“Being able to study beyond the strict boundary of my degree in to something such as a language has helped me to expand my knowledge of both politics and international relations.”

Queen Mary Politics & International Relations student, and Turing Grant recipient, Alastair Boland takes a look at the career aspects that an exchange can provide…

Hello everyone! My name is Alastair Boland, and I am a third-year student at Queen Mary University of London currently doing a year abroad at George Washington University. I study politics and international relations, so a year abroad right in the heart of Washington D.C. seemed like a natural choice!

My exchange abroad has been fantastic for my career prospects and the insights I want to have. Looking to go into the security profession, the range of minds of political and cultural matters I’ve experienced from studying abroad so far has given me a better insight into these fields.

Whilst there is a tendency to look at the United States as rather insular and isolated due to its sheer size, there are several professionals and academics who have an international perspective. My ‘Gender, Conflict, and Security’ module, for example, is taught by a former member of the CIA who specialises in counter-extremism in the Middle East. The insights that Professor Farhana Qazi provides on the political dimensions of gender and war help to give a focus, yet broad perspective on how it impacts security.

I’ve also had the opportunity to study intensive Chinese language courses in the USA with native teachers. Being able to study beyond the strict boundary of my degree into something such as a language has helped me to expand my knowledge of both politics and international relations. Being able to appreciate the language and culture of the second largest economy in the world is something that is invaluable to my studies more broadly.

Being in the USA isn’t all about work though! I have plenty of experiences of culture and fun activities. Wandering around the National Mall, pondering, is definitely something of a unique experience! However, one of my favourite experiences has been going to a jazz club in Washington D.C. I’ve always been a fan of music, and if you’re like me, this alone will make the exchange worthwhile!

The Turing Scheme has helped me to come to the USA and supplement my academic studies. Being able to pay for medical insurance, for example, has been one of the big up-lifts that the Turing Grant has given me. It has allowed me to explore both the professional and, shall we say, “culturally inquisitive” parts of myself!

I would highly recommend anyone to go on a year abroad, whether it be at George Washington University or any other programme. I did spend a lot of time thinking about where I wanted to go; whilst a year abroad anyway is informative and fun, it is definitely something that you want to make the most of!


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