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DualCitizenIR

LSE MSc IR vs SOAS MA MES vs Durham MA IR (ME)

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So I applied to 11 schools for masters programs in the UK, US, and Switzerland and have received 6 acceptances so far, but no real funding at the US schools, which leaves me with some questions about where to go in the UK.

The best-case scenario in the US, Korbel, gave me a half-tuition scholarship, but with cost of living, it would be almost $70K in loans over the two years. I am still under consideration for a graduate assistantship at BU that will also cover half-tuition, but that would leave more than $75K total debt. No funding at AU SIS, so that would be out of the question at $100K. I think I have ruled out these US schools.

On the other hand, the three UK schools are all one year programs and would on the whole be the cheapest options (around $50K for the London schools and $30K for Durham). The problem I am having in making a final decision is that there are differences in the types of programs I got into at each school. I applied to mostly MA IR programs, but in this case only LSE is a straight-up IR program. Durham is also an IR program, but focusing/specializing in the Middle East, which is my interest. SOAS though is a Near and Middle Eastern Studies masters (politics of the Middle East), which is what they're known for (area studies) and it seems quite relevant with the current events in the region.

I am interested in working in an NGO or think tank after the program, either in Europe or the Middle East. I know this isn't that specific, but I am hoping to do some networking during the masters and maybe an internship to help fine-tune my interest in IR. (Some background: I don't have that much work experience but lots of travel to Turkey and Europe and studied abroad a semester in Istanbul. Also, I graduated with a BA in political science in December, a cert in international studies and a cert in religion and conflict, so basically applying straight out of undergrad. I can speak Turkish at an intermediate to advanced level, and have studied Arabic for many years, though still at a basic to intermediate level.)

So I am wondering if I should go with the highest ranked IR program (LSE), or a more specific MES program (SOAS) and if this would make a difference for career opportunities? The only reason Durham is still in the running (but only just) is because it is also highly ranked but significantly cheaper than the other two mainly due to the location and also has the college system ala Oxbridge. I am leaning towards LSE strongly at the moment because it seems like it will be a great experience academically and in terms of networking/events. I just can't seem to ignore how competitive admissions there is and that I actually got in, as well as how it is so reputable around the world which will provide flexibility if I do end up working in the US.

(Then there is the entirely different proposition of Fletcher's Map Your Future MALD which lets one work for a couple of years full time in the field before attending the MALD program (in 2014). I haven't received a decision from them yet as the deadline is in May, but I can ask if they can give me an "early read" on my application. I think this may be the best for one's career based on what I have read here about work experience, but I am not that sure I want to go this route.)

Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions you all may have.

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From a UK perspective LSE > Durham > SOAS. For your itnerests SOAS may trump Durham. I would say categorically go to LSE. Durham and SOAS are unknown outside of the UK largely.

Also Durham is not the same in terms of the college system. The only even slightly independent colleges at Durham are John's and Chad's and still not to even remotely the extent of Oxbridge colleges. Durham's reputation is for Oxbridge rejects, rightly or wrongly (rightly imo). Go to LSE and don't look back. However, if you get in to Cantab, go there instead. Less cost + better reputation and network.

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Also...what is your Arabic level? If I were you, I would take a year to study Arabic in the Middle East before embarking on a graduate programme.

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Thanks for the perspective, JAubrey. I pretty much don't have a chance to get into Cambridge, unfortunately, as one of my letter writers never submitted the letter for them.

You know, beefmaster, I did think about doing that... Qatar University has a 1 year scholarship to study Arabic there that I may apply for but it would mean deferring or reinstating which is trickier at UK schools than in the US. My level is not beginner, but not quite intermediate. I can't really hold a conversation but am better at writing and reading to a limited extent. Anywhere you would suggest in the Middle East? The Levant? I might try to go this summer at least.

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I am British but I have lived in Cairo since graduating. I would say Cairo is a good option for Arabic, particularly at the moment.

British universities will let you defer...don't worry about it.

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Thanks for the perspective, JAubrey. I pretty much don't have a chance to get into Cambridge, unfortunately, as one of my letter writers never submitted the letter for them.

You know, beefmaster, I did think about doing that... Qatar University has a 1 year scholarship to study Arabic there that I may apply for but it would mean deferring or reinstating which is trickier at UK schools than in the US. My level is not beginner, but not quite intermediate. I can't really hold a conversation but am better at writing and reading to a limited extent. Anywhere you would suggest in the Middle East? The Levant? I might try to go this summer at least.

I don't know what your financial situation is, as in how much you're willing to spend on learning Arabic, but the Arabic Language Institute (ALI) at American University in Cairo is a very well known, well respected institution for intensive Arabic study. It's like $12000 a semester or $5600 for the summer. But you get like an official certificate and really good academic credit for it. If you're looking for something cheaper, there are plenty of intensive language institutes around Cairo and Alexandria. The cost of living in Egypt is also tremendously cheap, in my opinion. I paid 1000 egyptian pounds (about $165) a month for an apartment I shared with 3 other people. And language institutes like International Language Institute (ILI) are much cheaper, at like 900 egyptian pounds per course.

EDIT: I'd like to add that by studying in Egypt, you could advance your knowledge of Modern Standard at any of the language institutes, and could learn Egyptian colloquial, which is a lot more fun than MSA in my opinion, and is also widely understood throughout the Middle East.

Edited by CairoKid

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That is good to know about deferring, beefmaster...

CairoKid: I've heard a lot about AUC for Arabic. If I did go, though, I would probably do something cheapish. Thanks for the information about prices. I see you're a finalist for Turkey Fulbright... I hope you get it! (I was born in the US but am originally Turkish, btw.)

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That is good to know about deferring, beefmaster...

CairoKid: I've heard a lot about AUC for Arabic. If I did go, though, I would probably do something cheapish. Thanks for the information about prices. I see you're a finalist for Turkey Fulbright... I hope you get it! (I was born in the US but am originally Turkish, btw.)

I would recommend doing something cheaper anyway. You can get the same amount of hours for much cheaper at a different language institute. AUC is a very beautiful campus though (however, inconveniently located about an hour outside of downtown literally in the middle of the desert). If you have any questions about exploring your options in Cairo, feel free to PM me. I lived there for six months last Jan-July during the beginnings of the revolution, and I'm moving back there this summer for an internship.

And thanks! I hope I get it, too. Turkey is such a beautiful country. =) What program did you get accepted to at SOAS? I got into their MSc Middle East Politics program.

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And thanks! I hope I get it, too. Turkey is such a beautiful country. =) What program did you get accepted to at SOAS? I got into their MSc Middle East Politics program.

Thanks for the offer, I'll keep it in mind. Speaking of the revolution, I knew some people that were going to study abroad at AUC that semester, but then they got told to go to Morocco or to Bogazici University (where I was studying abroad at the time). They weren't very happy about coming to a non-Arab country and a university with almost non-existent Arabic classes.

I got into the MA Near and Middle Eastern Studies, but it is basically the same thing (political society in the Middle East and state and transformation in the Middle East). I think we got in on the same day too according to the survey...

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CairoKid...I was here in Cairo during the Revolution too. Who knows...we have probably run into each other.

Edited by beefmaster

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Thanks for the offer, I'll keep it in mind. Speaking of the revolution, I knew some people that were going to study abroad at AUC that semester, but then they got told to go to Morocco or to Bogazici University (where I was studying abroad at the time). They weren't very happy about coming to a non-Arab country and a university with almost non-existent Arabic classes.

I got into the MA Near and Middle Eastern Studies, but it is basically the same thing (political society in the Middle East and state and transformation in the Middle East). I think we got in on the same day too according to the survey...

I was actually supposed to go to Morocco, too. I left Egypt for a couple of days and stayed in Turkey, and then received a travel waiver that allowed me to return to Egypt for the rest of the semester. But I know a lot of people who did go to and stayed in Morocco and Turkey when they were forced to evacuate.

CairoKid...I was here in Cairo during the Revolution too. Who knows...we have probably run into each other.

Very possible. Especially if you hung out with any of the foreigners left at AUC that semester.

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@DualCitizenIR: i got accepted to the LSE MSc IR also for Fall 2012. What is your plan after graduation (if you have thought about it) mind me asking? Do you plan to go back to the states or to stay in London and looking for a job?

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@DualCitizenIR: i got accepted to the LSE MSc IR also for Fall 2012. What is your plan after graduation (if you have thought about it) mind me asking? Do you plan to go back to the states or to stay in London and looking for a job?

Probably the latter. I want to work somewhere in Europe hopefully, but I don't know much about the logistics of work permits, etc. I think going back to the US is more of a fall back option right now. What about you? Did you decide on attending LSE already?

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I signed up for a dose of LSE a week ago.. Lol, i plan to do the same - staying at least 4 to 6 months after graduation to find jobs in UK. Going back to the states and looking up my connections here if i don't find any in UK.

"

In 2009/10,

91%

of undergraduate leavers and

89%

of postgraduate leavers from the Department of International Relations were in employment, completing further study or taking time out just six months after graduation.

International relations graduates found work with a wide range of employers including:

  • multilateral and intergovernmental organisations
  • non-government organisations (NGOs)
  • banking and accounting services
  • local and national government
  • education
  • media and publishing companies"

The average starting salary of undergraduates from the International Relations department was

£27,739

and for postgraduates

£28,550

.

This is on their website that i found. Hopefully my friend.

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Probably the latter. I want to work somewhere in Europe hopefully, but I don't know much about the logistics of work permits, etc. I think going back to the US is more of a fall back option right now. What about you? Did you decide on attending LSE already?

LSE will treat you well (ie it is well know in the US and Europe). The alumni networks of UK universities Oxbridge, LSE, St Andrews, and Edinburgh (the top unis with strong US representation in the student bodies) are growing swiftly in the US especially on the East Coast in NYC, Boston, and Washington DC, feel free to PM if you have any questions. Second, you may be hard pressed to get a work visa on the continent but in London you will most likely need a firm to sponsor you if you wish to stay for any lengthy amount of time. The industries that tend to do this are: banks, management consultancies, and corporate law firms.

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@JAubrey: did you attend LSE as well? Are you going back to the states after graduation or actively looking for jobs in London? Do you know how competitive is it for IR to go into finance or consulting? Any input is definitely helping!! thanks

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The job market is incredibly competitive in London right now - especially finance and consulting, finding a sponsor now is virtually impossible but hopefully by the time you're graduating it will be a little better. I think you have a few months after graduating to try and find a job or there's a post grad study visa you can apply for without a sponsor. That visa category is closed for new applicants now though - don't know if they'll reopen it (we're having some real problems with bogus students etc and so things are getting much harder at the moment), if they don't you'd need a sponsor.

Edited by Helpplease123

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@JAubrey: did you attend LSE as well? Are you going back to the states after graduation or actively looking for jobs in London? Do you know how competitive is it for IR to go into finance or consulting? Any input is definitely helping!! thanks

I did not attend LSE, however did attend another British university a few years ago and went to work in London in management consultancy (had a load of friends who attended LSE and worked with quite a few). While the market is tough and indeed was quite trying for some when I graduated, most of the foreigners, myself included, who wished to find work in London or elsewhere in the UK did so after graduation. This included in management consultancy (with MBBB, the Big Four advisory practices, as well as a few other niche firms), corporate law firms (in the Magic Circle, Silver Circle, as well as certain elite niche firms like Farrers and Withers), and in investment banking firms. These three areas represent really the only ones who WILL sponsor Americans for visas, though on the old temporary two years given to graduates I knew others who accepted jobs with non-profits and at Westminister and even term appointments in Whitehall.

In terms of consultancy I can speak to my previous firm and our competitors. We only recruited from a very select number of universities though a couple from other universities did managed to get selected in the end. In my incoming consultant class we had graduates of: Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Imperial, Edinburgh, Warwick, and UCl. LSE was the third most heavily represented in my class behind Oxbridge with a mix of those who attended for undergraduate and for MSc degrees.

The trick to getting an interview coming from a one year MSc is being aware of deadlines for positions and starting work on your applications literally the moment you start your course in some cases. If you have any more questions, do feel free to ask or PM me.

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Thanks, lecorbeau! I hope they don't make it so that I have to study ALL the time... :) I'll bet you'll have the same kind of time in Geneva as well, for two years nonetheless!

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