What advice would you give for an undergraduate student doing an unrelated degree who is thinking about going into diplomacy and potentially doing an MA?
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Firstly, a Masters degree is a big commitment and requires more independent learning than undergraduate so be sure this is something you are passionate about to study. Secondary, international relations is a hugely multidisciplinary field so most skills you would have gained (research, critical thinking, writing etc.) are massively transferable. I would certainly brush up on your reading- history is hugely important and my knowledge of international history from undergraduate was something I personally leant on a lot, particularly Cold War and WW2 history. This is because the events of WW2 and the Cold War had huge influence on international relations. A keen interest in current events is also recommended, while I was studying, Syria and the Iranian nuclear deal were hot topics used as examples or case studies. Finally, and I'm sure this is true of all Masters degrees, but be willing to get stuck in. There will be loads of opportunities to debate in seminars as well as to undertake relevant extracurriculars like model UN. Do these, firstly because they're great fun but more so because they will sharpen your skills in debate and negotiation which are paramount to both studying and practicing international relations. Try and wrap your head around the reasons and politics of why things happen, taking care to consider opinions and reasons other than your own. This will let you understand the decisions made by others and the context of whatever you are studying.
I am writing this to ask if you can help me get a fully funded international scholarship to do my Masters in the UK due to financial challenges I am facing? it has always been my dream. I just completed my BSc in Banking and Finance. Thank you.
You can search for possible funding here: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/postgraduate/funding/index.aspx
Best wishes, Tom
How have you funded your postgraduate studies?
I funded my Masters degree with the Birmingham Masters scholarship scheme. Without this there was little to no way I could have taken up postgraduate study, the University of Birmingham’s economic outreach schemes are something that had I not had, would have made university difficult and postgraduate study nearly impossible. I also realised that had I lived in Birmingham, I would have also struggled to afford things like rent, so I decided to take my degree as a part-time course and commute to keep costs down. I often get asked if this has impaired my postgraduate experience, but I live relatively close and I feel that now I can get the best of both worlds.
What has been the highlight of your time at Birmingham?
Something that I love about the University of Birmingham and Birmingham on the whole, is the amount of different cultures that I can experience. I now have friends from all over the globe who speak innumerable languages and have just as many different cultures. I think that actually helps a person grow; by experiencing all of the different cultures and becoming friends, a person can see the same idea from so many different perspectives so that it really broadens that persons horizons. I love that on the first day of my postgraduate degree, I was welcomed to a group of people who came from so many different backgrounds in an environment that we could all share our views and help each other understand how diverse the world is.
Can you describe your journey from school to where you are now?
I come from a working class community just outside of Birmingham where very few people bother to go to university. I was often asked why I should bother using up so much time in my life for something that many didn’t see a point in doing and how silly it would be to spend so much money (I was in the first intake of undergrads that were charged the £9000 a year). The University of Birmingham was a huge help in making this transition. Studying in my undergrad I did an essay on the Cuban Missile Crisis and came across Llewellyn Thompson, who was US former ambassador to the Soviet Union. He was so instrumental in solving the crisis that I looked him up more, and just thought “why can’t I do something like that?” The University of Birmingham has helped me on my path to actually go about that with all of the support it has given me in pursuing postgraduate study.
Have you joined any clubs or societies, gone on any research trips or done any volunteering?
Due to commuting to university, it has been difficult for me to join societies and clubs, but I do intend to join the University’s model UN society, where each person role-plays as a different states representative to the UN and they have to solve a crisis while also maintaining the façade of the that country by maintaining their national interest. I feel I could learn a lot of things about how organisations like the UN work from this. I have been on two trips with the university in the past year, the first was to Brussels where we visited the EU council, commission and parliament as well as getting a talk from a representative from NATO. I learnt so much about how all of these institutions work form this. I also went to Washington DC to the annual international model NATO, as a member of the university’s six person delegation (we were representing the USA). This was so much fun; we went to the US state department and learnt about the US’s position on various security issues, as well as learning about how NATO operates. These were some great opportunities that I simply couldn’t have done if not for studying my postgraduate degree at the University of Birmingham.
Was there a big transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study?
In some ways yes, in others no. The focus in postgraduate study is definitely independence. The amount of personal reading you have to do is higher, but it’s also more specific and in many ways more rewarding. I feel that seminars at an undergraduate level were just a regurgitation of the lecture – yes they were very helpful talking about these things, but they seemed to cover a lot of the same ground. At postgraduate that isn’t the case, everyone in the room could think of a different idea or example to apply to the topic, and nine times of ten that won’t be something anyone else would have thought of. When that person is you, it’s remarkably rewarding. When that person isn’t you, it’s still rewarding because you just learnt something new that you could use later.