Knox Student Back After Year at London School of Economics

Hannah Basil '13 studied hard, traveled, and played on 'netball' team

August 29, 2012

Hannah Basil in Morocco

Knox College student Hannah Basil always figured she'd study abroad someday, and she was thrilled to learn of an opportunity to do that at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

"I just gasped," Basil recalled. "That's the leading economics research institution in the world."

An economics major from Chicago, Illinois, she found out about LSE's yearlong General Course program from Karen Hawkinson, who at the time was coordinator of Knox's Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies. The highly selective program accepts about 300 students a year from all over the world.

Once in London, Basil took four LSE courses that stretched over the entire academic year. They were Self, Others and Society: Perspectives on Social and Applied Psychology; Principles of Finance; Applied Environmental Economics; and International Marketing: A Strategic Approach.Hannah Basil at London School of Economics

"I was attracted to the academic intensity of it," said Basil, who also is pursuing a business and management minor at Knox. "It's not an easy program. I worked very hard and consistently throughout my 10 months there."

The educational routine at LSE was a dramatic shift from what she had grown accustomed to during her previous years of schooling.

Like other General Course students, Basil received two grades for each course at the end of the academic year: a class grade and an examination grade. Each examination grade was based solely on a three-hour test -- typically consisting of three essay questions -- administered in late May or early June.

"You're expected to cite about six to eight leading scholarly articles in each essay," she said, adding that no notes are permitted. "They expect that you know the facts backward and upside down. What they want to see is that you know the most current academic debate among the leaders in the field."

Classes met just twice a week, once in a large lecture setting and once in a much smaller discussion group. Only about half of the material that might turn up on an exam was introduced during the lectures, and students were expected to teach themselves the remaining 50 percent.

"You sit in the library, you do the readings, you synthesize that on your own," Basil said. "That's very, very different from what we're used to, (which is) if you go to the lecture, the whole idea is presented. You can supplement that with readings, but you'll still get the full idea of the topic if you attend lecture. That's because you have more lecture time at Knox."

Hannah Basil photo in PortugalDespite the different system at LSE, Basil was able to apply some of the skills she's honed at Knox -- particularly when it came to analyzing assigned readings.

"In classes at Knox, we're encouraged to discuss and really critique the author's viewpoint, and not just accept what you're told or what you've read at face value. We're encouraged to think about the structure of the arguments," she said.

While in London, Basil also made time for non-academic activities, playing on the school's netball team and traveling often.

Netball, which was new to her, is "similar to basketball mixed with handball or lacrosse," she said. As the team's goal-shooter, her job was to gain possession of the ball and throw it into a net. (Photo below right: Hannah Basil practices netball.)Hannah Basil playing netball

Every member of the team came from a different country, Basil said. "I was playing with young women from Romania, England, Ireland, Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, India, Burma, Brunei. It was unbelievable." While commuting to and from games, she and her teammates traded stories about growing up in their countries.

About twice a month, she and friends took quick weekend trips to other countries. Basil tracked her travels on a blog, Oh, the Places You'll Go. By the time she returned to the United States, she had logged about 45,000 miles and visited 33 cities in 17 countries.

She also captured her travels through photography. Three of her photographs have been published -- one in Knox's Catch literary magazine and two ("White Cliffs of Dover" and "Mountain Top") in the LSE online Perspectives Gallery. (Photo above left: Hannah Basil's photo, "Golden Girls," taken in Albufeira, Portugal, and published in the Spring 2012 edition of Catch.)

"My favorite overall place, hands down, was Marrakesh, Morocco. It was a cultural explosion -- the sounds, the smells, the colors, the language," she said. "My favorite country was probably Spain. It has a very rich culture, in terms of music, dancing, art, good food, and wine." (Photo at top of page: Hannah Basil riding a camel in the desert outside Marrakech, Morocco. Photo at bottom of page: In Valencia, Spain.)

Basil had taken an intensive elementary Spanish course at Knox, and she was able to communicate directly with people in Spain. "I was surprised at how fast it came back. It's reinvigorated me to continue with Spanish, so I'm going back into Spanish class in the fall (at Knox)."

A Kemper Scholar, Basil is wrapping up a summer internship with Equity Partner Match, a Chicago startup where she is business development associate. After graduating from Knox in 2013, she plans to work for a few years as a strategy consultant or in the entrepreneurial sector at a startup company. Later, she intends to pursue an MBA.

For now, she is focused largely on her new duties as business manager for The Knox Student and on returning to the Knox campus for her senior year.

"Without Knox, I would not be where I am today."

Hannah Basil in Valencia, Spain