Kira specialised in International Relations and German, and is currently doing her MPhil in International Relations at the University of Oxford.
We had heard all the shiny talking points that punctuated the equally shiny university brochures – an interdisciplinary structure coaching us into well-rounded intellectuals, a year abroad endowing us with linguistic and cultural fluency, an extraordinarily diverse crowd of globetrotters we could come to call our peers. You should certainly cherish these aspects. Yet by the time I began my studies, I was in fact blissfully unaware of the most rewarding feature of my ESPS degree.
There is a great difference between learning what to think, and learning how to think. ESPS was created to teach you that difference, and to make you appreciate the importance of the latter.
Beyond the benefit of learning to juggle ever-expanding universes of information at once, you will also master the art of performing multiple intellectual somersaults in one day. Arguments that are very much en vogue in an economics class may well be hopelessly out of place as far as your political economy lecturer is concerned. Once you grow into the daily rhythm of academic acrobatics, this becomes both the most excruciating and exhilarating part of your degree. You learn to question not only your peers and professors’ logic, but your own arguments as well. In a professional environment populated by a uniform brigade of single-issue experts, the ability to approach challenges from varied angles is a core advantage that ESPS will award you.
Take a heated topic like the European refugee crisis. By graduation day, you could present an analysis of it from the perspectives of European integration, international humanitarian law, security studies, political discourse analysis, and Rawlsian philosophy – for starters. Thankfully, none of the above requires getting lost in a maze of perpetually propagating academic interests. On the contrary: because of the way the specialisation paths are structured, you will come out of your degree with an exceptionally well-informed idea of what fields of inquiry truly matter to you.
Nuanced minds are a scarce resource - I presume that is why so many of us end up as international movers and shakers so swiftly after graduation day. In any room full of professional pundits with mass-manufactured soundbites, you will be the one asking those inconvenient questions that actually push societal debate forward.