Name: Iynna Halilou
Durham degree: BA, International Relations
Post graduate course: MA, International Relations and Affairs with a specialization in International Security
Institution & country: New York University, USA
Why did you decide to pursue postgraduate studies overseas? First of all, I have always wanted to study in the United States, and particularly in New York City. One of my future goals is to enter the United Nations, being close to the headquarters would only maximize my chances of being hired by this organization. Moreover, I am very passionate about security issues and American institutions are known for providing a top education in this field. And lastly I chose specifically NYU because of its reputation worldwide, and the values the university upholds.
How did you research postgraduate study options? I have known for eight years that I would integrate a grad school to further my knowledge (no matter what course I would be doing – long studies have basically always appealed to me). Since my very first year I have been looking into potential schools that would be interesting for me – and in my final year I divided between schools that were more oriented towards research (leading to a PhD) and those with a professional focus (classes taught by practitioners that would really train me to become a diplomat) – my choice became very easy.
What did the application process involve? The first thing to note is that the application process can be very daunting but actually with a bit of organization it works out perfectly.
It involved a CV and unlike most firms, grad schools do accept 5-page resumes that cover your travels, potential gap years, besides your educational background and professional experiences.
The GRE: I would really recommend you start revising at least three months before submitting your application to grad school. I agree it is a lot but there is a whole list of things you need to do before practicing for the tests. For example, learning the words known as the GRE words that I advise you to know (by heart ideally) because it is 99% certain that these words will come up during the test. Durham University Careers Centre has some useful resources for test preparation and the advisers also provided useful tips regarding my cover letter.
Getting used to the format of the test: with practice you will soon realize that the test is not as hard as it seems to be because the same type of questions come up (whether in the mathematics section or the text analysis one). There are few tricks and tips that you should know too, and this will make your life so much easier.
Does the teaching style differ to your Durham experience? NYU is definitely different than Durham. NYU is very famous for being extremely quantitative. In my field of International Relations at Durham we tended to write a lot of essays which is why I am very comfortable when it comes to writing. However at NYU I am confronted with quantitative analysis and statistics all the time which I think it is really good. The professors at NYU really encourage us to attend talks and conferences as part of the learning experience. Moreover, seminars, also called recitations are completely different to the seminars at Durham. At Durham they reinforced what was taught in lectures, whereas at NYU they aim to use of a different approach to the same question.
Why did you decide to study this particular course? 9/11 and the rise of terrorism drastically change my perception of the world and human nature and I am passionate about understanding the roots of terrorism and aim to act as a policymaker in order to deal with this global threat. However I chose to study security issues because new challenges are not only about countering terrorism, and I am also very interested in conflict resolution and nuclear nonproliferation.
How will this course help your career plans? My professors are all experts in the field I am interested in. Moreover I wish to work within the UN framework and I think it is definitely a good thing to be so close to the headquarters.
What advice would you give to students considering postgraduate study overseas? Go for it! It is an amazing and enriching experience. But you must think about it very early, because the process to apply in the USA is long, taking 12-18 months and it takes time to know what you really want and investigate the options. If you are unsure about grad school be cautious because it is about specialization and is extremely challenging and competitive. Therefore you must LOVE what you are doing.