International Relations Modules – Emelie’s Thoughts

I have noticed that prospective students at King’s offer holder events normally have the same questions about modules: How difficult are they? How can one prepare for them? What are they really like?

So, I thought it would be useful to reflect on my modules and give some useful advice about what they are like. Just remember that these are my personal opinions regarding the modules. Also, there is no guarantee that these modules will be exactly the same next year. Rather, see this as an overview of what your first year at King’s could offer.

The modules I have had are International Relations Theory, Introduction to International Economics, History of the International System, Conflict and Diplomacy, and Contemporary Security Issues.

International Relations Theory

In this module we learn about theoretical approaches to concepts such as human nature, the state, anarchy, war and peace. It teaches us to “see the world through different glasses” as my lecturer puts it. We also get to understand how theories have developed throughout history, and how they relate to each other.
Best part: My favourite thing about IR theory is that there is a vast amount that each reveal a very different way of understanding the world (some of which I agree, others not so much!)
Hardest part: As there are so many different theories, I find it quite difficult to remember which one is which. The good news is that it does get easier with time!
Advice: You might recognise some of the theorists if you have studied philosophy. If not, don’t worry! We go through each and every one thoroughly and with many recaps, so you will definitely get all the information you need. Try to apply the theories to real life cases to make them a bit more graspable.

Beautiful Maughan Library – where I do most of my readings for the different modules.

Beautiful Maughan Library – where I do most of my readings for the different modules.

Introduction to International Economics

This is the module that I get the most questions about – and for good reason. I had never studied any economics before starting at King’s, and was really worried about what it would be like. Luckily I found that I wasn’t the only one; a majority of students in my course haven’t studied any economics before. In Economics, we start Term 1 with a lot of theory. However it gets better in Term 2, as we study different models and approaches to international trade. Term 2 has more real life examples which makes it easier to grasp.
Best part: I have actually realised that economics is useful for understanding other parts of social sciences, such as globalisation, migration, and inequalities. These are topics that I am much more interested in, and I am happy that I have been able to use economics to learn more about these.
Hardest part: The module is fairly fast paced, and I have sometimes found it hard to understand each component before having to start a new topic.
Advice: If you are struggling, ask your tutor for help. They are there for you and want to make sure you understand as much as possible; so far, my tutor has been very helpful. A few weeks ago we sat down for 45 minutes to go through a couple of models, and I am so thankful for having that support! 

History of the International System

In this history module, we look at how the international system has changed from the 17th century to the present. We go through important historical figures, wars, moments that have changed history. The first half is quite focused on European history, whereas Term 2 is much more global.
Best part: The module is so much more engaging and challenging than I thought it would be, and has actually made me rethink several parts of history!
Hardest part: As expected, it is hard to remember all details (unless you have an exceptional memory when it comes to years and dates). Even if it is important to know when things happened, there is still a lot of focus on other aspects such as the relationship between states in the international society and how modern history now is connected with previous events.
Advice: I find mind maps pretty useful when it comes to history, as you can build upon each week to get a greater understanding of how all the different leaders, wars, and revolutions are connected to each other.

Conflict and Diplomacy

We had this module during Term 1, and Contemporary Security Issues (see below) in Term 2. To be honest, I would have loved to have had this module all year as it is my favourite so far! We study contemporary conflicts and the diplomatic struggles therein. All the topics are very relevant, and you will probably know a bit about them already.
Best part: We had a roleplay where all students represented different countries involved in the Syria conflict. I enjoyed it as it was really interesting to try and understand why each country is making certain decisions, and then to have more perspective on the issue (I represented Turkey!)
Hardest part: Diplomacy requires so much knowledge about the relationships between countries, and sometimes it is hard to remember all the details. However, it is really useful to learn why countries act towards each other the way they do.
Advice: Read the news! This is useful for every module; the more you know about the real issues and discussions in the world, the more you will be able to apply what you have learnt in the different modules.

Contemporary Security Issues

In this module, we discuss and examine various security issues such as terrorism, nuclear weapons, migration, climate change, and so on. All the topics are really pertinent to what is happening in the world at the moment.
Best part: My seminar group is really diverse, and accordingly everyone has different opinions regarding what is a threat and how it should be dealt with.
Hardest part: We always try to see each problem from as many angles as possible, which can be hard but really interesting!
Advice: Use your personal experiences when discussing a certain topic – and (again) read the news!

For King’s description of the modules and more information about the International Relations BA, click here http://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/international-relations-ba.aspx

 

By Emelie, International Relations

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