A few days ago I was fortunate enough to have the chance to poke my head around the School of Oriental and African Studies, more commonly known as SOAS. Located in the heart of London, this is a fantastic institution with bubbly students and great facilities.
There are more than 350 undergraduate degree combinations available at SOAS which gives students a phenomenal amount of flexibility when choosing their degree. From law to music to history, there’s so much on offer here. SOAS is definitely something to consider if you’re keen to learn non-European languages in particular. All language courses can be studied without any prior knowledge and you could even study something niche like Japanese and Social Anthropology.
SOAS have recently moved one of their main buildings from further afield back to whether the other main student facilities are so everything is pretty much in one place. The newest block on campus is the Paul Wembley Wing in Senate House, which opened in 2016. Here, everything is pristine and new. The canteen area on the basement level is bright and airy with a beautiful glass ceiling. On the balcony around the edge of this atrium, there are armchairs and beanbags for small groups of people to chill out under the bright sky.
On the other floors there are auditoriums and teaching spaces. The learning lab consists of a large study area that is fully equipped with computers, presenting equipment, meeting tables and more. There’s space for large groups to hold collaborative meetings, or smaller (cosy!) booths for those who are more private. This new wing looks like a fantastic, modern place for students to relax and learn, though the vibe is very different to that of the student hub, the JCR (more on that later!).
The library block was one of the most impressive features on campus. There are four floors stacked neatly with row after row of books, over 1.2 million volumes in fact! The library spans over an whopping four floors and there are large study areas as well as row after row of books.
Drinks at the student bar are cheap – an essential for any London university student! The cheapest pint is £2.70 and a small glass of wine is only £2.80. I was even told that students from both LSE and UCL, which are neighbouring universities, are often found loitering in SOAS’ welcoming common room.
There’s also the Brunei Gallery on site, which is full of contemporary and historical exhibitions from Asia, Africa and the Middle-East, which is perfect for current students. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit the Japanese Roof Garden, but students were keen to label that as one of the most beautiful parts of their campus.
The student facilities are in a cluster so it’s easy to go from place to place and there’s no need to run half way across London to make it from one class to another. What’s more, it’s located very centrally in London so there’s plenty of other things to do when you’re not studying. Oxford Street is a mere twenty minute walk away, and the British Museum is only five! If you want to see a West End show, you could be there in a couple of minutes too. Some of the closest tube stops are: Euston, Tottenham Court Road, Russel Square and King’s Cross.
My Experience at SOAS
Of course, it’s great to know that the buildings and facilities at SOAS are beautiful and well-equipped, but the real thing that makes a university is its students. I was given a tour around campus by two fun students who gave me an insight into their time at SOAS and what was good and not so good about it. One claimed that first year was a little slow but that she really enjoyed the second year of her course. The other said that the modules were much more interesting in second year. As a university student myself I can assure you that you’re never going to be happy with every single module or class of your degree but both girls were still very happy about their subject and university choice and ready to embrace third year.
As we walked around, we bumped into many of their friends whom they hadn’t seen for the summer and there were smiles and hugs all round. This was something that I noticed throughout my visit as there were buzzing students everywhere – sitting on the steps, the grass, in the JCR. Everyone seemed really happy to be back at SOAS and reunited with their friends.
The JCR was definitely the most energetic and bustling place on campus and I was told this is the ‘social hub’ of SOAS. This edgy space was full of students grabbing lunch, large groups were gathered round sofas, tables and the pool table. The walls are splayed with political slogans and adverts for joining various different societies. It’s clear that many students at SOAS are passionate activists who care about social justice. On the day I visited, there was a rally for Calais going on and Justice for Cleaners stall, just to name a few.
All in all, I was really impressed by the new facilities at SOAS and the extensive library space. The people that I spoke to were all really out-going and seemed to really love being at SOAS. The whole place was bustling despite the fact that it is only welcome week and there was a definite ‘edgy’ vibe. This university is the perfect place for those who like to spread their wings internationally and are politically-minded.
For more specific advice on accommodation, fees, courses, scholarships and more, please refer to their website. Alternatively you can pop along to their open day in October.
Find out more at SOAS.ac.uk