.
Outside of society activities, most recently, I worked on the “Inclusive Curriculum Project” within the department in which we analysed our reading lists to see how diverse they were and presented the results at a joint faculty conference as part of “Decolonising the Curriculum Week 2019”. I got to work with some really passionate, incredible people, learnt a lot about what it means to be a research assistant and we hope to take our work forward to help make our curriculum more inclusive!
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Receiving a scholarship to attend El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City was definitely an amazing experience. Being able to study Latin American politics and getting to travel down the south of Mexico in the summer of my first year was incredible and I’m really grateful to UCL for the opportunity. I met a really international group of people and learnt a lot about my own academic interests which has helped shape my degree and way of thinking about academia.
What is your favourite book?
This is a tricky one! I think, as cliché as it might be, I’d go for “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger. I like how the book explores self-identity and that every time I read it, I learn something new about myself and surrounding interactions, which I think is fascinating. I find it curious that it’s known for adding value to a reader’s life, no matter their age which I think gives it a really valuable quality- a book I can continue to revisit as I face new experiences.
What would your perfect day look like?
A crisp, sunny day in mid-September with either Paolo Nutini or the Whiplash soundtrack playing as I sit at my favourite café in Fitzrovia and do some people watching! Some good coffee, an interesting book and meeting people who sit at the tables outside always makes for an interesting day. Follow this with some food on Charlotte Street and a long philosophical discussion with some friends at the pub!
If you could implement one policy in the world today, what would it be?
This is a really difficult question, in part because a blanket policy for the whole world would most certainly ignore cultural sensitivity in some form. With that in mind, I’d say free, accessible, good quality provision of health care should be available to all that considers culturally appropriate care. In the UK, we’re extremely lucky to have the National Health Service and a lot of people take it for granted that if they need help, for the most part, it is available. In a lot of the world, including places in the Global North, this isn’t the case and the fact that so many people die because they’re not wealthy enough to afford sometimes extremely basic provisions of health care is appalling to me. This policy would alleviate a lot of suffering and provide a basic human right to so many people who currently live without it.