Continuing our series of interviews with SOAS alumni, we speak to MA International Studies and Diplomacy graduate, Alexandra MacAulay Abdelwahab about her time at SOAS, and where it took her.
Hi Alexandra! So what made you choose SOAS as a place to study?
I first learned about SOAS through taking a free, online diplomacy course offered by SOAS through Coursera.org. Having grown up in Canada, I had not heard of SOAS prior to this. I really enjoyed the diplomacy course, which was designed by Simon Rofe and after completing the lessons, I saw that SOAS offered an MA in International Studies and Diplomacy. After researching the programme a bit more, I was particularly interested in the practical elements of the program: the negotiation and media training and the study tours to the United Nations. I had also previously lived in London for a year and was looking forward to moving back.
What made you decide to study your programme?
I took the Master of Arts in International Studies and Diplomacy because I wanted to pivot my career. I had spent the previous five years working in journalism and communications and was interested in getting into Canada’s foreign service. Just prior to applying to SOAS, I had spent a year working in Georgetown, Guyana and I got to learn a lot about working internationally. My undergraduate degree was in journalism and I had worked as a daily reporter, so I thought that completing a master’s would be the best way to change careers.
How did you enjoy the programme?
Overall, I thought the International Studies and Diplomacy programme offered a great mix of theoretical grounding and practical instruction. I also loved having the chance to connect with students from all around the world. In fact, I think it was the people that I met through the programme that was my favourite part. I know that I have made some life-long friends.
And where are you working now?
I am working for Global Affairs Canada, that is Canada’s Department of International Affairs, Trade and Development, in the Office of Protocol. I am currently based in Ottawa, Canada, but I’m hoping that this career will see me posted around the world.
What is your job title? Tell us about your role.
My title is Advisor, Privileges and Immunities and I work as part of a team who is responsible for managing Canada’s practical compliance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations for diplomats and foreign representatives accredited to Canada. As part of my day-to-day job, I manage a number of programs related to the privileges and immunities guaranteed under both conventions.
What would you say to other students thinking about studying at SOAS?
The best thing about SOAS is that it brings together people from around the world. This is particularly important when pursuing a MA in International Studies and Diplomacy because your classmates will likely be the diplomats of the future and learning from their experiences enhances the work in the classroom. It is also a very unique opportunity to get so much practical training during a master’s degree. There is the chance to participate in study tours at the United Nations and other large international organisations, and to do training in negotiation, mediation and media interview response. The whole experience is invaluable.