From the USA to Wales: how my UK master's has helped prepare me for a career in international relations

Maya standing on Mumbles Pier, Swansea. You can see a little lighthouse on a rock in the background. She's wearing a black hoodie and big, reflective sunglasses and smiling widely.

'My master's in Swansea is preparing me to progress in my career in international relations'

Maya, from the USA, is studying a master’s in International Relations at Swansea University. She reflects on the high-quality teaching in the UK, the ‘little’ moments she’s shared with the people she’s met, the community she has found in Wales and her ambitions to progress in her career in international relations.

‘My master’s in the UK is much more affordable than the majority of similar programmes in the USA’

My master’s in the UK is much more affordable than the majority of similar programmes in the USA. There is this huge conception, at least for international students from the USA, that UK study is inaccessible. But, even before I was awarded the Global Wales Postgraduate Scholarship, I wanted to study here. There are tonnes of fellowships and scholarships available for international students - it’s just about finding them. The living costs, at least in Wales, are also really low.

‘In my classes, there is a perfect balance of teaching research methods and content grounded in real-world events’

I have had amazing lecturers who have all been both passionate and approachable. I’ve often gone to office hours with them to discuss coursework but also for publication or career advice. In my classes, there is a perfect balance of teaching empirical methods and research skills that anyone wanting to pursue academics or higher-level research would need, but also content and theory grounded in real-world events.

‘My lecturers have always extended their support and encouragement beyond the confines of the classroom’

In one of my lecturer’s feedback for an essay of mine, she suggested that what I’d turned in would be a good starting point for turning into a possible publication. I followed up with her and she agreed to give me advice, read drafts, and even showed me how to start the whole process. I’m currently in the process of editing my work for submission to several journals. My lecturers have always extended their support and encouragement beyond the confines of the classroom.

‘My master’s is preparing me to progress in my career in international relations’

I aspire to work in research or public policy analysis for a think tank or NGO. I’m looking for internships in Washington DC at the moment and would love to join the Council of Foreign Relations, which is doing research into policy for women, or Vital Voices, which is doing research into gender roles and the role women play and could captain in society. My master’s is preparing me so well to progress in my career in international relations.

I am confident that I’m a strong candidate and hope that I’ll be able to get my research paper published in a journal so that I can showcase it in my applications. So much of what I’ve learned is translatable into the world of work. The careers office has helped me to shape my resume and cover letters to reflect that so that I can apply my skills elsewhere. I’m also tapping into the University of Swansea alumni network and their connections, and - of course - reaching out to people on LinkedIn to find my next opportunity.

After a few years of working in international relations, I’d like to get my PhD. I’m considering coming back to the UK for it, but it’s a while away, so we’ll just have to see.

‘There’s a culture of openness and welcome here that I had never experienced before’

There’s something special about Wales. There’s a culture of openness and welcome here that I had never experienced before. There’s this term in Welsh, ‘cwtch’ which is often painted on the walls. It doesn’t have a direct translation to English, but people have explained it as a positive, safe feeling and sense of togetherness and community. Since living here, I have really felt it.

Maya and her housemates at a pumpkin patch in Swansea in the autumn.

'I have a close-knit relationship with people here, my friends and my lecturers'

‘The most important thing about being part of a community is the people’

For me, the most important thing about being part of a community is the people. When I feel like I want to be in a place, and it feels like the place wants me to be there. I have a close-knit relationship with people here, with my friends and lecturers.

'For me, the most important thing about being part of a community is the people'

As part of Swansea’s student ambassador scheme, I have represented the university during open days on campus, for example, and spoken with prospective students. I like sharing my experiences with people who are in a similar position in their academic journey to where I was a year ago. I love talking with people, and I often volunteer for open days just to chat with people from all over the world. It’s so interesting to discuss what draws us to Swansea and what we enjoy most about being here.

I also work with the international office, helping them with different outreach campaigns and information sessions. I’ve been to Cardiff before to show around high school counsellors from all over the USA. I have been involved in Q and As with Baltimore High School students and shared my experiences of studying abroad via the international office.

Maya and her friends during an end of semester bonfire on the beach in Swansea.

Maya and some of her friends celebrating the end of the semester on the beach with a bonfire.

‘For Thanksgiving, about 20 people showed up for our potluck with dishes from their own countries’

One memorable time during my studies so far was when I celebrated Thanksgiving in Swansea. Back in the USA, it’s a really special holiday and I decided to throw a huge Thanksgiving dinner in my flat. All of my housemates and I invited friends and about 20 people showed up for our potluck with dishes from their own countries. It was really funny watching people try traditional American dishes like cream corn. People loved it. We are all from different places, but everyone just gels really well.

Cows graze on Three Cliffs Bay near Swansea.

'The cows graze on the beach at Three Cliffs Bay and it’s just such a foreign concept to me'

‘What I’ve enjoyed most are the ‘little’ moments I’ve shared with the people I’ve met here’

Beyond the dinner, what I’ve enjoyed most are the ‘little’ moments I’ve shared with the people I’ve met here. The times I’ve spent with my friends have been life-enhancing. Sometimes 10 or 15 of us go down to the beach to hang out. We even had a water balloon fight the other day. We’re always exploring. There’s this place about 20-30 minutes away from where I live called Three Cliffs Bay. The cows graze on the beach there and it’s just such a foreign concept to me. The first time I saw them, I was so surprised. Some scenes for the Netflix show, ‘The Witcher’, were even shot there.

Image of Three Cliffs Bay on a sunny day with a blue sky. It's very green and there are lots of trees, grass and a blue sky.

'Three Cliffs Bay is only about 20-30 minutes away from where I live'

‘I’m a member of the tea society. Usually, we get together and have breakfast or afternoon tea’

I have friends who are in all sorts of societies, some of which include falling out of canoes - by the looks of things. Personally, I’m a member of the tea society. I joined pretty early on, in September or October, as I really wanted to meet people immediately. It’s more of a social club than anything, and we meet on campus or at different cafes around town. Usually, we get together and have breakfast or afternoon tea. A lot of people come along, sometimes even 15-20.

'I can easily hope on public transport to London or on a budget flight to Europe' (Burano, Italy)

‘The buses and trains are so reliable and I can easily hop on public transport to London or on a budget flight to Europe’

Living in a city which is really walkable, and has a reliable public transportation network, is amazing. It is so accessible, which means that I can make the most of the opportunities here. It’s such a contrast to the USA, where in most cities you need to drive to get around. The buses and trains here are so reliable and I can easily hop on public transport to London or on a budget flight to Europe.

I’ve got quite good at manoeuvring my travel plans so that I can cheaply get between cities. For example, if I want to go to Zurich, I’d most likely fly to Basel, which is just over an hour away and offers flights to the UK for about a quarter of the price. There are always ways to travel cheaply, especially if you can be flexible about when you travel. One great thing about having flatmates from different countries is that, when they leave - especially the semester abroad students, I can go and visit them wherever they live. This summer I’m going to go to Belgium and Switzerland (top tips) to see them and spend more quality time together.

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