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critique a nearly done rough draft SOP

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So this is my personal statement for a certain international relations program that requires a 1200 word SOP. It currently sits at 995 words, and I don't have a conclusion written yet (do I need one?).

Please give me any advice that you need. I don't take anything personally.

Numerous international relations courses during college piqued my interest in global affairs. Upon graduating after 3 ½ years in 2010, I decided that I would experience the world from as many perspectives as possible. Motivated, I moved to Seoul, South Korea and began work as an English instructor.

English education is big-business in South Korea. The system is highly pressurized by parents, administrators, and the government, and my job reflects that pressure. My classes for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Korean students require 50-60 hours of work per week in course preparation, class time, and grading and evaluations for the students’ various weekly speaking and writing exams. In addition to teaching these classes, I serve as a liaison between my Korean coworkers and my fellow foreign teachers because my Korean language skills have fast improved during my time here. This position has forced me to become more attentive to the needs of my coworkers and students by expanding my problem solving and diplomacy skills, thrusting me into a leadership role earlier than I ever could have imagined. It is surprisingly exhilarating to watch myself negotiate these daily interchanges and realize how quickly I’ve begun to master this steep learning curve.

In addition to living in South Korea, I have spent an extensive amount of time touring Asia. I have now traveled through both China and Japan, but the most illuminating of my visits has most certainly been the guided tour I took through North Korea. The North Korean government has allowed foreigners to enter their country under the guidance of government-trained escorts for some time now, but these trips have become widely known about only recently. I rode on the Pyeongyang Metro, visited the mausoleum where Kim Il Sung is buried, and viewed the DMZ from the North Korean side. During my time there the guides allowed cameras in select areas and generally discouraged us from speaking to the North Korean people we saw on the streets. Despite these encumbrances, the entire trip signaled to me that positive changes are soon to come to the “Hermit kingdom.” By allowing foreigner tours, the North Korean government has signaled that it is willing to sacrifice some of its precious isolation in return for even a small amount of liquidity. As evidenced by East Berlin, an increase in exposure to the outside world has the tendency to erode the power and legitimacy of oppressive, isolationist regimes. It is my sincere hope that the tours that I took part in can serve to produce the same effect.

My time living in South Korea and visiting China, Japan, and North Korea has helped me understand the multitude of perspectives through which the East views the West. Viewing global politics from these different prisms contrasts markedly from the perception I received from my upbringing in the United States. In my time in South Korea, nothing has been more emblematic of this than the recent South Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which received minimal press in the United States, but was received rather angrily in Seoul. My middle school students spoke intelligently about their displeasure regarding the reintroduction of U.S. beef imports, and massive protests raged around the city hall—near my school—where one man even set himself on fire. It was eye-opening to see how an agreement, which most Americans were unaware of, could have such a great effect on both young and old in a developed nation like South Korea. Events like this helped me to understand the nuanced view that the Koreans have of American foreign policy; they admire American culture and President Obama in particular, but do not view the United States as perfectly benevolent either.

School XYZ provides a uniquely apposite course of study for me. School XYZ’s exchange programs in Kyoto and—fittingly for me—Seoul offer a truly immersive study of international politics, as do internship opportunities abroad in locations like Hong Kong. In my experience here in South Korea, I have learned that living in a foreign nation is the best way to educate one’s self about their politics, and these opportunities abroad offer this in spades.

Foreign study and work opportunities aside, the International Politics program's faculty has a strong focus on the Asian politics that I am focused on. Prof. XYZ writes extensively on international relations theory and Asia’s role in global politics, my two primary interests as a result of both my academic history international relations and my recent work and travel experience in Asia. Academically speaking, my greatest focus lies with the growing trend of Asian regionalism in the past decade and, given the economic power now wielded by ASEAN Plus Three, how it conflicts with the traditional neoliberal power structure that favors the West. Additionally, given the uncertainty created by the United States and European Union’s apparent wavering power and both India and China’s growing influence, I believe that the study of international relations has never been more important or fascinating.

Ultimately, I hope to utilize the opportunities available through School XYZ to serve my career goals. With an international relations degree, I intend on pursuing a career in the Foreign Service. School XYZ would prepare me well in all respects for this career choice, and the Foreign Service affords the prospect of not only being a witness to affairs between states, but a participant as well. Perhaps most important—it would allow for an eventual return to Asia and provide an even greater interaction with the region than I have already obtained.

My work aspirations are not limited to the State Department though, as my previous work experience in the Senate has whetted my appetite for life as a congressional aide. In my time as a staff assistant for the Senate Judiciary Committee I met various committee aides and was impressed by their knowledge and importance to the hearings they assisted in. Without them, important deals like the South Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement could hardly take place.

Thank you.

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Here is just my overall feeling after reading it. It really had an "observer" feel to it. Do you have any more active things you have done while in Korea? Could you tell maybe just one strong story about your experiences in Korea? I definitely would work on the ending because your position as a staff assistant was thrown in there quickly, but honestly, as a reader I am interested in reading more about that and what was the knowledge you gained from it. Overall, pick one story to tell, right now you are telling three. Either the ESL teaching or your N.Korea trip, or the Judiciary Committee work. I would lead with the Senate work as the hook and say something like that inspired you to move abroad to gain a global perspective and maybe focus on that.

Only my opinion though, wish you the best of luck.

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Three suggestions: 1) I agree that you could focus on one story about your experiences in Korea and then transition into a discussion of your academic goals. 2) I would not break up the last two paragraphs. Decide which is your primary post-graduate objective and focus on that. Then mention how your second choice (i.e. becoming a congressional aide) could also help you achieve your goal of being in the State Department. 3) Do not use the word "apposite" in describing your choice of programme. This is something like "damning them with faint praise." Try a phrase like "has an ideally suited course of study" or expand out this sentence to explain more thoroughly how the school is a good fit at the macro-level.

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Thanks, both of you. I appreciate the advice on how to make it flow better. That was one of my main concerns. As for adding more for my time in Korea, it's tough for me to think of a lot of stuff because I'm trying to keep it as relevant as possible. I honestly can't say that much of my work is relevant to a degree in international relations.

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