UCL Institute of the Americas


Student Testimonials

Find out about the experiences of former UCL Institute of the Americas students, and where their degrees have taken them.

Carlo Catapano, MA Latin American Studies, 2017-18

My experience at the Institute of the Americas has been fulfilling and productive, in all respects. I had the chance to engage with new topics and approaches to the study of the Americas, thanks to the wide range of subjects covered by the courses, and the diverse expertise and backgrounds of the academic staff. Moreover, the seminars, workshops, and guest lectures organised by the Institute throughout the year have offered me the opportunity to meet great academics, and to have an insight into the most recent debates on Latin American politics, history, and economics. Above all, during my year at UCL, I felt part of a true community, where professors, staff, and students work and cooperate with each other in a friendly and constructive atmosphere. That is why this experience has been a fundamental step not only for my academic career but also for my personal growth.

Currently I am a PhD candidate in International Studies at the University of Roma Tre (Italy) with a research project on the relations between South American states, on the one hand, and the United States and China, on the other. In particular, my project deals with the changes occurred in the foreign policy of South American countries – and in their relationship with the United States – since the establishment of closer ties with the People’s Republic of China. The topic of my PhD research – as well as the multidisciplinary approach I have adopted – are largely based on the final thesis completed at the Institute of the Americas. I will always be grateful to my supervisor Dr Par Engstrom, who helped me throughout the dissertation process and strongly supported my PhD application.

Overall, studying at UCL has been a stimulating academic and personal experience that I would recommend to anyone interested in the Americas.

Harry Garnett Sammons, MA US Studies, 2017-18

The most enjoyable element of my time studying at the Institute of the Americas was the academic freedom that we were granted by our supervisors. Although each module was well structured and provided a framework for well-defined debate among the students, the course work and dissertation element involved a much greater degree of freedom. Supervisors actively encouraged us to choose varied essay titles which often lay within the broader topic of the course but beyond the seminar syllabus. Similarly, for the dissertation element of the module, my supervisor encouraged me to write on what I wanted to write, and then to go off and get on with it by myself. Despite this freedom, my supervisor was readily available to answer my questions, arrange meetings, and challenge me to push my analysis further and produce the best work I could.

Teresa Kuhn, MA Latin American Studies, 2017-18

I came to the Institute after a three-year break from studying, a time during which I, admittedly, struggled to find a purpose. Completing a Master’s degree at the Institute of the Americas not only represented a way out, but also an opportunity to apply my undergraduate degree in Social Policy to a new and exciting context, and a welcome intellectual challenge.

What I particularly enjoyed about my time at the Institute was becoming part of a close-knit community of people with different backgrounds and interests, who share a passion for the Latin American region. The wide range of social and academic events at UCL and beyond provided inspiration as well as opportunities to network. This broad-mindedness is also reflected in the interdisciplinary approach encouraged by the Institute’s lecturers and in the variety of courses on offer.

My personal highlight of the year was my trip to Buenos Aires, where I conducted the fieldwork for my dissertation. The rather daunting prospect of carrying out independent research in an unfamiliar environment quickly became one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic life. So much so, in fact, that I am currently applying to do a PhD in order to further pursue my research interests.

Sally Dray, MA US Studies, 2016-17

I would highly recommend the IoA course to anyone with an interest in developing their knowledge of American politics and society. The modules offered covered every aspect I could want to study and I loved the freedom the dissertation choice gave me to really pursue my interests outside of the topics formally taught. 

The faculty are incredibly engaging, knowledgeable and friendly, and are genuinely interested in supporting your development, whatever area you choose to research. This meant that seminars were largely student-led, based on what we found most interesting about the reading set, and lead to real discussion that I learnt so much from. 

The course was definitely a step up from undergraduate level, but the staff and faculty at the Institute were really supportive in the transition and I could not have enjoyed it more. 

Christopher Dobson, MA US Studies, 2016-17

Having the opportunity to study a MA at the Institute of the Americas has led to one of the best years of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching throughout the year, where lecturers really emphasised the student-led nature of discussion, and found the Politics of Social Welfare and Culture Wars modules in particular to be really outstanding. The staff in the IoA went out of their way to be friendly and approachable, which creates a close-knit community within the wider anonymity of the city.

Outside of the Institute, I had the opportunity to manage the UCL Symphony Orchestra and get involved in a number of societies. The highlights were undoubtedly being able to perform alongside professionals at the University College Opera in the stunning Theatre Royal Stratford, as well as being the Musical Director of a drunk pantomime in the middle of Summer. I was able to meet some amazingly creative people through these extracurricular activities, and would really really encourage more postgraduates to get involved! Everything you put in, UCL and the IoA is able to return with interest, and I’m incredibly sad to be leaving! 

Kimberley Schreiber, MA US Studies, 2016-17

The Institute of the Americas is the ideal place to pursue independent research. The staff are incredibly supportive of multidisciplinary work and my advisor Zoe Hyman was exceptionally helpful. I cannot recommend the MA programme enough, especially for those students considering pursuing a PhD.

Virut Hemnilrat, MA Latin American Studies, 2016-17

My master's degree year at the Institute was intellectually fruitful and highly memorable. As my understanding of Latin America had been limited to what was obtained from the news and my journeys in South America, I expected my time at UCL to be highly challenging. However, through the Institute's support structure, regular contact hours, public evening events, and the university's wealth of academic resources, I quickly developed nuanced understanding of the region.

What I like most about the Institute is the size, atmosphere, and spirit of the place. As a small department, students were given maximum opportunities to take part in class discussions. Meanwhile, the level of support offered by our lecturers and professors was unmatched. Their friendliness and genuine desire to help students succeed made all the difference. Beyond the academic aspect of university life, I benefited greatly from the international make-up of the Institute, which enabled me to make new friends from all over the world while also enhancing my Spanish and Portuguese skills. Now that my master's degree has ended, I am completing an internship in business administration, where I get to use transferable skills gained from my time at the Institute, particularly my newfound knowledge of statistics, which formed the basis of my dissertation research

Adam Spode, MSc International Relations of the Americas, 2016-17

Studying at the Institute was one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences of my academic life. After a year in work following on from my undergraduate degree, I was initially nervous about jumping back into academia and expected to have a few struggles adapting to the higher standards of an MSc, but looking back I'm immeasurably glad that I chose to study at UCL. It's not just the high level of expertise in a diverse range of fields, but the obvious enthusiasm and passion the professors have that really helps foster an environment of genuine discussion and debate, and makes the classes really engaging. Coupled with the approachability of the tutors and the familiarity that built-up over the course, the seminars were frequently lively and insightful. The range of courses on offer were interesting and diverse, allowing me to really hone in on subjects that were of particular interest whilst also pushing myself to tackle new topics. Furthermore, the Institute's calendar of guest lectures and special seminars gave me an unrivalled chance to meet with a wide array of leading academics and engage on a massive spectrum of subjects.

For both the class papers and my eventual dissertation, the support and advice was crucial, frank and perceptive, encouraging me to pursue research subjects in topics that were relatively new to me and adding different perspectives to my developing ideas. My dissertation, a study of the U.S. occupation of post-war Japan and the concept of 'state-building' represented a departure from any previous subjects I had worked on, but my ideas were supported and developed further by the advice offered. This support extended further to the financial support given by the Institute which enabled me to conduct the fieldwork at the National Archives in the U.S. that was a crucial component of my dissertation and an amazing experience. I am incredibly grateful to the department for their award of the Miller Bursary that made my very attendance possible, and to all the staff at the Institute who were extremely supportive and helpful throughout the year.

I regard my time at UCL as one of the most productive, enjoyable and stimulating years of my life, and I have no hesitation in recommending the Institute, and UCL as a whole, to anyone with an interest in almost any aspect of the Americas.

Emilio Scozzafava, MA US Studies, 2015-16

This MA was better than I could have ever imagined. I feel like I've had more of the university experience I wanted in one year at the Institute than I did in the three of my undergraduate degree, and that is mostly because of how much I enjoyed my time at the Institute. Being able to research topics that I thought were interesting, getting to debate facets of American culture and politics every week and attending lectures outside of classes given by world-leading academics - these are just some of the things I loved about this course. The level of support and familiarity from the faculty and staff in the Institute made me feel like I could ask for help on anything - big or small. My classmates were informed and friendly, the courses offered were original and fascinating, and the professors engaging and approachable.

UCL itself is a great university for the Institute to be a part of. A stone's throw from the national British Library, with access to any University of London library, including the enormous Senate House Library (complete with UCL-only studying hub), multiple UCL libraries and postgraduate-only studying spaces on campus, you are never wanting for resources. Outside of study, the university offers a plethora of activities, from the normal sports teams to things like a Beyonce Appreciation Society or an improv team that are incredibly welcoming to new students (even if they're 'technically' not freshers).

Overall this is a truly special place to study, and I would without hesitation recommend it to anyone with an interest in furthering their knowledge of US history and politics, looking for a course that will challenge them, engage them, and that they can make their own.

Anna Tyor, MSc International Relations of the Americas, 2014-15

All in all I had a great experience in the programme over the past year. I went to college in a small town in the Boone, North Carolina, so you can imagine how different the master's experience was for me in London. It was wonderful to take advantage of London, the events at UCL, speak to the prestigious visiting professors and speakers, and learn from the array of professors and students from all of the world. I have to say that this year has been a defining moment for me, and I want to thank you and the faculty at UCL Americas for this opportunity.

James Hillyer, MA US Studies 2013-14 and PhD graduant

Studying for the MA in United States Studies on a part-time basis at the UCL Institute of the Americas was a challenging, enjoyable and rewarding experience. Coming straight out of undergraduate study, I found the step-up to MA level tough, especially because I had to find the correct balance between studying and working various jobs, but I quickly managed to find my feet and have no regrets about taking the course. The modules I took allowed me to deepen my knowledge of the United States and encouraged me to push myself academically. To my surprise, I developed a fascination for US economic policy and subsequently wrote my dissertation on the topic. Moreover, the tutors at the Institute were very approachable and took an interest in my development. Not only were they keen to encourage participation in the classroom as well as attendance at the rich programme of events (where I met and interacted with leading scholars of the United States), but they also offered me important advice about how I could maximise my performance, which boosted my grades and gave me the confidence to continue as a PhD student at the Institute. On the whole, I am very pleased with my decision to take the US Studies MA, and am delighted with the excellent facilities and support that I have been provided with for my PhD. I would, therefore, encourage anyone who is interested in the Americas to study at the Institute.

Gyumi Ahn, MSc Globalisation and Latin American Development, 2013-14

The experience of studying at the Institute has been inspiring and stimulating. During the lectures throughout the year, I have always found myself gaining numerous fresh insights from my classmates who were from many different parts of the world, with different academic and professional backgrounds. I was also very impressed by the way the faculty members encouraged us to articulate our opinions about historical and political issues dealt with in class, to relate them to current Latin American social phenomena, and to keep developing our rough and initial ideas into an elaborated statement and thesis. I appreciated, in particular, opportunities given to us to attend various seminars and talks, where each speaker presented us their current projects and shared their expertise and academic interests. Several of them were where I could begin developing ideas for my dissertation and could be aware of original and creative methods of doing research. During the last couple of months of the course, I found it highly fulfilling to carry out my own research visiting libraries and archives both in Buenos Aires and London. I could finally get my own work done thanks to the administrative staffs' constant support and my supervisor's valuable comments and feedback.

Himali Dave, MSc Latin American Politics, 2012-14

As one of the few institutions offering a holistic and interdisciplinary programme of courses, and with the option of part-time study, UCL-IA was a clear choice for me for engaging in postgraduate study of the Americas. But what I soon became aware of was what else the institute offered: access to diverse events, talks and conferences covering up-to-date research with top academics; being part of a nurturing and friendly department; and meeting like-minded people passionate about all things Latin American. I have found the opportunity to spend two-years studying at my own pace extremely rewarding; although working and interning alongside my studies has often amounted to a 7-day a week commitment, the institute staff have always been extremely helpful and understanding. I feel that I have emerged with transferable analytical and critical thinking skills, which I am certain will prove incredibly valuable for me in the future.

Robbie Macrory, PhD in Latin American Politics, 2012-15

Studying at the Institute has been an extremely fulfilling experience for several different reasons, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent here working towards my doctorate. Although the Institute is small enough to have a strong sense of community, it also feels fully incorporated into the wider life of the university with all the advantages that entails, including events, skills courses and a lively atmosphere. The knowledge and expertise of the faculty members at the Institute is always impressive, and the support offered by the administrative staff has been invaluable in helping me progress with my studies. Perhaps the best thing of all for me is the Institute's location in the heart of London. It's been a great help for my work to be within walking distance of several world-class libraries, but I've also enjoyed being able to attend events at think-tanks and embassies, for example, which might not have been so easy had I been studying elsewhere.

Melanie Stern, MA Latin American Studies, 2012-13

I have found that I can easily see where my hard-earned cash is being spent - and well spent - as I am surrounded by vast resources, from excellent libraries and lots of places to use study computers all over campus, to the breadth of knowledge my tutors share with me, and their encouragement of deep inquiry. This means the environment I have found as a student at UCL Americas is so far very conducive to immersing myself in the field, and being able to bounce ideas off the staff as I develop my own critical theses. In addition, there are regular talks and events, available to the public as well as students and for free, giving us contact with fresh thinking, new studies, leading commentators and new conversations on the field we're studying. This means the knowledge I'm taking in about the past is being based in the context of what's happening in real life, today.

John Gallagher, MA Latin American Studies, 2012-13

After completing my undergraduate degree in Dublin, I decided to progress directly to postgraduate study by undertaking the MA at the UCL Institute of Americas. The prospect of living in London was not the only thing that enticed me. I was also attracted by the multi-disciplinary nature of the course and the accessibility of the teaching staff, who are always at hand to discuss research interests and extend learning outside of the classroom.  At UCL, I found a Masters that allowed me to focus on the Latin American History and Politics, without neglecting more practical fields of study such as Advanced Spanish Translation. My experience at the Institute of the Americas has been nothing but positive, I am sure it will stand to me in the future.