In this post, we hear from some of our recently graduated students who participated in last year’s alumni-funded Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (UGRA), run by the Department of International Relations. The scheme offers second and third year undergraduates in the Department a paid opportunity to assist a faculty member with an ongoing research project. The interns tell us about why they applied for the scheme, and how it has helped them to develop.
Sebastian Vandermeersch (BSc International Relations with French, 2021)
Internship with Dr Jürgen Haacke, focussing on researching the forces shaping the UK’s Indo-Pacific Strategy
I applied for the IR Department’s Undergraduate Research Internship scheme due to my desire to gain practical first-hand experience in examining the sources of foreign policy. My project, which sought to understand the origins of the UK’s “Indo-Pacific tilt”, was of particular interest to me due to its contemporary post-Brexit nature. Accordingly, my research entailed the examination of publications by a range of foreign policy influencers, including those by parliamentary committees, think tanks and the Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
In terms of personal development, working on this project enabled me to develop a deep understanding of the multi-faceted process through which foreign policies, and national strategies more broadly, are shaped and implemented. The experience of publishing an academic article in LSE’s International Relations blog has also been extremely useful in my role as Research Assistant for the Fund For Peace (FFP), where my work consists of writing reports in a similar practical and concise nature. Overall, the opportunity provided through the UGRA scheme motivated me to pursue further research-based work in the international relations field. This has led me to my current role at the FFP, an NGO think-tank which produces policy-recommendations to increase security in fragile states.
Working on this project enabled me to develop a deep understanding of the multi-faceted process through which foreign policies, and national strategies more broadly, are shaped and implemented.
Joss Harrison, (BSc International Relations, 2021)
Internship with Dr Cindy May on US foreign policy
I applied for the IR Department’s Undergraduate Research Internship scheme because it struck me as an opportunity to enhance my analytical skills, to form a relationship with a member of faculty, and to learn more about a specific topic relating to international relations.
Although the IR Department was able to offer a tantalising and diverse range of research projects, I immediately gravitated towards the one led by Dr Cindy May, which focused on US foreign policy. In this role, I analysed around 4,500 primary source documents from the Carter and Reagan administrations. Specifically, I was instructed to look for evidence as to whether there was a sense in these two administrations that the US was in decline. I also helped to edit a journal submission and a book manuscript focusing on US use of force decisions.
Participating in this project, under the patient, insightful and generous guidance of Dr May, helped me to develop a number of critical skills. In particular, I developed a closer attention to detail, as analysing primary sources requires an ability to read documents at a truly granular level. I also gained a much stronger understanding of the rules, processes and conventions of academic writing.
Currently, I am back at LSE as a graduate intern with the Phelan US Centre. I credit the IR Department’s Research Internship scheme, in part, for my decision to apply for this role, as it helped me to feel that I can genuinely belong in an academic environment. I am having a wonderful experience working in the Phelan US Centre, so the role that the IR Department played in getting me here is something that I am massively grateful for.
I gained a much stronger understanding of the rules, processes and conventions of academic writing.
Read more about the professional development opportunities the Department of International Relations offers to current students.
The Undergraduate Research Internship scheme is funded by LSE alumni donations: if you’d like to donate to LSE, please find out more and make a donation.