Chukwuemeka Oko-Otu

International Conflict Analysis MA

Come to Kent, you won’t regret it because you’ll have a great experience!

Why did you choose to come to Kent?

I am very interested in conflict studies and Kent has a good reputation in this area and is home to the Conflict Analysis Research Centre. I also wanted to study in the UK to have a blend of international background and experience as an upcoming scholar. The Commonwealth scholarship finally afforded me this opportunity.

Have you been studying in Canterbury?

Yes, I arrived at Kent on October 17 2020. At the start of the program, two of my courses were held face to face but all moved online following the increasing cases of covid 19 in the UK

How is the course going?

So far it's been very interesting. I think the University has handled the move to online learning very well. The online classes were excellent, well designed, such that we could all participate and discuss issues as would have been done in a face to face class. Our simulation classes on negotiation and mediation were conducted online and the person who organised the course made a real effort, creating breakout rooms so that we could negotiate among ourselves.

The only disadvantage was that we didn’t have the opportunity to meet each other in person and even when we were able to go to class, we couldn’t greet each other properly because of social distancing.

What has been your favourite module?

The module on negotiation and mediation was an excellent one. The course materials were enough, clear and understandable, but most importantly it was a practical course, so we actually had the experience of negotiating. Everyone had a role to play, we had to study our brief, then working as members of a team negotiate with another team either trying to settle a conflict on behalf of another party or negotiating directly with another party. Alternatively, I played the role of an international observer in some of the mediation. We all dressed in suits, as we would in the real world, but then sat in our rooms; it was strange. It was a different kind of experience but the skills we developed will be useful in all sorts of environments. I really enjoyed it; I’m sure everyone did.

Another module that I found very interesting was terrorism and crimes of the state and security in a changing world. We were allowed to design our own questions and taught how to write a paper of publishable quality, policy briefs and conflict mapping. It was challenging but the comments I received were very encouraging; while my lecturers didn’t necessarily agree with some of my conclusions, they commended me on a well-written piece. I’ve kept in touch with most of them and some have agreed to support me going forward in my career.

What do you think of the teaching on your course?

I think our lecturers have made a real effort to make the content and delivery engaging. They listen to feedback too, so the modules improve.

What about your fellow students?

It was a different experience because a lot of my classmates studied from their own countries. So I’ve only met a few face to face, we hang out sometimes, it’s nice, we had a drink on my birthday.

What do you think of the campus?

The library is very well-designed, luxurious! I discovered the postgraduate study room and got the books I needed and spent my time studying there because it was quiet and easier to focus.

Do you think there's good support at Kent for postgraduate students?

Yes, the Student Learning Advisory Service provides excellent support to help you improve your essay writing. I met with the careers service too to discuss my cv and career opportunities. In my school, we were invited to attend meetings and conferences and to hear external speakers present their work.

What do you think is the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate study?

I think at the undergraduate level it's about discovery, you’re trying something out to see if it’s what you want to do. While at postgraduate level you know what you want to do, you’re fascinated by a particular area and you get to study it in great depth.

What do you plan to do next?

I have always been fascinated by academia and want to work in that area so I plan to do a PhD. I’ve been publishing papers so I’m on track and I’ve been offered a place at Kent but I need to secure funding.

I would also be interested in non-academic roles such as working with NGOs in peace and conflict areas. In the future I’m interested in setting up a Centre for Conflict Studies in my country; I met Professor Mark Anstey who taught the module on Negotiation and Mediation, and he has given me a couple of contacts who might be able to help with that. I really want to put into practice the skills I've learnt at Kent. I am grateful to the commonwealth commission and the University of Kent for offering me a scholarship to study conflict.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of coming to Kent to study?

I would just say come, it's worth it. Kent has a good reputation internationally and the environment is very conducive to learning as there's less distraction than there would be in a big city. So come to Kent, you won’t regret it because you’ll have a great experience!