Gemma is one of our current European Politics and Policy students.
Why did you apply to Political Science Department, UCL?
For me, the decision to study a masters degree was centred around adding additional value to what I had achieved at undergrad, by broadening my academic knowledge and diversifying my skill set. I therefore chose to apply to the Political Science Department, UCL because of the specific courses they had on offer and their openness to, and accommodation for, students like myself with a background in a different academic discipline. After studying at a smaller, campus-based university during my undergrad, I also knew that for my masters I wanted to be based in London and at a university with a strong academic reputation and professional networking connections.
Tell us about your student recruitment journey, was there something particular that made you apply and accept your offer?
One of the main things that stood out to me during my student recruitment journey was an online Q&A session for offer holders. I got a really great impression from the staff members and student ambassador, it gave a more detailed insight into the specifics of the course, and I felt reassured in regard to my main concern; that I was transitioning from the humanities to political science. I came away from the session feeling genuinely excited about studying at UCL and for me this affirmed my decision to accept this offer over other universities I had applied to, as UCL and the EPP course felt like the right fit.
What were your first impressions of the department?
I immediately felt very welcome within the department and really appreciated the Induction Week sessions as they provided an opportunity to meet the staff and my fellow course mates before classes began. I think this is particularly valuable at postgraduate level, as you only have a year to get involved and make the most of the experience, so it’s great to build a sense of community from the start. This also wasn’t just confined to the members of my specific course, the department-wide welcome drinks gave us the opportunity to meet students from within the department more broadly, which was great from a social perspective but also important for the larger compulsory modules where the specific courses are mixed together. I was also impressed with the extracurricular activities on offer, namely the weekly lecture series run by the department, which is free, optional and features some impressive guest speakers, allowing me to further develop my knowledge of topics of current political significance. My overwhelmingly positive experience during my first few weeks at UCL also influenced my decision to get more involved within the department and apply to be the Student Academic Representative for my course.
What is the rest of your cohort like?
Everyone has been very welcoming and it is great to have such varied inputs and perspectives. The political science department is super international, students come from all different academic backgrounds and are at varying stages along their career paths which I think is such an advantage, especially when studying at the postgraduate level. As EPP is a relatively small course our group has also become quite close and it's really great to have that both socially and as an academic support system.
What is the teaching and learning like?
The teaching style really varies across modules and depending on the personal style of the lecturer. Some of my classes are more ‘traditional’ lectures and seminars, and others involve interaction and the development of practical skills. Coming from an undergraduate degree which was heavily based on independent research and reading, I have enjoyed having more contact hours again, being on campus, and whilst the workload is what you would expect from a masters degree, I have found that I am able to balance it with other commitments and social events. When selecting my modules I paid close attention to the descriptions on the online catalogue, especially in regard to the content and assessment type, and I’ve found that my experience has matched the descriptions quite well, so I would definitely recommend having a look to get an idea of what to expect.
What do you like best about your course so far?
The best part of the course so far has definitely been the variety among the modules, and in particular I am really enjoying both the compulsory quantitative module and my optional module in International Negotiation. These classes are really focused on developing practical skills in things like analysing data, coding and negotiating, and this broader skill set is exactly what I was hoping to get out of this masters program. I am also looking forward to term two, particularly the modules specific to the EPP course, which involve lectures taught by industry professionals and a trip to the European institutions in Brussels.
What advice would you give to overseas students wanting to study in the UK?
As someone who did a study abroad year during their undergraduate degree, I could not recommend the general experience of studying in another country more. I think UCL would be a particularly great place for an international student especially if you’ve never lived abroad before because the student population is so diverse, everyone has been very welcoming and you have the additional benefit of communities of international students both informally and represented through official societies. On a more practical level however, my advice would be to explore accommodation options as early as possible as this can take some time to organise.
Would you recommend your programme to prospective students and why?
I would definitely recommend MSc European Politics and Policy to anyone interested in studying the EU. It has allowed me to develop my specific interest in European politics, but the flexibility of the optional module selection has meant that I can also benefit from studying other areas within the political science department more broadly. As a student coming from a background in the humanities, I have also found that the content is the right balance between challenging/engaging and accessible to those new to the political science field. So far, the experience has definitely exceeded my expectations and I think this was definitely the right decision for me.
What are your career aspirations and how do you envisage your master’s helping with these?
Deciding to shift my focus and gain an understanding of European politics was definitely influenced by my interest in exploring career opportunities in government/policy related roles. Whilst the content of the course will hopefully provide me with the knowledge and skills to more confidently apply for such positions, through UCL I have also had the opportunity to interact with organisations and professionals with experience/links to my areas of interest. Beyond this though, I think one of the most valuable aspects so far has been studying alongside likeminded students with similar career goals. I have really appreciated the opportunity to learn from my peers, discuss important topics in informal settings and be exposed to a collection of different insights and perspectives, something which I think will definitely benefit me moving forward.