Ruya Ozkaya studied on the BA in Politics and International Relations with a year in North America and returned from spending a year at the University of Maryland College Park, Maryland. Ruya talks to us about her course and her experience on the year abroad.
Why did you choose your course?
“Initially during high school, I had no intentions of studying Politics and International Relations. What made me change my mind was an international programme that I attended, called Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship, where I represented my country Cyprus in the United States for a month in 2014. During that programme I had the chance to take classes concerning international relations at the Wake Forest University in North Carolina and have realized that I had a passion for learning politics, and that I was inspired and motivated that I could perhaps become an important figure within my community and have a part in solving the Cyprus Conflict one day. I am currently in my final year and so far I could say that my experience in studying this course honestly could not have been better.”
What made you decide to go on a year abroad?
“Growing up, my dad has always been a role model in my life, and hearing about his university memories in the United States made it a part of my dream to once study there as well. Eventually, the programme I had got into in 2014 gave me the opportunity to go to the U.S., but I always had the intention to go back one more time for a ‘Year Abroad’. That way, I could experience both the British and the American education systems, observe their differences, and strengthen my abilities and experience in the field.”
How was your year abroad?
“I went to University of Maryland College Park in Maryland, United States of America. I was considered as a ‘junior’ level in Government and Politics, and stayed at the campus of UMD. My year abroad was definitely ‘self-explorative’. I believe that this was a once in a lifetime experience for me to not only learn more about my course, but to also get to know myself better. In terms of taking a step into the real world and taking up responsibilities, the year abroad experience has definitely taught me to become even more independent in an environment that I was definitely not familiar with. The classes that I was taking were taught in a much different style than I was used to in the UK, making it a very interesting and exciting learning experience for me. I made international friends as well as American friends, travelled to Boston, New York and Toronto.”
Any advice you would give to students going on a year abroad?
“I would advise everyone to take this year as an opportunity. And be prepared. Especially for those who would be living in campus – the American campus life is a lot different than the British one. I was sharing a room for instance, which is something that I have realised afterwards that I would not have preferred if I had been aware of the challenges. When it comes to socialising, do not be afraid of introducing yourself to people. If you can, try to travel around and see places that was definitely a highlight of my overall experience. With regards to education, try to observe how the American system differs and what extra skills and knowledge you can gain, which you would not have had the chance in the UK. The classes have definitely taught me to develop an ‘American perspective’ on politics, both domestic and foreign. I also took a language class – Greek – while I was there, because why not? “
What skills has your year abroad given you?
“My year abroad experience has provided me with skills of adapting to new learning environments with different learning techniques, expanding my knowledge beyond what I have already gained in the UK and really helping me to take up a different perspective towards politics from the eyes of one of the strongest countries in the world, the United States. I have also developed skills in terms of building new friendships and seizing the opportunities to make the best of my limited time there.”
What kind of career do you hope to follow?
“Having studied at a prestigious American university and having taken courses there that I have not taken before in the UK, I hope will give me an advantage when seeking jobs. My career path right now is not totally clear as I hope to continue with my postgraduate course after my graduation. However, I am hoping that I would be able to continue with working on conflict resolution and foreign policy as these are two of my major interest areas, and I hope that I could contribute to solving the problems of my home country one day.”