Amy Blong

MA International Relations

Amy Blong has just returned from Armenia where she was working as a Red Cross volunteer. She is currently applying for jobs within the charity and international development sectors and hopes to be able to continue working overseas.

After completing her undergraduate degree in Philosophy at the University of York in 2009 she spent time traveling in Guatemala, working as a social development volunteer for NGOs as well as teaching English as a Foreign Language. When she returned to the UK, she applied to study for a Masters degree in International Relations at Brookes.

I decided to do an MA in International Relations because I had an academic interest in studying International Relations and other aspects of world politics such as development, the environment and the global economy. I also had a professional interest in working in the field of International Relations after graduation. Ultimately, I wanted to enhance my practical experience of volunteering overseas with a relevant academic qualification.

The department open day was very informative and staff were exceptionally honest and helpful regarding the course. I chose the course at Brookes because it engages with both the theoretical and practical aspects of International Relations. This was also true of most of the modules. Being able to choose what I studied was really appealing to me, and there is a lot of module choice and flexibility in the second semester.

What I liked best about the course was the teaching style; an effective combination of lectures and seminars. I also found the different modules interesting and engaging. The online Brookes Virtual student resource (ie. access to weekly readings, lecture slides, discussion boards and the online library) was really useful and a great addition to teaching. All the staff who taught me were extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects, which was refreshing and inspiring.

I think it is becoming increasingly important to prove to potential employers that you have relevant academic qualifications. In my case, voluntary experience is important – but no longer sufficient – to ensure a successful job application. I think that my MA really helped me to secure my placement in Armenia with the Red Cross.

I was a member of the Postgraduate Society as well as an elected Student Representative for the MA course. I enjoyed representing my peer group in department meetings and it was interesting to compare student experiences. There was also a sociable atmosphere on the course and there was usually some kind of informal social activity each week, which I would help to organize.

I think there are two aspects of the MA which are attractive to employers; the course content (especially if it is directly relevant to the job you are applying for) and transferable skills gained from studying for a Masters such as research skills, communication, and the ability to analyse and compose complex arguments. Having to write a Masters dissertation also demonstrates ability to manage time effectively and independently, self-discipline, desire to learn, creative thinking and intelligence.

I have lived in Abingdon for a few years so I know Oxford really well. It’s an inspiring city to live and study in and the easy access to London is very convenient. There was a definite advantage to being so close to Oxford University because the department at Brookes would be informed of any lectures relevant to our studies.

I had a great year and would recommend the course to anyone seriously thinking about working in an international context.