Studying Politics and International Relations
Studying Politics and International Relations is incredibly fascinating. Call me biased, but studying a degree which is so tangible and receptive to the ever-changing world around us is great! I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study before joining university. However, I always had an interest in the world around me, which is what led me to choose International Relations. I love how broad my degree is, and how it encompasses other fields such as history, economics and sociology.
In terms of studying Politics at the University of York, I love that the Department is a small community within a larger one at the University. The Politics Society, which every Politics student is automatically a member of, is a great way to meet people too. The thing that sold me on studying International Relations at York was the options available to me here. There are chances to study abroad, work a year in industry, volunteer, and so much more. It can sound overwhelming in the beginning, but the Politics staff are incredibly supportive. They’ll help you to explore your options. I didn’t enrol at the University with the intention of applying for a placement – it was only at the end of my first year that I made the decision.
A typical week
Whether you’re someone who loves a good routine, or someone who prefers to just ‘wing it’, studying Politics-related degrees allows you to make what you want of it. It’s up to you how much extra time you dedicate to readings and extra research. I tend to allocate an extra 5-6 hours spread throughout the week on this. This sounds like a lot of reading! However, your first year is a chance for you to adjust and develop a strategy for attempting your readings. On my political theory module, for example, I tend to engage with the secondary reading first. Then I’ll do my primary reading. This helps me gain a broader understanding of the argument, since older texts can sometimes be harder to engage with.
With all the information thrown at you, settling into a new city can seem incredibly daunting. But remember that your first year is almost like an adjustment period. You can use it to figure out how to go about your studies and university life in general.
Finding what works for you
Prior to arriving at university, my biggest fear stemmed from the thought that I would not be able to keep up with my peers academically. I didn’t study Politics (or even History) at A level, so I had my reservations. However, the 1st-Year modules are designed to ensure that everyone is up to speed. All students on a Politics or Politics-related course take the same modules. In my first year, these included Introduction to International Politics, Introduction to Democratic Politics, Introduction to Political Theory and What is Politics?. These four modules encompass a wide range of topics and concepts, introducing you to some core theories in Politics and International Relations.
There is no pressure to have it all figured out already; university is about finding what interests you. It is about embracing the readings and your course, and seeing what you enjoy and want to research further. I didn’t really know what specific topics I was interested in. However, my 1st-Year modules helped me with that. Through the ‘What is Politics?’ and ‘Introduction to International Politics’ modules, I found that I was interested in the notions of security, wars and colonisation. This was incredibly useful in helping me to choose my 2nd-Year modules.
It is important to think of the 1st-Year modules as a base. Your second year, on the other hand, tends to focus on using the theories introduced in your first year to develop and build on your knowledge. In my 2nd-Year modules, I have used these theories to look at niche case studies. This is a great way for learning how to apply your knowledge, ideas and arguments.