It is Lent term, week seven. The alarm sounds on my iphone, and nostalgia sets in as I catch a glimpse of my phone's screensaver. It's me on the top of Machu Picchu with walking poles in hand and a weathered smile on my face. The alarm sounds again, and I am very much anchored to my basement apartment in London, tasked with getting ready before setting off to campus.
My walk to Bond Street station forces me to cut across Oxford Street - an experience far more polluted than the Inca Trail, in every sense. Even in the early hours this street is brimming with ruthless people, who will knock the idle tourist to the ground if they linger. Thank heavens, I've reached the underground. I look at my fellow commuters as we pass through the turnstiles. Once more into the breach dear friends, once more. I laugh and join the escalator descending into the abyss, standing on the right hand side so the demonic commuters can rush past.
I feel safe on the tube. Safer in the knowledge that on the tube no one really knows their place - and as such, everyone does. However, my gaze does not fix upon my fellow commuters, as that would be unwise. I experience my own trains of thought. I know this weekend I have fifty pages on cosmopolitanism to read and balance a social life, which teeters on extinction. How different will the text be, compared to my own interpretation?
The underground commute is indeed an art I have mastered over time, and one I find strangely rewarding. On the platform, I know to stand directly opposite the Google billboard, which informs us on how to create a secure password. When the train arrives, its doors then open at my feet. This carriage is convenience personified. Upon arrival at Holborn, it will spew me out directly in front of the exit. I am then in pole position to climb the stairs, effectively making me the winner. Today, all has gone according to plan and I am filled with a sense of achievement.
My walk to the LSE down Kingsway captures London's diversity in a snapshot. The winter sun illuminates each location. The first recognisable sight is the claustrophobic Italian bistro: Guido's. There it is not uncommon to hear a cacophony of thick Italian accents laying blame on one another, as the warm inviting scent of their Panini's fills the street. That is, until you reach the construction work taking place a couple of doors down. I soon reach the printing shop, offering business card design. I ponder getting one done, before reminding myself that I am a student, and the best I could put under my name is just that - or perhaps, "academic".
Ah, I have arrived, turning left on to Houghton Street. The Chinese students, through no fault of their own, move in herds. I recall the introductory lectures at the LSE where there was an underlying emphasis to encourage the Chinese and non-Chinese to befriend. Futile, language will always divide and unite. I am amused - is that cruel? There isn't much time to think about it, as the Hindu, Drama and Palestinian societies who have set up stalls soon jostle me. Surely, this is what cosmopolitanism feels like, isn't it? I begin to question my own existence amongst it all. I am a proud Englishman, but does being a Londoner require an acceptance that you are living in a city that belongs to the world? A city to share?
I would be doing a disservice to the pigeon population at the LSE if I did not give them mention too. I sometimes wonder whether we live in a pigeon world, and not vice versa. Certainly, at the LSE they are smarter creatures and appear unfazed by customary 'shooing.' Perhaps now all they lack is leadership? A brave pigeon may soon set precedent and challenge its human counterpart. I, for one, hope that day never comes.
At this moment, I ask myself: What type of student am I? I am not the hardest worker, nor am I a work-shirker. "Do not feel inadequate because of your colleague's ability to recall the entire Marxist manifesto", I tell myself. "There will come a week when he takes ill, hopefully a minor ailment, allowing you to step in and befuddle yourself with Foucault's notion of power." I take pride in speaking out, willing to make mistakes.
Nevertheless, today is Friday. I have no classes, but a radio show to present on 'Pulse'. The magic of radio edges me close to true happiness. When the microphone is off, I sometimes yell Goooooood Morning Vietnam! The four walls of the studio may make it seem like a prison cell, yet I cannot help feel liberated within them. Today, I will speak with purpose on the recent furore over anti-Semitism at the LSE. My task as a journalist in training is to engage my listeners (normally my family and those feeling charitable). I greet my panel guests, the red light above the studio flickers. We are on air.
After the discussions, I leave the studio with a smile on my face, receiving texts from loyal listeners, who will no doubt be listening to my pigeon-based anecdotes next week, telling me it went well.
Everyone's commute may be fraught with obstacles, yet their time at the LSE is not. Cliques dissipate in the process of learning, and there are thousands of opinions. Only the finest institutions find themselves under a microscope, as the LSE does. However, you and I both know that means it is doing something right. I am the seasoned student, and I go to the London School of Economics. As I board the central line headed home, I find comfort in the notion that next week will be exactly the same. Yes, I will take an Evening Standard. Thank you.
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