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US Postgraduate Testimonial Series: MA in International Relations

Name: St John (SJ) Leck

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Cincinnati – Accounting & English Literature

Postgraduate Program at UCC (and focus if possible!): MA in International Relations 

Career Aspirations: Government career within either the State Department, Intelligence Community, or Treasury Department.

What about this postgraduate experience has been the most rewarding and/or eye-opening for you thus far? – The most rewarding experience thus far has been the opportunity to overcome, both academically and socially, the exposure to a different culture & continent where I knew nobody, was stepping into an entirely new field of study, and was leaving behind the comfort of friends & family. In doing so, I have put fears to bed by facing the unknown and have been engulfed in a new social circle that I never knew was possible. I have traveled to Romania with new-found friends from Ireland, France, and Malta; I have explored the southern coast of Portugal by myself and I was able to delve into the romantic city of Málaga in Spain with my girlfriend. With an American perspective, I have been thrown into political conversations and debates with citizens from Iran, the UK, and Latvia, who have opened my eyes to new opinions, ideologies, and theories, while also strengthening beliefs and pride in my own country, the United States. All of these experiences have only been possible because of the decision to pursue an MA in an international setting.

What about this postgraduate experience has been the most challenging for you thus far? How did you overcome or how are you working to overcome this challenge? – The isolation. The isolation the first month or two is brutal. Most everything is new: currency, transportation, language barriers and customs, and it is essentially on you to figure it out. Your friends & family are an ocean away, hanging out and getting together, enjoying holidays…you’re missing it all. However, technology helps a lot with this, either through Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc., because you’re still connected in a way, though it’s not quite the same, it still helps the transition. But, this isolation has led to a growth that is beyond anything a classroom can teach you. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn how to live internationally on your own, what you truly like and what you don’t, and then you start hanging out with people from class, grabbing pints, coffee, or food; you realize the similarities and appreciate the differences. Their friends become your friends, and soon enough, you’re meeting up and doing things all the time, laughing and having the craic. It really is a beautiful thing.

Beyond your postgraduate experience, in what activities, clubs, societies, etc. are you involved?– Honestly, I didn’t join any clubs or societies, however, I spent a lot of time traveling around Ireland and Europe via bus, train, car, and airplane. That’s taken up a majority of my time, on top of the academic requirements, but I have been exposed to an incredible amount of new scenery and situations.  

If you could give future postgraduate students in your program one piece of advice, what would it be? – Be uncomfortable. Say yes to situations you wouldn’t normally want to do and explore on your own. Get out, and it’s okay to make a fool of yourself, the Irish are incredibly nice and understanding. 

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