Current Events and Critical Thinking: Studying an MA in International Relations at UEA

International Security

MA student Sasha Sheppard writes on her experience of studying an MA in International Relations at UEA

Sasha Sheppard
Sasha Sheppard

Having never studied International Relations, while I was excited to begin an MA in IR, it has to be said that I was a little apprehensive. My undergraduate degree was in International Development, Anthropology and Politics so I had always been interested in global affairs but I was unsure as to what it would be like to move into a new discipline at postgraduate level.

Big questions

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about not having an IR background. The only compulsory module of the course ‘International Relations Theory’ set me up really well in the theoretical understanding of the field. The main assessment for the module was an essay in which we had to apply one of the key theories to a contemporary global event. Through my undergraduate studies I had always been interested in concepts of gender and I was able to develop this understanding as I used Feminist International Relations theory to understand the European Migrant Crisis. In learning about Feminist theory at the beginning of the module, I have been able to develop this interest in other modules such as ‘International Security’ where we really look at the big, philosophical questions such as “what is security?” and “what can we know about security?” I am looking forward to researching these topics further in my dissertation, where I hope to develop a thesis based around gender and terrorism.

A truly global perspective

Within the political turbulence of 2016, I couldn’t have chosen a more important time to study International Relations. Studying two modules on the European Union- ‘European Union: Power and Politics’ and ‘Europe and the World’ has been a useful way to understand European Relations and the possibilities for Brexit that go beyond simply reading what is reported in the news. The school of PPL have also been running a lecture series “Brexit Means Brexit”- But what does that mean? in which leading experts have given their views on various aspects of the UK’s political future. With a changing world, understanding ‘Emerging Powers in Global Politics’ is another important module where we look at shifts in global power. I particularly like this module as it challenges you to think outside a western-centric conception of world order and to consider perspectives about world politics from India, Brazil, Japan and others.

The world around me- today

One thing I love about the course is how up to date all of the content is. In my ‘International Relations Theory’ essay I wrote about a law that had been passed in the previous week, and in my ‘International Security’ seminar we often talk about developments in the Trump Administration that have happened just days before. Discussions are always open and, more importantly, debate is always encouraged. While there are some students that have come from an IR background, there are many that haven’t – coming from degrees such as History, Economics and Business Studies. Our different backgrounds again make discussion and debate fruitful, as we bring these differing perspectives into discussion, which allows us to consider other opinions. And while we encounter many ways of viewing the world, the ability to choose our topics for assessment means that I am always writing about the things that are important to me.

The right choice for me!

Being only a year long, MA International Relations is fast paced and requires plenty of reading and researching. Essays have been a longer word count than I experienced in my undergraduate degree- often ranging from around 3500-5000 words per essay, but this allows you to really explore a topic in details. The course allows for a unique insight into contemporary politics, applying theory and critical understanding to the world around us. It’s safe to say the course has probably given me as many questions as it has answers but I know that I made the right choice in studying International Relations at UEA

Sasha Sheppard is reading for an MA degree in International Relations 2016-2017

Image Credit: Wikimedia

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