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Sam Lane – November 2016: Time flies!

ucqnafe12 November 2016

MPA student Sam Lane provides insights on studying at UCL STEaPP.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, so that must be what happened here? Right? It is with outright consensus, that my cohort and I believe we have been doing the course for a year now. We have had many assessments and so much reading that it cannot possibly be less than 2 months since our induction. Given that we spend almost 30 hours a week together, the students are more than just colleagues, but a 16-person-strong support network. We study, eat and study together and have become quite a solid unit. Our personal and professional backgrounds have been exposed further and we even discovered a published poet amongst us!

Sam on a field trip to an electrical and electronics waste recycling plant as part of scenario week.

While these last 8 weeks have been challenging, perhaps an understatement, it is fair to say they have also been extremely enjoyable. This is most true when reflecting on the scenario week. The topic set for the week was Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) and the circular economy.

Everyone found something interesting about it and we all quickly fell into roles within our groups. Every team had challenges, from communication crises to pedantic procedures, yet we all made it through the week closer than before. We even had a surprisingly fun trip to a WEEE Recycling plant where the engineers of the group could indulge in donning a hard hat and hi-vis vest.

My personal experience has been great so far. I have found myself challenged by the programme. I am out of, what I thought was, my comfort zone and having to cope with the sheer volume of reading has been very tough. I am also working part time for a science communication company and balancing this, with the full-time programme has taken its toll. I am learning more about how to prioritise my tasks and make sure I am meeting all my deadlines but it is not sustainable and I am looking forward, to a hopefully slightly more relaxed second term. When reading week finally arrived it felt long overdue and I recall a conversation on our class Whatsapp that even by Monday everyone was still recuperating, which was nice to know we are all in the same boat. Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to go back to my undergraduate university during reading week to give a seminar to 40 students about science communication and policy. They latter part was based almost exclusively on the work from my time at STEaPP so it has already begun to be useful and we are only half way through the first term!

In summary, it has been great and I do not think it is possible to prepare for how intense yet thrilling it will be. The satisfaction of completing a mini-scenario and that first sip of cold beer on a Friday is truly rewarding.

Sam Lane – October 2016: Getting started

ucqnafe12 October 2016

sam-lane

MPA student Sam Lane provides insights on studying at UCL STEaPP.

“Change the world,” they said. What an understatement. No sooner had the induction week began did my fellow students and I realise that Jason (Blackstock – co-founder and Head of STEaPP) was serious. The first session of the Master’s degree opened all our eyes to how wide, yet interconnected, the world is and that we were in a unique place to make a positive change. It’s fair to say that all the MPA students are in awe of the faculty and their achievements, yet despite their grandeur, they were so friendly and approachable, using every opportunity to engage with us on a personal level too. This helped foster a very close relationship among the students and the staff from the outset and has only grown since.

Our cohort have quickly got to know and appreciate each other’s incredibly diverse backgrounds too. I have a BSc in Biology at University of East Anglia, and since graduating have moved into science policy and communications, first interning in Brussels and then taking a place on the Robert Schuman Traineeship programme at the European Parliament Information Office in London. Among our cohort we also have engineers, public administrators, economists and even a lawyer, with students from Europe, Middle East, Asia and the Americas, so it’s clear that diversity is cherished.

We have become quite close quite quickly because of the intensity of the course. This was helped by a great induction week of workshops and activities (the highlight being the tour of Queen Elizabeth Park) which allowed lots of discussion about the topics, and about lunch!

Given the variety of backgrounds, everyone encountered something uniquely challenging getting used to the administrative side of things in such a huge institution as UCL. However, the team at STEaPP were on hand to resolve any issues that came up immediately, which meant we knew we were in good hands.

Given the stellar start to the course I expect it to continue. The draw of the practical scenarios and the star-studded lecture timetable mean we are set for interesting content but I already know I will learn much more than what can be taught from books, especially how to change the world.