The end in sight?

The first month of the term has been a busy one. After the usual back-to-university shock of the first few weeks – how did I ever manage to do so much reading per week last term – there were several exciting things happening at the same time. It felt as if the whole university had decided to jump past the couple of cold months ahead and focus on summer instead.

First, our professors in different modules started making references to possible dissertation topics. Second, some of the seminar leaders have taken a habit of constantly mentioning some third year optional modules, which we “might want to take” next year. Third, the career service is now occupying a sizeable chunk of our department’s weekly student newsletter with information on different events and summer opportunities. To be sure, the recent email about the summer programme in South Korea certainly caught my eye. Too bad us students are still expected to finish some 10,000–15,000 words of essays (depending on which modules you picked for this term) before we can seriously think about summer.

Alongside our lectures, the busy feeling is partly due to the diversity of other activities available around the campus and in London. The impressive set of exciting events on European politics organised by the King’s European Society two weeks ago filled every single evening of that particular week. Not that I am complaining, considering my field of studies, knowing the Secretary General of the European External Action Service – EEAS (a kind of Foreign Office for the European Union) is not exactly a disadvantage.

Sometimes these extra-curricular activities can have an even more direct impact on your studies. The other week, I was fortunate enough to attend a discussion about the relevance of ambassadors by two British diplomats in Chatham House using my King’s credentials. It goes without saying that my presentation on the very same topic in a seminar for Statecraft and Diplomacy – module the same evening greatly benefited from the experience. A similar opportunity this week, this time run by the Royal African Society, on the prospects of the year 2015 for Africa was a useful supplement for the regional lectures in our Global Politics module. You thought Ebola has affected Africa? Think again.

Given the recent info session we had regarding our module options next year, a few words about the final year are in order. Out of the four full-year modules we will have, one whole module will be writing the dissertation itself. Another one will go to the regional specialisation option and the last two can be selected from some 30 (!) options. Do I know the options? Not yet, but I will definitely express my frustration here when I get the details and start the tough job of narrowing it down to two!

Late night essay writing

Late night essay writing for Statecraft and Diplomacy module on the relevance of ambassadors and overseas diplomatic missions

Late night walk back from the library - or somewhere else, crossing the Waterloo bridge is always worth it!

Late night walk back from the library – or from somewhere else – crossing the Waterloo bridge is always worth it

Halfway There

The last week of the term is always a challenge. Finishing the last bits of coursework in time occupies everyone except the exceptional few who submitted their assignments long before most had started writing them. At the same time, it is easy to overlook the readings for the lectures and seminars. This week was an interesting mix of cyber warfare, ethical foreign policy and the use of propaganda. Moreover, we got our last taster lecture of the regional specialisation modules for the third year. Having already covered Europe, Middle East, South Asia and East Asia, now the topic was the Americas. Now that we have seen all the available options, we have until February to make up our minds. The decision is an important one, as it will determine the focus area of our dissertations for the final year.

Alongside the academic modules, this time I also finished an extra-curricular one. For the past 10 weeks, I had taken part in an optional module called King’s Leadership and Professional Skills Award. The module is open for all King’s students, providing that your application is approved, and is organised by the Career Service together with various employers. The module consists of 10 sessions covering topics such as networking skills, effective communication and interviewing techniques, from which you can choose five. Additionally, everyone taking the module is required to undertake a leadership activity as well as reflect the sessions in writing. Presentation and interview skills sessions are assessed through mock presentation and interview of course. For me, the best feature of the program was the fact that every session was run by a different employer giving me a chance to talk to people from Metropolitan Police to TeachFirst and hear about their graduate programs in person.

If committing yourself to one extra module sounds too demanding, the different career events organised by the Career Service offer a less time consuming way to prepare yourself for the professional life during your studies. The events this term have covered “spotlight sessions” with specific sectors such as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Security and Consultancy but also more general advice on getting and internship or making applications. Looking ahead t0 2015, the term will start with spotlight sessions on Think Tanks, European and International Policy and Defence Analysis – and all this during the first month.

Thanks to the international outlook of my course, the last week of the term also means not seeing anyone for a couple of weeks as most of us, including me, leave London for Christmas. Unsurprisingly, it must have been the busiest week in terms of socializing so far, there was something happening every evening. Don’t get me wrong, it only made the week better.

I hope the last four blogs have answered some of your questions about studying IR in King’s. If there are gaps, please let me know and I can take care of them next term. Until then, merry Christmas!

Strolling the South Bank

Strolling the South Bank

Life is serious

View from the flat

View from the flat