The Balancing Act

Studying International Relations makes one see the world in a new way. For someone who has lived most of his life in the Northern corner of Europe, the South Asian regional particularities never deserved close attention. Headlines of Finnish casualties in Afghanistan, an American drone strike in Pakistan or an election result in India were always unique, disconnected events. During the past two weeks, however, the different modules have overlapped to the extent that I can no longer perceive any of these events separate from one another and the regional context. Such is the power of studying.

In practise, studying means reading. For understanding every conflict, dispute and disagreement, there is always a host of competing explanations. While absorbing information and making up your mind on Kashmir insurgency, Indian naval development or the question of Tibet, it is easy to forget the other side of life in London. With all that this city has to offer for a curious mind, this is of course simply unaffordable.

Depending on your interests, you can choose from 260 existing university based societies or find a group of like-minded students to establish your own. Alternatively, whether it is a passion for shawarma or Jazz, there is probably nothing you cannot find from the city itself. Other than enjoying improvisation theatre or hunting second-hand books, I personally wanted to do something that has an impact. Being elected as Vice-Chair of the Young European Movement London, I feel I can contribute to the discussion of UK’s place in Europe and its role in the European Union.

However much it might feel so a night before an essay deadline or a big event about federalism, that is not the whole story. Having lived here for over a year already (and being somewhat over-social for a Finn), many of the highlights have nothing to do with the degree or volunteering. Instead, the highlights of many or most of the weeks are the people that have appeared in my life. It is the people you can enjoy your first ever thanksgiving dinner with, or a 3am traffic jam at Oxford Circus after a night out. Christmas time is especially notorious for all its social obligations. Looking at my calendar for the last two weeks of the term, one can see much more ice skating, Christmas markets, fondue nights, Stammtisch, and other end of the year happenings than academic talks.

xmas tree tgiving

Finally, since London is a hugely popular destination for travel, it is not rare at all to have a friend or a family member visiting over. If perhaps detrimental for the core readings for that particular week, it does offer a perfect excuse to go and eat out even more than usually (and on a budget if it is a family member) and see places that you might not dare go to on your own. The feeling when you can tell the direction of the traffic to your guest without looking at the arrow painted on the ground? Yep, you may call London your home.


International Relations 101

Every inhabitable bit of land on this planet is owned by a state. The world looks like a single entity only if looked from space. On the ground, it is composed of some two hundred separate territorial units, each facing the same dilemma. How to ensure everyone’s right to mind their own business when what happens outside the state borders affects what happens within? In reality, of course, these seemingly separate units are not so independent from one another. In fact, they are entangled in an increasingly dense and complex web of interaction.This is the question, which drew me to King’s in the first place. I want to understand how units based on territorial sovereigntyand independence could better overcome cross-border challenges.

The study of International Relations has traditionally meant studying relationships between states. In modern times, a host of other actors need also to be considered. In my program, you can pursue the path that interests you most. Whether your focus is on the traditional foreign policy and diplomatic relations, the influence of the non-state actors in challenging the state authority, or the overlapping economic and social relations binding states together in international institutions, the decision is yours.One of the greatest advantages of the International Relations program is the chance to build it largely based on your own interests.

In my department, the studying experience encompasses much more than mere academic teaching. One can read the same books everywhere, but the kind of first-hand experience you get here is harder to master on your own. Lectures and seminars are frequently accompanied by a range of different events focusing on a particular aspect or situation in international politics. Blurring the line between academics and practitioners, between theory and policy, is encouraged both in and outside the classroom.

In addition to the university-run events, the wide spectrum of different student-run societies, and the co-operation with other institutions such as think thanks and policy-centres, ensure that every week is packed full of non-academic opportunities. Moreover, with its highly international student body, there is sense of learning international relations in practise. With each passing week, I face new opportunities to experience communication and teamwork in an international environment.

London, International Relations and King’s vast professional and academic networks are an excellent match. Applying to King’s was one of the best decisions of my life.

View from the War Studies Department

View from the War Studies Department