Freshers weigh in on their new life at SOAS
"I don't think I understood what diversity really meant before coming here," said Filiz Akgul, 29,
of Turkey. "In my class I get to hear from an actual Palestinian student about the problems in
Palestine. She's lived it. It's different than a textbook."
Akgul's words echo the sentiments of many freshers who had great expectations for their first
year at SOAS.
"I expected a melting pot of cosmopolitan society, full of foreigners, and that's what I got," said
Sanag Arslanian, 19, a dual citizen of Beligum and Armenia. "The people are a source of
knowledge that really stimulates."
"It's something new everyday. I'm having a lot of fun, really enjoying myself, making friends,"
said Sam Navavatuam, 20, of England.
Diversity and fraternity were top selling points among freshers, but some realities of the first few
weeks at SOAS have proved frustrating.
"It's messier than expected, the administration of it all. And it's apalling to me, really apalling,
that we seem prohibited to approach lecturers," said Marcela Allneimen, 35, of Venezuela. "Only
one hour seminar a week prohibits true education."
Akgul said her professors are also not very accessible, though she said they are "An asset. They
are so cultured and masterminds in their fields."
Other first-year students say they were not expecting to encounter such a rigid educational and
"SOAS is not as radically intellectual as I expected," said Pia Ljungman, of Finland. "It is still
fairly Western in teaching."
"It's very liberal and left wing. I was not expecting that. I thought it would be more balanced so
that I could choose," said Arslanian. But Arslanian said he was pleased the school recently
installed an Armenian Chair of Studies. "I feel my culture is more appropriately represented
Academics aside, it's the school's hospitality that seems to have exceeded expectations--especially
the legendary SOAS bar.
"I heard a lot about [the bar] before and it is everything everyone said it would be," said
"The bar area downstairs is the best place to have a drink, discuss and meet people outside of the
lecture room," said Ljungman.
Caffeine junkies concur.
"The cost of coffee at the bar is cheap," Akgul said. "And that is good."