Kshitija – Exchange in the UK

Kshitija Vaidya is part of our Arts Global Scholars Program, a scholarship program available for Bachelor of Global Studies students. Kshitija went on Exchange to the United Kingdom, and shared how her overseas study experience broadened her perception of her future career in research.

I remember my first-year lecturer mentioning that the Bachelor of Global Studies was about making an informed difference in the world. I thought, this is what I want my career to be. I want to deeply understand the world and to use this knowledge to make an impact. I imagined myself as a researcher in International Relations. The picture looked like this: I saw my future-self writing ground-breaking papers on conflicts and crises occurring around the globe, all while sitting in a comfortable ivory tower, drawing inspiration only from books, journals, fellow academics and the windows facing into the backyard.

My exchange at King’s College London has not changed my goals. I still want to be a researcher, contributing to the quest of understanding our social landscape. What has changed is my picture of what this might involve. My exchange taught me that it is one thing to learn about the world through books and journals, but certainly another to experience the world firsthand. While academia is undoubtedly a crucial source of knowledge and wisdom, I learnt in London that it is not a substitute for the insights that travelling can bring.

Ultimately, any discipline that seeks to model the social universe, comes to life only through the stories of people. By spending a semester in one of the most multicultural and international cities in the world, I worked with and befriended people from diverse backgrounds. By conversing with them, understanding their stories and listening to their opinions, I began to see the world through their eyes. Yes, sometimes we had different views. But, the opportunity to talk about and thus to experience a little bit of each other’s lives, meant we had enough in common to appreciate the other’s perspective. This made our interpersonal exchanges meaningful. By keeping in touch with my global friends, I will always have diverse viewpoints through which to perceive the world.

My ‘Global Power Europe’ class of only twenty students contained within it almost twenty different national, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Many European Union member states were represented in our tutorial. Each student had a unique perspective. Getting to know my peers gave me an idea of where their opinions were coming from. I often reflected to myself, ‘How interesting, I’ve never thought of the EU’s environment initiatives in that way before’, or ‘wow, this is the first time I am hearing about what Romania’s young people think about the EU’. The diversity in my class exposed me to new and interesting ideas. Through the lived experiences of my peers, many of whom were European citizens, I saw the grassroots significance of EU politics come to life.

Living in London also meant I was in an International Relations hub. The speakers at many talks I attended were journalists and reporters, or researchers in famous foreign policy thinktanks. Listening to them felt like being inside the machine of global politics that I had only ever tried to comprehend as an outsider. Again, it struck me how much insight real-life experiences and interaction with others can bring.

Exchange did not alter my career goals, but it did broaden my perception of what my future in research might be. The new picture looks like this: again, I see my future-self writing ground-breaking papers on conflicts and crises occurring around the globe, drawing inspiration from books, journals and fellow academics. But this time, my future-self has another rich resource to draw upon. Instead of facing into the backyard like before, the windows in her room provide access to the experiences she has lived, and the people she has met, by travelling to various and amazing parts of the world.