International Relations: Finding my place in a subject I love
I had an epiphany that my heart lay in politics and international relations, not the biomedical sciences I'd been studying, around the time of my A-level results. If I was going to study a subject I loved, I was going to have to apply through Clearing.
I rang university after university, where they would say "no, we've just given our last place away," or "no, no, no, we can't give you a place, you're a science student." But then, with just half an hour to go before the lines closed, Portsmouth said yes.
Now, I have a first-class degree in International Relations and Languages, and a fully-funded place on the MPhil in Development Studies at Cambridge, one of the most competitive Master's courses in the UK.
Portsmouth, politics and international relations
I'd never been to Portsmouth, but I did have an army of family and friends in Nigeria who were there for me through Clearing. One of my cousin's friends lived in Portsmouth, and volunteered to run out and take videos of the city, to help me decide. I watched, and I said yes, and I've never looked back.
What I found in Portsmouth was a multidisciplinary course that pulled information from so many areas. It widened my scope so that I feel I have a more rounded understanding of the world than my peers with a single paradigm, a single viewpoint. I could take modules from other disciplines, so I brought what I learned in International Development into my International Relations work, and vice versa.
I found incredible lecturers who permitted me – encouraged me – to decolonise an imperial subject, and who were interested in learning about the theories I’d been reading and hearing what I had to say. I felt like my voice mattered, even when I didn’t quite have the words to say things quite right yet. This is what made Portsmouth special for me, we were all learning from each other.
Clearing feels like the end of the world, but to those going through it, you’re so much more than your grades. This is a single moment in your life. You will survive and thrive.
Give people their roses
I want to give roses to three women in particular: Isabelle Cheng, Olivia Rutazibwa, and Aishling McMorrow.
My family knows all about these women; my dad asks after Aishling still. I don’t know if lecturers understand the extreme impact they can have on their students, how much they mean to me, but: huge thanks to them. I need to appreciate the women that opened my mind, and pushed me to where I am.
Isabelle was my personal tutor, and my rock throughout my study. She was the first person to tell me I might want to do a Master’s, and the first person to tell me I was good enough to be able to.
Working with Olivia for a year, I felt like I flourished. We could bring anything into her methods – YouTube videos, documentaries, and especially poems. One of Olivia’s early sessions began from a poem by Robbie Shiliam, which satirised the way colonisation gets painted as a beneficial mission, rather than the brutal force it was. International Relations can become overcomplicated and theory-packed, but Olivia’s use of the poem sparked a conversation that brought us directly to the heart of the subject. It was a great way to start a class, particularly when everyone was just back from holidays and hadn’t really done the reading. Everyone felt they could speak about the poem, and the class blossomed from there.
Aishling’s first lecture on Decolonising Thought left me so moved I cried when I got home. I wrote a huge email telling Aishling so, and she later told me that email kept her going through the year too. We had a space where each of us made the other able to be bolder. So, by my second year, I was able to produce information that already felt useful to the world, and by the end of my third I was ready to push on into an academic career.
I recall, at the time of my A-level results, thinking I'm interested in politics, I love to read, and all my books are about politics, but I couldn't see anyone doing what I wanted to do. Representation matters so much.
Go with your heart
I went with my heart, which opened my mind, and now I get to put all that into my Master's in International Development Studies. I made friends who are doing their further studies at SOAS and at UCL, and I’m really proud of them doing so well. I’ve got plans to study my PhD, and then I’d like to work in women’s and girls' education back in Nigeria. I’d definitely tell people: go with your heart about what you want to study.