If you are considering Queen Mary’s International Exchange Programme, or studying abroad in general, you may be interested in the positive experience of Tori Fox. She was a Politics and International Relations student who took the opportunity to study for a year in the University of California (UCSD). Tori graduated with First Class Honours in 2012 and has written about her international experiences for our blog.
“Living in California definitely changed me in several ways. It was an amazing experience in terms of personal growth. You get to meet so many people from everywhere and everyone is so open. Living in a campus helps building relationships because it’s less dispersive than a city like London. These things might seem stupid or superficial but they are really important to think about when choosing a university. Also, for students of politics and IR in particular, the possibility to build strong international networks is really useful and inspiring.
*As International Exchange Programme reciprocity students, we pay half of the QMUL fee but receive a University level/services that correspond to what American students pay (thousands and thousands of dollars), which means amazing libraries, facilities, free gym and concerts, top professors, and on-campus employment opportunities (a real deal!) More details at www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/exchange/index.html
*These experiences stand out in a CV, and I would say that represent almost a requirement for students pursuing a career in international politics at the UN or EU etc. For example they played a big role when I applied for an internship at the European Commission in the summer right after my year in San Diego. Being only a second year undergraduate student I didn’t have much experience, but the exchange plus the activities at the university (e.g. my participation at the Model United Nations, Clinton Global Initiative University, on-campus jobs, and intensive French classes) made a good impression. Thanks to this, in summer 2011, I had the opportunity to work at the European Commission with the Spokesperson of vice-president Tajani- the best experience ever!
*In American universities you take way more classes than in London, the amount of reading is almost the same it’s just that you have more classes per week. In this way, you are exposed to many more topics and notions, which can help you specialise in certain aspects of politics or even discover new ones. (I was really glad to take classes like policy analysis or international organizations, which were not offered at QM). Plus, you can also do electives that are not necessarily politics related (e.g. I took intensive French classes). Every three months you finish your classes so during breaks and vacations you don’t have to worry about studying.
*Professors are very high profile and available to talk to you and help you out (the environment is even more informal than London’s). Thanks to these relations, I got very strong recommendation letters for my master’s applications from “famous” professors, which always help.
*Since the American system is very pragmatic (and less philosophical/speculative) than the European one, this experience definitely helped me focus and understand my career goals in terms of actual career positions rather than ideological standings.
Given all this, I looked forward to finishing my third year at QM and then come back to the US. My ultimate career goal is to work for the EU, but I felt that I needed to become a better professional first through a very pragmatic program. I applied and got accepted at NYU where I’m doing a master of public administration (specializing in international public policy and management). It’s great because it gives me many tools in finance, management, statistics, policy analysis (stuff that makes you more competitive in the job market). This program is two years long but you can work while attending classes. I just got an internship at the Clinton Foundation, and will start on Monday! This is to say that all these things add up, and the experience in California definitely played a first important part.
I would definitely recommend students to participate, this was a life-changing experience and if I had the opportunity to do it again I would get involved in even more activities.