International Relations Personal Statement

Many people speak of days and events that change the world in a matter of seconds, and in modern times, 9/11 is surely accredited as being such a day. The resultant political hysteria caught my attention and having scarcely watched the news previously, the nature of politics on an international scale became a fascination. The attacks raised many questions about the effect of both present and future Western foreign policy, and such vital issues caused me to question and view the world in a new light. It soon became evident that the actions, reactions and interactions of government could affect not just the lives of the few, but of the entire of humanity. I strongly believe that a subject so far-reaching and influential warrants being understood and analysed at a higher level, a feat that I am determined to accomplish.

It was primarily through the emergence of the perceived post-9/11 'terror threat' that has given me the desire to examine the political climate domestically and globally. One of the foremost issues, the plight of human rights against the supposed 'threat of terrorism' is a topic that I would like to deepen my understanding of, particularly after reading 'Human Rights in Global Politics' by Tim Dunne and Nicholas J. Wheeler, and further researching the issue following the resignation of David Davis in June 2008. I feel passionately that the 'relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms' is something that should be closely monitored, and is a topic that I strongly anticipate studying closely. However my primary interest has, and continues to be, the many aspects of terrorism, largely the 'War on Terror', constriction of civil liberties and its effect upon 'The West' fundamental, democratic principals. This was sparked by my reading of 'Perilous Power' by Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar, within which opinions and statistics were produced which challenged many ideas and theories commonly expressed by the popular media, particularly in regards to US foreign policy.

My choices of A-levels have further reinforced my decision to study international relations at university level, and I have undoubtedly developed many skills which render me well-equipped for the challenges of higher education. I certainly feel that my essay composition skills have advanced significantly, and the increased freedom of topic and structure in A-level essays has allowed me to write in-depth analyses of topics which I could thoroughly research, such as the ethics of religious fundamentalism and terrorism. Furthermore subjects such as geography and business have helped me become more diplomatic when approaching arguments; something which I hope may help to reach desired conclusions in future academic debates.

I believe that my passion for politics and social change is also strongly reflected in my non-academic activities. My shared interest in current affairs and international politics with friends often results in heated debating outside of classes, something that I relish. In addition I have attended several organised debates, including a group discussion with a Tibetan monk on Chinese foreign policy. Additionally, being a senior student has further developed my ambitions for change; a desire underlined by the efforts of myself and a fellow senior student in gathering local politicians to give talks in order to allow students to develop a stronger political compass. Being on a senior student team has also strengthened my teamwork skills, as has my part-time job at Centre Parcs, Longleat, where working in a team is essential to completing assigned tasks. My job has also improved my time-management skills, as balancing academic and non-academic periods is crucial to meeting deadlines, something that I hope will aid me at university. As a questioning, determined and motivated student, the thought of deepening my knowledge and contributing to university life is one that excites me greatly.

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This personal statement was written by MH1230 for application in 2009.

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Degree
International Relations and Modern History at University of St Andrews

MH1230's Comments
The initial draft of this unfortunately poor PS. Any and all feedback welcomed :)

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few notes by thearbiter at 13/09/2008 19:23:55

A few comments which I trust you will read.

The opening paragraph sets the tone of the entire statement, and has an amazing amount of influence. Don't waste it on repeating what's so obvious for a start, and it'd do well to shift the focus onto you (from the very start, as opposed to the second paragraph) and leaving your political philosophy to be built upon that. The first two paragraphs could be compressed into three quarters of its current length easily, or half with some effort, which would work very well in creating space along with being more succinct - which, if the integrity of what content you have is preserved and not reduced, hints at the workings of a very adept mind. So drop the long, winding trail of words.

What would you think of my take of your first few lines of the second paragraph: "It was the post 9/11 threat that so shook the Western world [(and the best laid plans of mice and men in it) if you're a sucker for relevant embodied quotes that a well read person would be familiar, like I am] that aroused in me a desire to examine the political climates across different socioeconomic contexts. I can empathize with the plight of violated human rights, yet weigh that and the 'relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms' against the apotheosis of politics: the stability, that the implemented politics are purported to achieve."

I just made up that, disagree with it all you want, just note the style and the unspoken things that I believe the person who reads your statement will pick up - 1) it's not just endless "I did" "I did that" which must get annoying after reading hundreds of personal statements that are based on just that! Of course it is a personal statement, not an essay, and the use of the first person pronoun is crucial, but try to toss more material into a sentence by extending it seems to make you sound more sophisticated - else I'm hugely deluded, ha.

Secondly, the use of "western world" is probably far more appropriate than implying (by saying nothing) that the entire world is caught up in a post 9/11 fear, as your course is for international relations. Did you know that millions of people cheered as they watched the twin towers collapse, in various parts of the world? They didn't see terrorism; they saw that the country oppressing them was hit back at - and whilst I fully, absolute condemn the 9/11 attacks, don't anyone ever forget that non-single-events, such as economic policies, can give rise to the wealth of nations or lay the road for their ruin. For example, US agricultural subsidies cause millions of tonnes of foodstuffs in African countries to rot as they cannot be sold in the US market - causing the death of millions as children wilt in poverty, and the loss of trillions of potential dollars over any sizable amount of time. The point I'm raising here that it's of utmost importance to know the different opinions pertaining to one issue, and understand their socioeconomic reasons - no need to agree of course, but demonstrating this will definitely impress in a statement for international relations, and especially for an event like 9/11.

Third, it'd be nice to integrate a quote or two if only to add a purple passage. Within reason, appropriate, and subtle - no quotation marks for quotes, they just break the flow of the piece. I amongst many hate them. Speaking of making things flow, there are long sentences, short sentences, all used appropriately, but I can't comment on that like this.

I made up a little about 'stability' at the end, seeing that many historical wars were fought if only to preserve the status quo - lesser known wars that are not so known to the general public, since they are so overshadowed others of course. It's highly ironic that wars to preserve the status quo of peace were waged, but that's what happened across the world, most notably in Europe in the 17th? 18th? century - I forgot when, I'm just a chemistry student at imperial. Back to my point, it's worth a shot give your say on the philosophy of politics, which you have done for the event of 9/11, but not for the nature of an aspect of politics itself. You know and I know that few people do so at all - and those who aren't capable of it, or omit it, are passing up a chance to impress them with your opinion and showing them you can think deeper than the average person. It also makes a really good change from the typical "little rant on the course I want to apply for here" "little rant on my subjects I do" "some extracurricular things I've done" "my interests" kind of thing - you want to set yourself apart by demonstrating the superiority of your mind and your eloquence through these 47 lines. Never mind if you're not spot on, on the philosophy - few things in politics are absolutes anyways. Of course, if you really have no idea, then ignore what I've said.

Enough of what I wrote. Reduce the A level's stuff. Talk instead about distinctions in any subjects you may have achieved if you can, what you've done outside e.g. for yours "I've learnt to essay on a variety of subjects complementary to international relations, such the huge impacts of religion and a state's geography on its politics/IR". Never make yourself sound mundane here, out of all: everyone is a student, and it's better to say nothing than risk making yourself sound like an average student who does average stuff. Stand out. Really can't do that? You like IR, you'll know politics, you'll know how to emphasize certain things and leave out others!

I certainly agree with the first comment that your last paragraph has a lot of good material, and could be better placed elsewhere - it's the getting involved with the community bit that really sells you. For as far as courses go, few unis are eager to jump at someone who contributes very little to society - perhaps in the more academic subjects, they may be more lenient as compared to a subject that requires hands-on participation such as international relations!

There's a lot more which I've decided I can't be bothered saying, I hope this helps, and don't be afraid to reject all my ideas. I'm writing this for the sake and in the hope that others will see this and refer it to their friends. Lastly, it's worth spending dozens of hours into this, if not even more: what's a few days work compared to many years gained or lost simply by which uni you get into? It is, yes, but one step of many, but a crucial one at that, and I wish you all, all the best.

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hey by guest at 13/09/2008 19:42:14

I like this PS :D it's engaging. It'll be fantastic once you change things here and there. I'm in no position to comment as I am applying for Politics this year :)

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Comment by guest at 06/12/2008 16:39:39

its a real good statment :)

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Comment by guest at 15/12/2008 09:53:12

it is very good, i dont think it needs much changing, have you had any offers or anything yet?

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