The School of Oriental and African Studies

“What?”
“SOAS for short.”
“Where’s that?”
“London.”
“Ontario?”
“No you fool, England.”
“Oh right, what did you study?”
“Chinese and Indonesian.”
“What’s that for?”
“To facilitate understanding how two thirds of the world live, mostly in circumstances vastly differing from my own, and hopefully be of use in a world whose narrative is ever more the story of the global south.”
“So you’re going to be an English teacher?”
“Sigh.”

Free Hare Krishna lunch. Always make time for Hare Krishnas.
DavidC Photography

What a strange little place SOAS is. My massive cynicism during and immediately after has softened, as I’ve realised what a formative experience it was on a personal level. It’s not about “experiencing lots of cultures” (as if that’s even possible during an undergrad degree), but of seeing how fresh the memory of foreign encroachment is to so many people, and the mess it’s left as they try to reclaim and shape an identity for their nation.

Of course I also get to meet the children of a few who no doubt cashed in on said encroachment, or on the messy transition out of it. There will always be thieves who get rich and send their kids to live in Kensington, but I can’t change this by raging about it.

The formative effect could certainly have been found elsewhere, but for me at least, SOAS was as good a place as any. Cheers, SOAS.

Now if only I could do maths.

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Author: Stuart Hughes

Twenty-something from the hills and vales of Wales, grappling with the logistics of becoming a little more cosmopolitan.

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