SOAS University of London

Marta Corti

I chose SOAS to study the MA International Studies and Diplomacy because the course is truly one of a kind. When searching for Masters courses, I could not find a similar one anywhere in the UK, let alone a better one!

MA International Studies and Diplomacy
I chose SOAS to study the MA International Studies and Diplomacy because the course is truly one of a kind. When searching for Masters courses, I could not find a similar one anywhere in the UK, let alone a better one!

It’s a unique MA in that it combines theoretical and practical learning. We have lectures and seminars, like all traditional courses, but during the second semester one of our modules is completely made up of practical workshops. We have been trained in negotiation, transformative mediation and speech writing by diplomats, professional mediators and other practitioners. We have also had media training with BBC presenters. To top all this, as part of the degree, we also went on a week-long study tour to the UN in Geneva, where some of us chaired panel discussions with diplomats and UN staff from various agencies and departments. I chaired a panel discussion for OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and met several inspiring people. I have also represented SCRAP, SOAS’ disarmament research project at a nuclear disarmament civil society conference in Vienna. The degree is very intense and demanding, but it has been absolutely amazing so far. 

There are over a hundred people on my programme, but we’ve become a close-knit community and I think that the physical spaces and opportunities of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy have contributed to this. I feel very fortunate and privileged to have met so many great people on the course. I have learnt a lot from my classmates and I trust that the friendships that we have formed this year will last a lifetime.

Being part of the CISD has also meant being offered additional extracurricular opportunities. For instance, the Centre has 4 research programmes that students can get involved in and some students also intern at the SOAS radio.

I have also been pleased with the quality of teaching. Lectures are engaging and seminars thought-provoking. I like the fact that we always apply the theory to current, real events and that the teachers push us to think outside the box and challenge our preconceptions.

A special mention should go to the SOAS language entitlement programme. I have always had a passion for languages and I am now fluent in 4 European languages. I thought that coming to SOAS would be a great opportunity for broadening my linguistic horizons and pick up a non-European language. In particular, I wanted to study Arabic and I thought SOAS was THE place to take up Arabic. Thanks to the free language tuition offered by SOAS as part of every Masters course, I’ve been learning Arabic since October and I’m hoping to be able to continue learning it even after my degree.

Student profile interview questions

How did you find out about SOAS?

I already knew about SOAS from friends who had previously applied to study here, but I rediscovered it when a friend told me about the Masters I am currently pursuing. She told me that she had got an offer for the Masters and described the course, which got me interested in finding out more about it.

What made you choose to study your chosen degree programme at SOAS?

The course itself, because it’s one of a kind. When searching for Masters courses, I could not find a similar one anywhere in the UK, let alone a better one! It’s a unique MA in that it combines theoretical and practical learning. We have lectures and seminars, like all traditional courses, but during the second semester one of our modules is completely made up of practical workshops. We have been trained in negotiation, transformative mediation and speech writing by diplomats, professional mediators and other practitioners. Moreover, we have also had media training with BBC presenters. To top all this, as part of the degree, we also went on a week-long study tour to the UN in Geneva, where some of us chaired panel discussions with diplomats and UN staff from various agencies and departments. The degree is very intense and demanding, but it has been absolutely amazing so far. 

How would you describe your time at SOAS?

As my Masters is only a year long, I have only been at SOAS for a short period of time. I think I would describe my time here as extremely busy and intense. It has flown by really quickly but I have enjoyed every minute of it.

How would characterise SOAS and the typical SOAS student?

SOAS is an extremely diverse and multicultural university, so it’s difficult to describe the ‘typical’ SOAS student. Everyone I have met here is unique and carries with them a different set of ideas and past experiences. I guess that what holds us all together is the combination of a very international outlook, a high degree of political awareness, and a desire to have a tangible impact in the world through our words and actions. 

How would you describe the course/programme of study/department?

It’s superb. I have loved the unique combination of theoretical and practical learning, and I feel that this MA has greatly contributed to broadening my skill set, as well as my knowledge. A great thing about my degree is that it is offered by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD), a specialised centre within SOAS. Being part of the Centre, my classmates and I have to the CISD’s private study room within the main building. It’s great for studying, doing group work and…eating the odd cake. Plus, it has a great view over London! We’re over 100 on my programme, but we’ve become a close-knit community fairly quickly and I think that the physical spaces and opportunities of our Centre have contributed to this. I feel very fortunate and privileged to have met so many great people on this MA. I have learnt a lot from my classmates and I trust that the friendships that we have formed this year will last a lifetime. Being part of the CISD has also meant being offered additional extracurricular opportunities. For instance, the Centre has 4 research programmes that students can get involved in and some students also intern at the SOAS radio. A final note should be about the lecturers and tutors who have taught me this year. I have been pleased with the quality of teaching. Lectures are engaging and seminars thought-provoking. I like the fact that we always apply the theory to current, real events and that teachers push us to think outside the box and challenge our preconceptions.

What is it like to live and study in London? 

I love living in London! I had come here as a tourist several times before, but living in London is a very different experience. It’s a hectic city and living in central London is a bit noisy, because there is always something going on, but I am really enjoying it here. I love strolling through Bloomsbury to go to SOAS or cycling there. I find it really relaxing.

What is your fondest memory of your time at SOAS? 

Do you have a story or anecdote from your SOAS experience? I don’t have a fondest memory of SOAS because I’m very fond of the whole year I’ve spent here. However, I have a couple of anecdotes that I will always remember. At the beginning of the year, I went to one of the SOAS parties with some friends. It was a fun night because we left SOAS together with a large group of other students and we all followed Sambatage, SOAS’s Samba band, dancing to the rhythm of their music until the venue.
Another experience I will always treasure is the study-tour to Geneva, where I chaired a panel discussion for OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and met several inspiring people. I will also always remember representing SCRAP, SOAS’ disarmament NGO at a nuclear disarmament civil society conference in Vienna.

What do you think makes SOAS unique?

I think of SOAS as an organised chaos. The university is pretty disorganised but, at the end of the day, everything still manages to run smoothly. Within this organised chaos, there is also the beating heart of SOAS, its Students’ Union. The SU works hard to represent SOAS students and campaign on the issues they care about. I doubt that many universities can claim to be as politically active as SOAS.

What impact has SOAS had on your life and outlook? 

SOAS has brought many incredible people into my life and given me opportunities that will have hopefully opened a few doors for my future.

What next? What are your plans for the future? 

I would like to become an international civil servant and pursue a diplomatic career. Wherever life leads me, I want my work to have a tangible impact and make a positive difference in other people’s lives.

What does it mean to you personally to be part of the SOAS community? 

I actually feel more part of the CISD community within the larger SOAS community. In the CISD I have found a strong sense of collegiality and unity

Do you have any tips or advice for students applying to SOAS?

It’s really important to make an informed choice when thinking of applying to university. A general advice I would give any prospective student is to research both the course and the university well, in order to find out what the course truly will really entail. Try to picture yourself at university studying that course. Make sure you follow your aspirations and gut feelings, because you won’t regret your choice. It’s what I did for my Masters and this is exactly why I haven’t regretted a single moment of this intense, demanding Masters.

Describe SOAS in 3 words. 

Diverse, socio-politically active, colourful.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your course, department or student experience? 

A special mention should go to the SOAS language entitlement. I have always had a passion for languages and I am now fluent in 4 European languages. I thought that coming to SOAS would be a great opportunity for broadening my linguistic horizons and pick up a non-European language. In particular, I wanted to study Arabic and I thought SOAS was THE place to take up Arabic. Thanks to the free language tuition offered by SOAS as part of our course, I’ve been learning Arabic since October and I’m hoping to be able to continue learning it even after my degree