MSc International RelationsSarah Finlay, UK

Tell us a bit about your background...
I was born in Glasgow and have always lived just about five minutes away from the city centre. Initially, I always had plans to study outside of Glasgow, however, after completing my undergraduate degree at Strathclyde, I have grown to be greatly fond of the city of Glasgow itself and have thoroughly enjoyed studying here. Therefore, after completing my BA Honours in Politics and International Relations, I immediately applied for further study at the University of Strathclyde. 

What inspired you to study your course?
During my undergraduate degree I always enjoyed taking classes that contained topics surrounding International Relations. I was particularly interested in studies of war, conflict, and peacekeeping. Although I was able to touch upon these at undergraduate level, I was keen to further my knowledge and understanding of such. As a result, I decided to apply for this course in order to explore these topics further and improve upon my academic skills. 

Why did you choose to continue studying for your MSc at the University of Strathclyde?
I chose to continue studying at the University of Strathclyde mainly due to the positive experiences I had when completing my undergraduate degree here. One of my favourite things about Strathclyde, that encouraged me to return, is the staff. Throughout my initial four years, I have been greatly impressed by the specialist knowledge held by each of the lecturers and tutors. In all of my classes, my lecturers were always greatly insightful and highly welcoming. Not only did they provide great lectures and seminars, but they were also highly approachable and easy to talk to.

What's been the best thing about studying at Strathclyde?
The best thing about studying at Strathclyde is the people. Not only are the lecturers greatly knowledgeable and helpful, but the wider staff and the students in general are also very kind and friendly. Whilst studying for my MSc, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more students on my course. Most of the people I meet at Strathclyde are very welcoming and are great at supporting one another. This has made the pressures of completing my MSc much easier to handle.

What specialist knowledge/professional skills have you developed whilst studying your course?
One of the key skills I have developed whilst studying this course is critical assessment. When reading any academic writing, I have been strongly encouraged not only to understand it, but also to critique. By being pushed to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a piece of academic writing, I am more able to get a better understanding of how I feel about a particular article or book. Developing the skills of critical assessment has not only helped me to gain a more rounded understanding of a particular topic but also has encouraged me to form my own ideas and opinions on academic writing.

What would be your advice for people considering taking this course?
My main piece of advice for anyone who is considering taking this course is to have some interest in what you study. This may sound obvious but having a strong interest in the topics you study really makes a difference to your overall experience. If you can enjoy the things you study, I believe it becomes much easier to stay motivated and curious in your studies. 

What have been the main challenges studying at postgraduate level?
One of the main challenges of studying at postgraduate level is time management. Sometimes, as most people have experienced at undergraduate level, there are a lot of things to be completed in a short space of time. Whilst this is challenging, by staying calm and keeping organised, it is possible to get through all the work on time and to a good standard.

What are your ambitions for the future?
To be honest, I do not have any specific ambitions for the future. Mainly my goal is to always continue doing what I enjoy. Each year - as I have progressed throughout high school, my undergraduate degree and now my MSc - I have tried to make future decisions based on what I enjoy now. I hope to continue to do this in the future.