I already have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Political Science from the University of Delhi. When I did my undergraduate degree, I was inspired by my professors to pursue academia. During my masters at the University of Delhi, I realised that my focus was moving towards analysis of conflict. So I decided to pursue another Master’s that focused on peace and conflict studies.
I chose a two-year programme because I wanted more time to learn how to write and how to take the next step in academia. When I came to Kent, it was the first time I’d studied in the UK and it’s been a brilliant experience.
It’s unusual to find a Master’s programme on peace and conflict, particularly one that enables you to study in two countries. The programme at Kent had some of the best professors in the field. And I had the flexibility to diversify into aspects of sociology and philosophy, which are very important to understanding peace and conflict.
The Resistance in Practice module, taught by Dr Iain MacKenzie, was absolutely brilliant.
It was about alternative and critical perspectives into politics. Dr MacKenzie has that perfect balance between being a good listener and a great leader. Every time someone made a good point or gave their own critical perspective, he was able to absorb that into what we were studying.
The class was very diverse, with people from around the world.
We were always bringing our own perspective into the discussions, which really enhanced what we got out of it. At the end of it we went to the Tate Exchange, which I helped to organise: we went to Tate Modern gallery in London and each had a platform to present a critical piece of art.
I’m an international student and the University made it extremely easy for me to make the transition to studying in a foreign country. The first few weeks can be the most traumatic when you move to a new place, but in the case of Kent they were absolutely smooth.
We had the opportunity to meet the staff from the School in the first week. The course structure, the modules and our options were explained to us.
Kent has a very good online system with respect to modules and exams, and they also record the lectures. That really helped my transition from the Indian education system to the UK.
I got involved with extracurricular activities such as salsa. Studying at postgraduate level is hectic and you’re always under pressure to perform. Being able to go to a salsa class once a week helped me focus and rejuvenate. I also started learning German which has been very helpful.
And I worked for Books2Africa, a charity, which collects books from different schools in Canterbury and ships them to Africa. I did fundraising, interviews and categorising books. It was one of the most enhancing and enriching experiences I’ve had.
It’s a fairly small group, a mixture of German and international students. This year there have been more women than men. Usually, conflict analysis and international relations is a male-dominated field. The fact that we have so many women has changed the dynamic and the way we approach issues.
Because we have a lot of international students from outside of the EU, like myself, that’s helped the European students understand things from an international perspective. And for international students like me, it was a great support to study with students from Europe. We are a tight-knit group and had a fabulous time at Kent and now at Marburg.
Marburg is a beautiful town. It’s in central Germany so it’s close to Frankfurt, Bonn and Berlin: you can go to these amazing, historic cities. There’s lots going on at the University, and a Conflict Studies centre which has a film group showing alternative movies.
The way you learn at Marburg is a quite different from Kent – there’s a looser structure. That’s a nice contrast with Kent because we can concentrate on our dissertations or, for some people, job and internship opportunities.
At Kent, I got the opportunity to work at the Centre for Critical Thought as a researcher over the summer break. I organised an international conference, we did the Tate Exchange and I’m now working on a research paper with Dr MacKenzie. Two of my colleagues on the same programme worked for the Conflict Analysis Research Centre (CARC) and they said great things about the literature they had access to and the seminars they were organising.
I’ve just been awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship at Kent, to come back and study for my PhD there. I’ll be working with Dr MacKenzie and Dr Ansorg on conflict analysis in postcolonial societies. It’s a dream come true and, unless I had been at Kent, I don’t think I would have had the academic and emotional capabilities to believe I could do it.
Academically, I’ve had the opportunity to do so much more than I was allowed to do back home in India, with respect to the knowledge I was gaining. I’ve been able to be part of different critical projects that allowed me to reanalyse what conflict means, what conflict analysis means. I think that was really important for me. I was in the room with some of the best minds of our time. I learned by just being in the same room as some of my colleagues and professors.
Personally, it was a big change for me. Living in two countries in two years has changed me. I know how to handle myself better personally, professionally and academically. It’s really added to my personal growth and has been a fundamental experience.
Arshita was interviewed for this profile in February 2019.