Here are my reflections on three years at 19 Bedford Square as an undergrad.
First Year of Three Years at 19 Bedford Square
When I arrived for my first week at NCH, I was apprehensive. Would it live up to the image of it that I’d spent the summer constructing? In some ways, yes. In others, no. I had spent hours watching the NCH introduction videos on YouTube, and looked forward to meeting a whole range of curious, intellectually-minded and exciting people – as well as becoming best friends with AC Grayling, of course.
After a few weeks, a lot had changed. Academic life was more intense than I’d anticipated. Getting 2000 words out each week for 1:1 tutorials threw a spanner into the romantic-view-of-NCH works. Then, six weeks in, I decided to swap majors from English to Philosophy. For anyone who knew me going into NCH, I’m sure they’d agree that this came somewhat out of the blue. London itself, which I hadn’t really considered much before arriving, was more hectic, dynamic and exciting than I had realised. I think I wrote a blog post for NCH quite early on in first year, and, even from that, you can tell how much I had fallen in love with the city.
Being able to spend the evening at a Jazz bar in Camden, sleep at my halls in Kensington, and then walk through Hyde Park to a lecture was mesmerizing. It wasn’t all positive. Some things were worse than expected, such as the fact that the student body was more disparate, and not everyone was as enthusiastic as I was. Nonetheless, I met and made friends with some really fascinating people, many of whom I am happy to call friends to this day. All in all, first year was by far the most exhilarating year, and I loved it.
The summer of first year was equally interesting. I spent the first week of it in Béduer, with fellow NCHums and academics. It was a magical week of wine, cheese, and conversations. When I returned, I then spent the summer in London, more or less dedicating my time to my part-time job at a smoothie bar.
Second year was, ostensibly, more of the same. We continued to have a lot of work, I continued to work hard at my part-time job etc. However, a lot changed. I moved out of halls and into a shared flat in Kentish Town. Degree work became much more challenging. As I think is often the case for second years, this somewhat pushed me to the end of my tether and I frequently questioned whether I was in the right place.
With a heavily coursework-oriented degree, I would often find myself with 4-6000 words to write a week. It was hard. I also became a little detached from NCH more broadly, as I struggled to find the balance between my job, my degree, and my social life. That said, I invested a lot into a few friendships and again, these continue to offer me great fulfilment. But, I won’t lie, second year was tough.
Second year was also characterised by a more involved LAUNCH programme and a growing sense of anxiety about what we’d all do when we graduate. We must all be securing excellent internships – we were told – so that we can line up third year applications, whether for jobs or further study. Under the pressure, my ambitions fluctuated hugely during this period. They ranged from wanting to be a high-flying consultant in the city, to being an itinerant charity worker. Finally, thanks to a rather transformative and inspiring experience of a second year International Development module with Marianna, I settled on pursuing a Master’s degree. Thus, I embarked on my second year summer with a few big holidays planned and a few even bigger reading lists.
Thus began third year. I moved again, this time to Chiswick. In many ways, it was the most settled of my three years at 19 Bedford Square. I had a firm friendship network and a clearer idea of where I wanted to be. Academically, it was both the most exciting and challenging year – with a dissertation and optional modules, we were really able to pursue our interests. I loved that. I would even go as far as saying that I had some of the best academic experiences of NCH in this past year, whether studying Kant to Nietzsche with Christoph or doing my dissertation with Naomi.
That being said, Michaelmas term was definitely the most challenging to date. I was balancing a three month research internship, university work, an evening tutoring job and long and strenuous Master’s applications. I felt quite overwhelmed. Come Christmas, I was, to be honest, burnt out. Hilary Term, thankfully, was less taxing. I thoroughly enjoyed working on my dissertation more and, with some Master’s offers coming in, I felt more sure of what my post-NCH future would look like.
Now, ahead of my graduation ceremony, I feel somewhat nostalgic about these three years. NCH has been radically different to how I’d expected. I don’t think I could have expected to leave with a BA in Philosophy and Economics, a distinction in LAUNCH (something which I at first dreaded, but ended up loving), a collection of truly wonderful friends, and a Master’s place. NCH has, in this respect, surpassed my expectations. I will cherish my three years at 19 Bedford Square and look forward to returning in the future with pride.