Georgina Partida, who recently completed her BA (Hons) Politics degree with First Class Honours, took the opportunity to attend two of the School’s annual Politics and International Relations study trips during the course of her studies. Here, she reflects on the experience of participating in these trips and the value they add to students’ degrees.
Taking part in the two study trips to Washington, D.C., New York, Strasbourg and Geneva has added far more value to my degree than I would have thought. They have been amazing opportunities to meet senior figures within the fields of IR and Politics that would not have been achievable if I had visited these places on my own as a tourist.
For example, in Washington, D.C., we were briefed by two members of the US State Department on topics such as the US-UK ‘Special Relationship’, Scottish Independence, and the UK’s relationship with the EU from a US point of view. In New York, we were also briefed by the Head of the Press Office at the EU Mission to the UN, which was great to find out information about how the EU would officially act if the UK were to leave. It was great to be able to gain ‘off the record’ information directly from these figures, which you would not be able to get from anywhere else.
As well as these formal visits, there were also many chances to take part in more tourist-focussed activities. In D.C, we had a guided tour of the Capitol building, which was great if you are interested in US politics. Unfortunately we were not allowed to visit either the Senate or the House of Representatives on our tour, but it was amazing to be inside the Rotunda, see the ‘star’ of D.C. (the exact centre of the whole city), and the former House of Representatives before it moved chambers. We also participated in an interactive tour at the Museum of Tolerance in New York, which was something a little bit different. It was various activities around judgment and how we label and talk to other people, leading up on a sliding scale towards genocide and terrorism. At the end, we all had mixed opinions on the tour’s methods, but we engaged in a great discussion and it is something that you would not usually do when going abroad!
Additionally, we had tours around the National Holocaust Museum in D.C and the 9/11 Tribute Center and Memorial in New York. These were extremely informative in establishing a greater understanding of both events, and a chance to pay your respects.
Although we were only in the US for 5 days, between all of the university planned trips there was still plenty of time to take advantage of the sights! In D.C., free time was spent around the National Mall, visiting the White House, the various memorials and monuments, and the Smithsonian Museums. In New York, we chose to go to the Top of the Rockefeller Centre to see the Empire State Building at night, visit Grand Central Station, had dinner in a singing diner before shopping in Times Square until 2am. Both D.C. and New York were really easy to get around, with loads of great places to eat and things to do with your course mates. As a student with a huge interest in US politics and culture, I couldn’t recommend it enough to take advantage of the planned trips on offer which you will never experience anywhere else, as well as being able to use your free time to experience two great US cities!
— Jennii Bland (@VintageShoelace) March 26, 2014
The following year I also went on the newly- planned trip to Strasbourg, France and Geneva, Switzerland. As my area of interest is more US focussed rather than EU, I was not as excited for this trip as I was for the US. However, I was genuinely really surprised and it has sparked my enthusiasm for the EU and its institutions. In Strasbourg we had a guided tour around the European Parliament and got to sit in the chamber, as well as having a tour of the Council of Europe and a briefing with the chief policy advisor to the President of the Council. This was fantastic because he was very honest when answering our questions around the UK’s potential decision to leave the ECHR. We also visited the ECHR itself, and were briefed by one of the UK’s lawyers to the Court, who told us in great detail how the ECHR practically operates on a daily basis, something I think you can never really learn from a textbook. The lawyer was also really helpful in informing some students of how to do a transferable degree in law for a year, which would open up a career path in this area.
In Geneva we met with the UK Deputy Ambassador to the UN, which was a great opportunity for someone like me who is interested in the civil service. The civil service isn’t really focussed upon in my degree so it was interesting to be able to ask questions about how to get into this career and what skills they feel are the most helpful, as well as to gain some hints about diplomatic techniques. We also visited the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, to find out more about how these international organisations work, which is interesting for student who is interested in a career in humanitarian assistance.
Strasbourg and Geneva were very beautiful cities, it was great to be able to do tourist things in our free time such as climbing Saint Paul’s Cathedral and going on a boat tour around the European institutional buildings. The cities were also not as expensive as I originally thought, which was a relief! One thing that stuck out on this trip was the importance of learning a language, not only for travelling in general but for anyone looking for a career in IR, as it was an incredibly important skill for all the people we spoke to.
Overall, both trips have been an amazing part of my university life. They’ve allowed me to meet influential people and explore amazing cities that I would never have had the chance to do otherwise. It has been a great addition to my CV, given me inside knowledge on my specific interests and has opened up the possibilities of other career paths by showing how my degree can be used in so many different institutions and organisations.
Politics and International Relations study trips run annually (additional fees are payable). Past destinations have included Washington DC, New York City, Brussels, Mons, The Hague, Ypres, Strasbourg and Geneva.Leave a reply →