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International Relations SOP- comments critiques, and post yours!


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As a precursor, I graduated from UCLA in June and am applying for Fall 2013. Besides tutoring, legal secretary jobs I have no relevant work experience ( I worked for the past year as a nanny in order to fund a four month private study abroad trip I will be going on in January). This SOP is for George Washington specifically (and its rough!)

While the two subjects may seem entirely unrelated, my experience as an English major was the seed from which my interest in International Relations evolved. As an undergraduate, my wish to study English was influenced almost as much by a desire to learn about seemingly exotic cultures as by a love of literature itself. My interest in literature as means of educating myself on global issues was sparked after hearing of the much-publicized fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeni upon Salman Rushdie. As a Rushdie enthusiast, I had read many of his works but was unfamiliar with the controversial Satanic Verses. After reading Verses, my opinion of Rushdie’s literary genius did not diminish in the least, yet the satire of Islam was blatantly evident even to me— a white middle class American girl with no ties to the Middle East. It was in this moment that I began to realize my fascination with the Middle East, as well as with the U.S relationship to the region. Since then I have read a vast array of works from Arabic, Iranian and Israeli authors, covering topics such as the pre-Arab Spring tensions, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, to the Iranian Revolution. During my time at UCLA, I chose to take various courses in Middle Eastern and Jewish studies that both solidified my interest in the region and intensified my desire to gain a more thorough and nuanced understanding of the Middle East as whole.

I believe my desire to further my education in International Affairs will be best fulfilled at George Washington University. I intend to take specialize in both Middle East studies and International Law and Organizations while at GW. I appreciate the variety of courses GW provides in both areas, and am especially looking forward to taking Politics and Religion in Post-Revolutionary Iran. I currently have a limited understanding of Farsi and wish to increase my knowledge of the language, as I feel the U.S policy towards Iran will become increasingly important in the years to come. I also wish to learn Arabic and Hebrew, and plan to participate in GW’s Aramex program in order to further my language skills while gaining valuable experience working for a non-governmental organization. I believe a secondary focus in International Law will be a perfect complement to my regional focus and will provide a solid framework for a career a career in International Relations.

I feel the skills gained in GW’s International Relations Program will more than adequately provide me with the tools to enter the political and or diplomatic sphere. I am especially interested in addressing issues regarding women’s rights in the Middle East, as well as working for NGO’s that combine a nuanced understanding of the region with innovative ideas in order to bring wealth to areas afflicted by poverty. As a first generation college student, and the first individual in my family to attend graduate school, obtaining a MA International Relations will not only allow me to sate my yearning desire for a better understanding of the world, but also rise above my individual cultural and social-economic experience in order to make an impact upon the world around me.

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Just a few notes off the top of my head, maybe drop "I feel the skills gained in" and start the sentence with "GW's International Relations Program will..." or "I am confident that GW's"... at the very least change "feel" to "think."

Also one thing that struck me about reading your first paragraph... I am not entirely sure about this but to me it seems strange to be a Rushdie enthusiast and also be unfamiliar with 'Satanic Verses', because most people who haven't even read him have at least heard that book title and know the story behind it, so I might find a different way to phrase that. Also I am not really sure if mentioning you are a white middle class girl is necessary. I would just end that sentence with "yet the satire of Islam was blatantly evident." But in reading that I also have a desire for you to talk more about it... I mean, are you saying it's a bad thing that he is writing a satire of Islam?

The end of the first paragraph, it should be "understanding the Middle East as a whole."

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Thanks so much for your help. With the "middle class white girl" things- I was trying to highlight that my interest was completely unrelated to my personal life and was linked to a desire to expand my experiential scope, but that probably didn't do it the right way. And I'll rephrase the Rushdie narrative, I had heard of "verses" but just handn't read it yet. Thanks again!

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Here's a revised version if anyone wants to take a look. Please help!

While the two subjects may seem entirely unrelated, my experience as an English major was the seed from which an interest in International Relations evolved. As an undergraduate, the wish to study English was influenced almost as much by a desire to learn about seemingly exotic cultures as it was by a love of literature itself. My penchant to use literature as means to educate myself on global issues was sparked by the much-publicized fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeni upon Salman Rushdie. As a fairly new Rushdie enthusiast I had read many of his works, but had yet to read controversial Satanic Verses. After reading Verses, my opinion of Rushdie’s literary genius did not diminish in the least, instead I became interested in the controversy surrounding both his satire of Islam, and its effect on the Muslim population. It was in this moment that I began to realize my fascination with the Middle East— a region filled with not only with conflicting religious, ethnic and political tensions, but also boasting a rich and complex cultural history. In an effort to demystify a culture that seems terrifyingly opaque to the average American citizen, I have read a vast array of works by Arabic, Iranian, and Israeli authors, covering topics such as the pre-Arab Spring tensions, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, to the Iranian Revolution. During my time at UCLA, I chose to take various courses in Middle Eastern and Jewish studies, which both solidified my interest in the region as well as intensified my desire to gain a more thorough and nuanced understanding of the Middle East as a whole.

I believe my desire to further my education in International Affairs will be best fulfilled at George Washington University. While at GW, I intend to specialize in both Middle East studies and International Law and Organizations. I appreciate the diversity of courses GW provides in both areas, and am especially looking forward to taking Politics and Religion in Post-Revolutionary Iran. Currently, I have a limited understanding of Farsi and wish to increase my knowledge of the language, as I feel the U.S policy towards Iran will become increasingly important in the years to come. I also wish to learn Arabic and Hebrew, and plan to participate in GW’s Aramex program in order to further my language skills while gaining valuable experience working for a non-governmental organization. I believe a secondary focus in International Law will be a perfect complement to my regional focus and will provide a solid framework for a rewarding career a career in International Relations.

The driving force behind my desire to study International Relations is the prospect of a fulfilling career in which I will be able to make at least a small impact upon the world. As the first person in my family to attend college or graduate school, obtaining a MA International Relations will not only allow me to sate my yearning desire for a better understanding of the world, but also provide me with a means to move beyond my own experiences, and enter the political and or diplomatic sphere. I am especially interested in addressing issues regarding women’s rights in the Middle East, as well as working for NGO’s that combine a nuanced understanding of the region with innovative ideas in order to bring wealth to areas afflicted by poverty. The wealth of opportunities and knowledge George Washington University will provide me will more than adequately prepare me contribute to the international community.

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