First Year International Relations and Geography

What is the best thing about your subject?

The best thing about my subject is how interdisciplinary it is and how they connect. International relations often deals with issues of geography (hint: geopolitics), and geography often deals with issues of politics and legitimacy.

What is the worst thing about your subject?

Timetabling is an absolute nightmare.

How many contact hours do you get per week?

Without seminars, it's around 8-9 hours. With about two one-hour seminars a week, it's 10-11 hours in total.

How do people respond when you say you’re studying the subject?

They're surprisingly enthusiastic about it. It's probably because they haven't heard of combined honours programs that let you take a couple of subjects at a time.

Examples of modules you have studied?

The Making of Modern Africa, Political Geography, Urban Geography, Sovereignty State and Empire.

Do you know what career you’re aiming for and if so what do you want to do?

I am looking at working with nongovernmental organizations or policy-research think tanks. Basically, I want to do policy-research (especially in urban development).

What do you do in your tutorials?

It depends which subject it is. For the most part we read a couple of articles (either assigned specifically for the seminar or as part of the lectures) and discuss them.

If you weren’t studying this subject, what do you think you’d study instead?

I would probably be studying International Relations and Maths (if possible). I would have definitely preferred more quantitative methods and research.

What subject-related societies/events are there at Durham?

There's the International Relations and Politics Society (or the other way around; this should clue you in that I'm not particularly involved), Model UN, Model Parliament, and probably more.

What is it like studying your subject in Durham?

I absolutely love it! At the end of the day, modules can be a mixed bag, but it's what you make of it. The combined honours program is really flexible which has let me take so many modules I wouldn't have otherwise taken. In first year, I took two modules of international relations, two of history, one of geography, and one of theology.

An example of something especially interesting that you’ve learned?

It's hard to say you've concretely 'learned' something in a social science subject. However, a theory I found profoundly interesting was one called the 'gate-keeper state' theory by Frederick Cooper about the state of many modern African countries. According to the theory, the main reason why there is a lot of corruption and coup d'etats in sub-Saharan African countries is because their old colonial administration was only designed to extract capital from the colony. Political and social systems were purposefully weak to prevent uprising against the economic system, and colonies were thought of as property to colonial administrators (ie: the country's wealth was their own). So when independence came, many leaders still thought of the countries as personal property like the colonial administrators had so extracted capital at their own gain and led to many authoritarian regimes.

Do you have the same or different lecturers each week?

Same lectures each week.

Something you’d wished you’d have known about your subject before you arrived at Durham?

Read read read.

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