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An inside view from the International Relations MA

'After my BA International Studies I decided to do the MA International Relations, and that proved to be a good choice,' Mats Radeck (23, Trier, Germany) says. He is in the last phase of the MA, working on his thesis on "lone-wolf terrorism".

Mats Radeck. Photographer: Pim Rusch

Mats chose to continue his academic education with the Leiden International Relations MA, which is perfectly suited as a follow-up study to International Studies. Many of the subjects covered in the BA can be explored in greater depth in this MA and it is based on a similar comprehensive approach. 'For me the broad approach really works,' Mats says. 'When I decided to go for the International Studies bachelor’s, this was a somewhat random choice. I was interested in international politics and didn’t really know what to expect from a programme in this field that was based on the humanities. However, it turned out to be the right choice for me.'

Different gateway

International Studies gave him the opportunity to delve into a variety of subjects and themes that lie 'beyond the International Relations’ paradigm', Mats says. He particularly likes the fact that the humanities-related perspective guarantees a totally different gateway into understanding international relations, combining culture, issues from politics and economy, as well as area studies. It was, therefore, almost an obvious step to go for the International Relations MA. 'For me, it was appealing that the MA has five specialisations and offers many different electives.' This allows Mats to further explore his interests before he commits to one particular theme or subject. The electives cover a wealth of diverse subjects, ranging from US international politics, gender and race and the Israeli-Arab conflict to China and cyberspace, human rights and the Cold War.

Challenging course

'I chose "Global Conflict in the Modern Era" as my specialization. One of my electives was "Strategy and Grand Strategy", which deals with military strategy. This was something I never studied before and the course was really challenging, which I liked. I also took an elective which is not part of the Global Conflict track: "Decentering International Relations". In this elective we are asked to critically analyze the Western-centred view of international relations’.' A combination of such divergent courses is not something you would easily find in other master’s programmes on international relations, Mats argues.

Enjoyable city

Another important reason for him to continue at Leiden University, is The Hague, the city he has been living in for three years during his bachelor’s. 'I still live in The Hague and commute to Leiden for my master’s. The Hague is really enjoyable. It is a big city, but it is very relaxed. At the same time, it has an international atmosphere, with many different cultures. After graduating from my BA, I wasn’t ready to leave the city.' In the meantime, however, Mats has also gotten to know and appreciate vibrant Leiden better, where a lot of his friends live. It is very easy to get to know people in the master’s programme, he says. 'Everybody is here for one year, they all share similar interests and they all want to meet new people.'

Social events

The International Studies Students Association (ISSA) makes connecting with other students even easier. Mats, who is on the ISSA board: 'There usually is at least one social event per week, like "borrels", but also discussions, presentations, networking meetings and excursions. We recently had an event about doing a PhD, we visited the ICC in The Hague, and had a round table discussion with former Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders about the Taliban in Afghanistan.'

Internship in Palestine

Mats has already secured an internship that he will start after graduation. 'The internship is at a German political foundation in Palestine, where I hope to be able to use the Arabic I learned in the bachelor’s programme. It is a position where I will be doing research, but I was told I will also be involved in organizing events, preparing visits from international politicians and from European delegations.' And after he finishes the internship? 'Well, there are so many options and opportunities keep popping up. I have been looking into doing a second master’s for instance, and the ISSA event about PhD opportunities got me interested in that as well.'

He does have a piece of advice for International Studies students who are thinking about which master’s programme to choose after graduation: 'The subject in your BA that left you with the most questions probably is the subject that you will really enjoy learning more about.'

Photographer header and portrait Mats: Pim Rusch

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