MSc student Adriana shares an insightful look into the diverse MSc community here at WBS.
In the year I spent at WBS, I found it to be a very complex environment with lots of things happening all the time; sometimes overwhelming, sometimes frustrating but by far the best - the most intriguing. My favourite part has been the people that I’ve met here – teachers, course mates, fellow WBS students and the people that simply keep this place going.
Interacting with people from all corners of the world
As an international student born and raised in Romania, I’ve been living in the UK since 2017, and I’ve lived for more than half a year in Belgium. I’d like to think I’ve interacted with people from all corners of the world in many contexts, yet, much to my surprise, none of it has been as enriching as this year has been and nowhere have I found as dense a cluster of cool and interesting people as I have here. In all fairness, over the past years I’ve probably also grown much more comfortable with interacting with new people and have probably become more skilled at forming meaningful connections quickly, but that just goes to show that it is in all our best interests to approach new places, and new people, with an open mind and an open heart.
To give you an idea about how diverse this place really is, my cohort has one – yes one! – person from the UK. The rest of my course mates were (are) international students like myself, but unlike myself many of them are from outside of Europe altogether. Yes, there’s a handful of us ‘continental’ people, but most of my cohort is from completely opposite corners of the world. Sometimes I think if aliens would go to uni I’d find at least one here. Most of my teachers are just as international. And let me tell you, man, have I been humbled here again and again in figuring out how little of the world I know… but in the best way possible. In the best “oh my God, that is so interesting, tell me more” way possible.
Going beyond diversity as a buzz word
I was talking to one of my closest friends from WBS a while ago – naturally, someone quite from the opposite side of the world – about how diversity is a buzz word nowadays even though people don’t quite have a good grasp on why it’s important, and we agreed that one of the reasons we do need diversity in our lives is simply because there are some things that would just not come to mind in an environment where everyone has lived the same life; for example, an all-male group would never think of how essential tampons might be in a women’s bathroom – not because they’re all evil beings who hate women, but because since they don’t have any need for them, it would simply not come to mind. Do you want to know what spurred this conversation between us? He was telling me about his friends who have just started their year at uni – this was happening in March. And I was awfully confused about why their year is just starting when ours is almost coming to an end, until it came to my attention, and in quite a violent revelation for that matter, that we live in different hemispheres – their March is autumn. I then enquired and was so kindly edified that everyone across the world wants to have a summer holiday, not a winter one. So, their year starts in March, not October. And while I was clearly taught in high school about the Earth’s movement around the Sun, different seasons and different hemispheres, the practical implications of this never occurred to me – because I had no encounter with them whatsoever.
Stepping out of your comfort zone to build your community
This is only a tiny example that explains why I am grateful to be in such a diverse community of people. But like I said, creating a community around yourself is not always easy. And unless you’re a social unicorn (like my lucky friend above is), being in a place with people you seem to have nothing in common with is daunting. That’s part of the reason why most of my good friends from undergrad are also Romanian – even if we all lived in the UK. But as much as I hate to admit it, WBS also helped with creating that community tremendously. I hate to admit it because some of these things, though in retrospective necessary, were very – and I do mean very – uncomfortable. I’m talking about the multitude of group projects we had to do, working with as diverse a handful of people as possible, stuck together having to figure out the solution to some assignment. Let us not beat about the bush and admit that uni group work can sometimes be dreadful – we’ve all been there. But what I didn’t expect was that it can sometimes also be great. Amazing. The highlight of my week (no, I’m not exaggerating). So even if I hated WBS some days because it made me do this thing that I saw no point in at the start, I am so grateful they did. Because every time I did it again, it got a little easier. We were a little better. A little more understanding. A little more cooperative. A little more organized. A little better at assigning roles for ourselves. And I ended up finding some great people, some of which I’m very close with still, some of which will always have my respect for their work ethic, their brains, and their kindness. And whom I’d love to keep in my life. So, if you are reading this, I’d like you to know I am very grateful for you!
WBS was a lot about the studies. But it was also a lot about the people that I studied with. And while there is so much more to say about the people of WBS, and especially about the support they offer, I want to leave you with this: in my experience, WBS will make sure you form a wonderfully diverse, infinitely interesting, and positively amazing community around yourself, whether you like doing it or not.