Two intensive filled terms - Daniela's mid-year reflection on studying MSc Control of Infectious Diseases

Daniela, MSc Control of Infectious Diseases student from the USA, reflects on her time at LSHTM so far studying and having loads of fun.
A selfie of Daniela Morales, MSc Control of Infectious Diseases student, with her friends

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It is officially the half-way point of my one-year MSc Control of Infectious Diseases (CID), and somehow, it’s hard for me to believe that I have officially been a student at LSHTM for 6 months now. Looking back at who I was when I first applied to the program in January 2022, no amount of research could have prepared me for what was to come...

I am from Warner Robins, a town located in middle Georgia, in the United States and no one that I know personally had ever moved to London to study or to live. Nevertheless, I was convinced it was the perfect decision for my future career in global health. Therefore, after just having graduated from college that past May, in September I moved to London without ever having visited London before, without knowing a single person in the city, and without even securing permanent housing for the year… 

Instead, I arrived with only two huge suitcases, a student visa that had caused me copious stress to acquire, and a temporary Airbnb reservation. My first impression of London was the week of the Queen's funeral and I had never seen that many people gathered in one place, which was a very overwhelming “London Welcome”. However, as the city returned to normal and classes started, I settled into a routine, and everything started to come together. 

Daniela Morales standing outside LSHTM Keppel Street building
Daniela Morales standing outside LSHTM Keppel Street building, photo by Daniela Morales

Through the Welcome Week activities, I began to meet the people who would soon become my closest friends in London, and without a doubt, LSHTM surrounded me with people with a diverse range of backgrounds and from all over the world!

During Term 1, I took four modules which lasted from September to December, including, Introduction to Disease agents and their Control (IDAC), Health Economics, Extended Epidemiology, and Basic Statistics. IDAC was the only program-specific course, and all the other courses were integrated with the other LSHTM master’s programs. Each of these courses were taught in person and within each module different skills were nurtured, for instance, in Basic Statistics We learned how to master STATA programming! These modules were a great introduction to the CID program and emphasized the fact that I was in the right place! Throughout this first term, my friends and I established study spots, study groups, found the best coffee spots, and still found time to do London touristy activities on our days off. 

We also discovered that the student run Bar called the Pump Handle in the school is open without fail after 5 pm every Thursday and Friday, which was a fun way to recover after a long day. Students and professors gather here and sometimes, there would even be a live band made up of LSHTM professors.

Students holding a leaflet of the Pump Handle Bar, photo by Daniela Morales
Students holding a leaflet of the Pump Handle Bar, photo by Daniela Morales

As Term 1 started to come to an end, the stress of final exams and final papers became a reality. I remember spending the entire break from school studying and preparing for exams. Even though everyone continuously emphasized to me that the first term is the calmest one in terms of intensity, I had no idea how much more intense everything would get in the new year. 

When we all returned to school at the beginning of January, within CID we were not taking the same modules anymore. This time we only took 2 courses that were split over the week, over the span of 5 weeks in total. I decided to take Designing Diseases Control Programmes (DDCP) and Statistical Methods in Epidemiology (SME). I still cannot believe how much content was taught during this time! Keeping in mind the intensity of these 5 weeks, I spent these weeks exclusively focusing on schoolwork. In DDCP, my small group was made up of students from MSc Public Health and CID and we were tasked with approaching the Cholera in Yemen situation. Looking back, we spent so many hours together researching and finalizing our proposal to the “Government of Yemen”. By the end of the module, we were spending almost 20 hours a week together to get our best work submitted!

Daniela in a study group with fellow students, photo by Daniela Morales
Daniela (third from the left) in a study group with fellow students, photo by Daniela Morales

At the same time, I was also taking SME which occurred during the second half of the week, and we learned not only the “how” but the “why” when approaching statistics within different types of studies. I would not have survived this course without the interactive seminars, asking for help, and the preparation from the Basic Statistics module from the first term. We all made it through! and even with the stress of the last 2 weeks everything was submitted on time and successfully. Nevertheless, during these few weeks, as a course we still found the time to celebrate birthdays and even watched a Six Nations rugby game. 

Thankfully, after the end of each intensive filled term there is a reading week which translates to a week off from school! Which was much needed after the past 5 weeks. After the intensity of Term 2 my friends and I were ready to just travel and recover. We all decided to plan a beach trip, and on the Monday after submitting all our assignments we all took a day trip to Brighton, England.

Students' group photo on the beach of Brighton, photo by Daniela Morales
Daniela (right) and friends enjoying the sea & wind breeze on the coastline in Brighton, photo by Daniela Morales

Upon reflecting over the last 2 terms, I am very happy with my decision to attend this school and I am very lucky to have this opportunity. As I mentioned above, I came to London very unprepared, yet this school is everything that I needed, and so much more. I have also had the opportunity to talk with career advisors, attend neglected tropical disease conferences, take part in research centre talks, and meet world renowned people working in public health. Even though I have no idea what the future will bring, I know that with the support system I have found at LSHTM, and more specifically within CID, everything will be okay! :)