BA Politics and International Relations (2011), Marie Stopes International
Why did you choose Royal Holloway for your degree?
The Politics and IR department attracted my attention because of the academic excellence it had managed to achieve in a very short period of time. It also offered a varied BA programme with many optional courses that matched my interests. I also heard that the PIR department back then was relatively new and small but very dynamic with excellent teaching staff so I decided to apply there as my top choice. Also, being an international student, I wanted to study in a multicultural place where I could learn and engage with a variety of other students outside the classroom. The campus came across as an excellent place academically and with lots of interesting extra-curricular activities. Finally, I liked the fact that it had a big and beautiful campus and was away from central hectic London which allowed me to get a taste of a real student experience, and have a strong sense of community, where you belonged.
How did your time at Royal Holloway help your future career?
Both the academic and extra-curricular sides that helped me to figure out the career path I wanted to pursue. The degree itself taught me how to think – this may sound obvious, but in the field of IR you really need to be able to think critically and creatively, assess multiple sources, evidence and formulate your own opinion. Mental exercises through academic papers and seminar presentations provided me with very useful skills which I further developed and built upon in my professional work experience and further studies. On the other hand, my involvement inthe student-run PIR Society, where I served as an executive member for two years, helped me to develop practical skills such as teamwork, leadership and events management. The society also gave me a unique opportunity to compete at the International Model UN Conference where I was able to use and apply my knowledge and skills. As a result, immediately after my graduation I got the opportunity to work as Human Rights Council Monitor at the UN Office in Geneva where I was exposed to policy-level, advocacy work methods and had the opportunity to publish my work. Royal Holloway provided a great platform to develop specific skills, knowledge in my chosen field as well as meet other excellent students who helped shaping my perspective – ultimately all of this contributed towards putting me on my current career pathway.
What do you do now and what advice would you give to anyone thinking about a career in your sector?
I took a year off to work and do an internship as I wanted to explore the job market and all the possible careers in my field. This is something I would highly encourage you to do rather than rushing straight into postgraduate studies. My practical experience helped me to better understand where I wanted to specialise and this helped me decide on my postgraduate studies stream. I am currently finishing an MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies at LSE and I am also working as a consultant for an international public health NGO – Marie Stopes International.
The advice I’d like to give to IR students or all those interested in the discipline: firstly, it is a very broad field and you can go into so many directions such as public sector work, the civil service, NGOs, private sector companies. Your degree will give you basic skills which you can use and apply across different sectors. Primarily for these reasons I’d encourage students to look for work experience or internships. It is best to test and explore the ground after your BA studies, practical experience these days is very important. Don't be intimidated if you don’t know what you want to do immediately as the field is exceptionally broad!
Finally, I'd also encourage you to consider volunteering/finding placements overseas – I found a traineeship in India during my year off which helped me greatly.