Meeting Sophie – one of the founding members of Muse, no less – one year on from her Hurtwood studies was inspirational on a number of levels. Her intellect, and her self-contained commitment to the wider world of political shifts and their effects on the lives of the most vulnerable, were admirable, and indeed, already evident during her time here at school. One year of undergraduate study has seen her turn her interests into action, her studies into focus, and she has a great deal to say about the state of the world, how to change it, and of course, what it is like to be studying at LSE. Phew! Stand by for an impressive catch up over coffee and cake!
What a year it has been for Sophie. Having studied English, History, French and German, she opted to study History with French at LSE, for all the amazing reasons that she is happy to share with us. Her knowledge of this auspicious institution seems profound; her analysis of what it has to offer, equally insightful and invaluable. ‘Set up in Holborn, next to the courts of justice, in the hub of politics, finance and power,’ she tells me, ‘this place really is at the centre of the action. If you’re prepared to be bold, to go for something that’s different and international, but extremely rewarding, LSE is a great place to be.’ She is clearly very happy here, but aware that it is not for everybody, and certainly not for those looking for a cosy campus experience. Sophie happily acknowledges that it appeals to those whose focus is on the world and how to add to it (my words, not hers. She’s too modest.) ‘The brilliant thing about LSE is that it is designed to put you in the centre of everything. Mandated to teach economics and political science and everything within that framework … it does attract highly motivated people from an international background’. Global gypsies? Yes indeed. ‘There are at least 65 languages on campus; people from around the world, who are interested in the world, a career, and are academically driven.’
With genuine excitement she makes clear that International History at LSE is indeed truly international, with a real sweep across global events and with challenging, new perspectives. There is a great freedom to think more widely, she tells me, as well as the potential to take theory out into the world of practice in the form of internships and work experience. There are only 4,500 undergraduates, and under 10,000 students in all. It is arguably one of the top universities in the world for economics, political science and research. It also facilitates ‘unparalleled’ exposure to top speakers and events: think tanks, connections with the UN and the British Council, are all on offer here. I agree that ‘It’s not your average university experience.’ Clearly. Sophie now seems fully integrated into the challenging experience. Having joined The Grimshaw International Relations Club, one of the oldest societies at LSE, she went earlier this year on an amazing trip through Uzbekistan. Trips are set up through LSE connections; students are then involved in delegations as well as travelling and exploring, but also visiting ‘diplomats, ministers, anyone you can find. You get to sit down and talk about the nitty gritty and get the real inside detail.’ Sophie is right where she wants to be, I think, and already fast becoming a ‘mover and shaker’ – my words again, of course.
She begins this second year now as one of Grimshaw’s Speaker Officers, and is helping to coordinate an inaugural symposium entitled ‘The Changing Face of International Diplomacy’. She is sourcing panel events, screenings as well as question and answer sessions. She has done already a fair bit with the United Nations. ‘As much as they will allow to an 18 year-old without a degree,’ she tells me. Much of our chat covers her experience over the summer working in Cyprus with a British start-up NGO (non-governmental organisations – Sophie calls them ‘active charities’) called Refugee Support Europe, aiming to provide ‘aid with dignity’ through ‘The Dignity Centre’ in the capitol, Nicosia. Sophie promises her own article to explain much more lucidly the aims and outcomes of what sounds like an extraordinary project, and one with very positive outcomes in a world that offers few certainties.
It has been a real pleasure to catch up with Sophie who shines a light of intelligence and commitment in our uneasy and often unhappy world. I am really looking forward to reading her direct reportage of the project and, as ever, we could happily spend the rest of the day catching up. But she has work to do and I have a play to watch! Look out for Sophie’s article about her work with refugees: it will be both practical and inspirational, I promise. In the meantime, look back at what she had to tell Muse about her trip to Uzbekistan. She is clearly keeping the flag flying for a better and more inclusive world for us all. Is Hurtwood proud? You bet it is.