The Halfway Mark

I thought it would be somewhat apropos to reference the last few fleeting moments of Lent term, or the second part of my year at LSE.  I haven’t been as vigilant as planned in detailing my triumphs and turbulences over this last year, so I’ll have to do a very abbreviated catch up session.  As it seems my life has become more and more compartmentalized into various strands, I’ll dive briefly into a few of those now.

In short, life has largely revolved around studies.  I am a Masters student at The London School of Economics.  I’m getting my degree in International Relations, which, when most people will ask me what that means, rather than giving some overly elaborate answer about competing methodological, ontological and epistemological frameworks that belabor and inhibit progress in IR, I’ll just say International Relations is 1) An approach to better understand the world and 2) A way to comprehend why the world and it various parts (be they states, institutions or individuals) exist as they do.  That is the very, very short answer.

Now when tasked with the challenge of answering “so what will you do with that,” rather than jumping into how my lifelong ambition is to lead in the footsteps of Senator Underwood, I’d likely pause and say “well there are lots of things.” Non-specific answers are my forte in case you hadn’t noticed. 😉  Essentially a range of career possibilities are open, ranging from working in DC policy circles, to development organizations, to private sector.  For now anyways, my goals remain somewhat modest and pragmatic.  I want to pay off my loans in the next 5 years and find a balance between career ambitions and personal well being.  Like all good Millennials, I want to make a difference in the world *cue the beauty pageant soundtrack.  Part of that is through balancing my career pursuits with the intentionality I hope to bring to my relationships with others and the community I surround myself with.  I also see it as happiness in the little things.  Like making time for guitar, and reading fiction (not something I do now), and long bike rides that don’t lead anywhere in particular.

So that catches you up a bit on my present and potential future.  I spend my typical days in the LSE library, sardined at a computer or in a desk with a swath of other students reading the day away.  On a good day, a good hour, I can get a paper read in 1 1/2 hours and walk away with a clear summary, critique and possible quote to use in an essay.  On a ‘less’ productive time, I could whittle that time away pining over the minutia of the essay, loosing myself in the terminology I haven’t yet grasped.  Usually I’m somewhere between those two, with multiple coffee breaks sprinkled in between.  The coffee and the company are really what make it for me.

Besides LSE being an incredibly international campus, I have the pleasure of engaging with peers from around the globe in a supportive and tolerant setting.  It doesn’t much feel like a dog eat dog situation, which I greatly appreciate because we need to lean on each other.  So Mondays and Wednesdays I have a lunch routine with the same fabulous individuals.  We postulate on our futures, or the future of IR while slurping up soups or noodles.  We laugh about wholly unrelated to IR subjects like weekend hangovers or birthday parties or nouveau coffee shops and bakeries around London.  These moments are something I greatly appreciate.  Partly because of their finality.  While I can’t say I love the stresses that come with academic life, this may be the last time I get to be a student, so I’m gonna embrace it for all it is.  The same goes with living in my dormitory.  The more I’ve talked with flatmates, the more I realized how lucky I am to live with a group that communicates, shares cooked meals together, and just has a damn good and quite ridiculous time together.

Speaking of building relationships with people, another development has been that I’ve started seeing someone. ‘She’ is a general course student at LSE studying abroad from the US.  It’s been about 6 weeks and it’s going really well.  I guess I didn’t plan to even get into a relationship while here, but life happens.  It hasn’t been very long but I am quite hopeful about what is to come.  I think it is definitely one of the most compatible relationships I’ve ever been in.  ‘She’, and I’ll overuse that pronoun to respect her anonymity, is artistic, intelligent, beautiful, funny, I could go on, but the point is we make each other laugh, I like holding her and being held and it’s going really, really well.

There’s a certain compressed element about the relationship because of where we are.  Meaning, we are not in a fixed place, either of us.  And often, it feels like so much of my life in London has an expiration date.  But I also feel like life is something you can shape, not something that just passively occurs.  So just because London will end, doesn’t mean we will.  Anyways, I’ve been spending most of my free time / waking hours with her.  We also had a very romantic Valentines Day weekend in the British countryside a few weeks ago. Hopefully once the chaos of the term dies down, she and I can have another holiday getaway.

Also, I spent a good portion of winter vacation traveling.  To Paris, Amsterdam, Prague and Vienna and plan to spend a bit of time over this Spring break in Denmark and Sweden before heading back to the states for my brothers wedding, (I’ll save that for a future post).  I traveled to Paris and A’dam with Cameron, a good friend who I worked in Korea with through Fulbright.  We both came to LSE at the same time, although he is pursuing development and myself IR, we have a lot of overlap both in our academic interests and also, I think the desire to find a balance between career and community in our lives. On a total side note, Cameron, myself and another Fulbrighter also at LSE studying International Political Economy named Kyle all made Kimchi a few weeks ago.  It was a testament both to how we all miss Korea and how much we miss Korean food.  Part of that is the nostalgia that comes when one chapter of your life feels like it closes.  While it feels like my life in Korea as a teacher is so far removed from reality, that was less than 1 year ago.  What comes next is 1) more immediately a massive exam revision session lasting over 1 month, where I have a lot of preparation to do for exams and a lot of progress to be made in my thesis (also for another post).

I guess it’s the little things to focus on both to both appreciate what you’ve got in the moment and work towards something good in the future!

Step 1 – exam review + thesis work

Step 2 – write more music

Step 3 – kiss your girlfriend

(in no particular order)!!!

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