Student Stories

The story of a Chevening scholar

Although studying seems like a natural progression for Natalie, doing her Masters in London changed her perspective entirely!

Natalie Shobana Ambrose
Studied in School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London Masters in International Studies and Diplomacy

There are many factors to consider when choosing a university and it can be very daunting.  My first degree was part of a natural progression – after secondary school, you go to college and then to university and join the workforce.  That was always the plan, and the path I willingly and happily followed.

A few years into working life as a young professional, it became clear that I needed to head back to university, this time for a more targeted reason, a specialisation not just to be better qualified on paper but to gain knowledge in my chosen field. I received the Chevening Scholarship and started looking at various International Relations programmes offered by the different British universities.

My journey in choosing to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was based on a few factors. I was a mature student, I wanted more than book experience, I needed a more practical course and I wanted study in a university that understands my Malaysian and Southeast Asian context. As a policy analyst, it was important that the course provide not just academic knowledge but professional skills training. 

So I went about looking at the different International Relations courses offered and found that the Masters programme offered by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD)  suited me best as it was not only academic but provided the practical components I wanted.

The programme brought together people and educators who are world class experts from the British foreign ministry who taught us real life practical negotiation and mediating skills through simulation exercises. The programme also engaged people with production experience from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to train us to be coherent in front of the camera and provided other skills related to media and press training. It was nerve-wrecking at times but it was also extremely valuable to learn in a safe environment with experts correcting and giving us feedback.

Having never been formally trained in economics or law at the degree level, two of the core subjects offered at CISD were International Law and International Politics which allowed us to understand the mechanics of the political economy of globalisation and public international law with an emphasis on critical perspectives and current issues and controversies. The course also provided skills needed for the development of policy analysis linking it to networking opportunities with a study trip to Geneva to engage with the United Nations institutions, other international bodies and members of the international diplomatic service.

While this might sound like a plug for the Masters in International Studies and Diplomacy, studying in London meant interacting with an international city which provides strong academic support in terms of access to books, and resources from the University of London, the British Library, Senate house and in my field access to the Royal Institute of International Affairs,  Chatham House.

Outside of the university there are galleries, parks, restaurants, live music venues and London’s West End to name a few things I enjoyed. What I appreciated about London was the access to the world in one city. The university brought together people of different experiences, exposure, thinking and nationalities.  So not only were we able to network with people from different countries in one city, we made lasting friendships and learnt from each other. That itself is invaluable.

School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London
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