Studying a Joint Degree at Aberdeen

Andreas Lainer

Some of you might be in exactly the same position as I and will be well aware of the advantages and disadvantages one faces when deciding to study a joint honours degree. After studying at our university for almost three years I think it is fair to say that I have sufficient experience to share my thoughts on this topic with you. 

First of all, I would like to say that I generally like the university’s concept of getting to choose four different courses in the first year of study. For many students from continental Europe this is quite a new und unfamiliar system. Typically, this kind of freedom would not be allowed at most EU universities and one would only be taking courses which are part of one’s main degree. And while some may prefer the European approach, the system at our university gives its students the chance of exploring other of their interests or hobbies in greater depth. I think it should therefore not come as a surprise that plenty of students either change their whole degree or switch to a joint honours program after first year. I am among those students as I had initially enrolled as a Politics and International Relations student and later changed to Economics and IR. My reasons for this were that I enjoyed my first-year Economics courses, but more importantly that I realised that I would rather pursue a career in the political economy than in party politics and I believe that this joint degree is a better way of preparing me for this path.

I did notice that this decision did not hugely impact my second year at university, as I could have technically taken the exact same courses while continuing to study a single honours degree. One thing that I did notice is that switching to Economics and IR had made my quest for finding a payed internship (in continental Europe) over the summer break significantly easier. On the one hand, some employers certainly value a joint degree more and on the other hand I believe it is easier to find internships as an Economics student than as a Politics student as there are simply more of them available. I have previous heard that employers prefer students with a single honours degree, but cannot confirm that from my own experience.

I certainly did notice the difference between single and joint honours last semester, during my first term of third year. I would have been quite keen on taking either the course ‘IR3018: International Security’ or ‘PI3073: The EU: Contemporary Challenges’ but I was unable to do as I could only take one IR course for this semester and this was the compulsory course ‘PI3069: Researching in the 21st Century’.  While there are no other mandatory Politics and International Relations courses in third and forth year one is naturally still fairly limited in the number of courses that one can pick (one each semester) and one might miss out on other very interesting courses as a consequence. I would also like to add that I am, however, very contempt with studying only one course in Economics per term as this allows me to take those courses with more of a focus on the political economy instead to studying economic concepts and graphs which I will most likely never need for the career that I strive to achieve.

In conclusion, I would say that the decision to switch to a joint degree ultimately comes down to the decision if you are willing to trade off a course from your current degree for the opportunity to pick a course from a different subject and the positive as well as negative consequences this brings with it. I believe this decision highly depends on your own interests and career goals.

Guest Blog: Upcoming March Highlights Hostility Issues of Brexit

This post is an article written by our guest blogger Rebecka Durén who is a Swedish journalism student at Newcastle University. Rebecka has interviewed students as well as Dr Anders Widfeldt who is a professor at University of Aberdeen. This interview was conducted closely after our society held an event with Dr Widfeldt and the Nordic society. Rebecka’s article does not represent the views of the society as we are neutral and do not have an opinion.

As  the upcoming People’s Vote march raises unsolved issues of the Brexit negotiations, many Swedish residents are increasingly worried about their ability to stay and continue their studies or work in the UK. Many report even having experienced hostility since the vote to leave in 2016.

Since the details surrounding the deal are still unclear, the potential consequences of what leaving the EU might mean for Swedish residents in the UK is something that is frequently discussed in forums and Facebook-groups. People are asking about their children’s right to stay, for their ability to continue their studies or what this might mean for their career. 

I applied to my university just after the Brexit vote and I remember feeling disheartened and worried. Now, almost two years in, those feelings are as strong as ever and I feel uncertain about any prospects of continuing my career in the UK. Speaking to other Swedish students in the UK a lot of them seem to relate to these worries.

Mitali Singh, a second year law student at the University of Sussex, says she knows a lot of students are frustrated about the vote to leave and the consequences it has left its young voters with. Singh also said she believes that many will choose to move somewhere else to study and pursue a career. 

“London won’t be seen as the international hub as it is seen as today. Working there used to mean you can work anywhere, and I don’t think it will be like that anymore.”

There have even been instances where discriminating comments have been reported from Swedes living around the UK, seemingly as a result of Brexit. Sara*, a mother living in North Yorkshire describes how a man told her to “fuck back off to her own country” when he heard her speaking Swedish to her daughter.

“When I defended myself he started getting out of his car to ‘teach me a lesson’.” she added.

Christine Nilsson Liddle living in Berkshire said: “I had never experienced xenophobia directed at me until the day after the Brexit vote, when I was told off with a number of swearwords to learn the language or get out of here”.

Teaming up with the Independent’s campaign Final SayPeople’s Vote aims to ‘make political leaders sit up and take notice’ according to their website. The march wants to prevent the UK leaving the EU as they believe it would ‘make our country poorer, trash our vital public services and wreck the life chances of the young’. 

Dr Anders Widfeldt, a Swedish lecturer in Nordic Politics at the University of Aberdeen stated that UK leaving the EU could result in political instability for Sweden.

“Sweden and Britain have often worked together in the EU on budgets and other things, so Sweden will lose an ally here that could affect the whole power structure in the EU, and not for the better.”

*Sara did not want her surname to appear in the article.

The original article written by Rebecka can be found here

Welcome back!

The first month of university has flown by, and the PIR committee has been busy preparing a lot of events for this year.

We started the semester off by having our annual Wine and Cheese night at the Bobbin after a short presentation introducing the society and it’s committee. It was a great chance for both old members to meet up as well as for people who were interested in joining the society to get to meet new people.

In the first week of lectures we then had our freshers pub crawl which was a very exciting night! We met up in Vodka Revolution where we split up into groups to roam the bars, pubs and streets of Aberdeen. This night was an amazing opportunity to have a fun night out with friends but also to get to know fellow members in a very enjoyable atmosphere. The night came to a close in Underground and we hope that everyone who attended enjoyed the pub crawl as much as we did!

Last week we had an event on the 21st of September which is also the International Day of Peace. We had an interesting lecture by our guest speaker Dr Ilia Xypolia who spoke about human rights and contemporary peace building. Those who wanted then went to the Bobbin to further discuss these topics and to socialize.

We have had a very successful Games night at the Bobbin with a great turnout. We played games such as card games, Jenga, The voting game and Cards against humanity. There were a lot of new faces as well as regular members.

At our combined EGM  and Trip info session our Travel Coordinator Jaeden spoke about the trips that we are organizing this year to Poland in January, and to South Korea in April. Afterwards we had our EGM where we voted for a new First Year Representative and Treasurer and we are very pleased to welcome Martin and Lisa to our committee. We will be having a trip sign up this  month so follow us on social media to stay up to date.

We have some super fun events planned for the upcoming month, starting with a white t-shirt pub crawl October 2nd and a co-host with the Nordic society on the 9th.

We look forward to another amazing year with the PIR society, and hope that you all have had a great start of the new school year!

Second Hand Sale Fundraiser for Cyrenians

Clean your rooms and organize your clothes because it’s donating time!! The P&IR Society will be having our first Second-Hand Clothing Sale NEXT WEEK. But in order for this fundraiser to be successful please consider donating any used clothing, shoes, blankets, scarves, hats, gloves, and books TOMORROW (Friday the 16th), THIS WEEKEND, MONDAY 19 Feb. and TUESDAY 20 Feb. Just stick the items you wish to donate in a bag and bring them by.

If you wish to donate anything this Friday, this weekend, or on Monday the 19th of February please contact Julia Stockwell over facebook or email to figure out a time and place to give her the items. On Tuesday the 20th the sale will be taking place at the Students’ Union Building (otherwise known as The Hub), so you can drop your items there anytime between 1 and 5pm.

On Tuesday the 20th from 1-5pm and Wednesday the 21st from 12-5pm the Second-Hand Clothing Sale will be in full swing. Students and staff are encouraged to check out the items we will be selling (ALL UNDER £5) at the Students’ Union Building (The Hub) — There will be something for everyone!

All proceeds and extra items will be donated Aberdeen Cyrenians in an effort to help alleviate the effects of homelessness in Aberdeen. Aberdeen is our city and these are our people. Please consider donating and purchasing. Thank you!

Bosnia Trip 2018

Guest Contributor: Conor Haggerty

The PIR society’s trip to the Balkans must have been one of the high points of travelling I have had so far, and without a doubt will play a significant role in my future studies, not least due to the abundance of knowledge to be gained from this diverse and recently infamous region of Europe. Due to its unique nature on the continent, there were things we learned which would simply not exist in order to be learnt in other parts of the wider international community.

Educationally, we had various fascinating meetings with high-ranking diplomats and policymakers in both Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as well as in Kosovo. In Sarajevo, we had the luck of meeting British Ambassador Edward Ferguson, followed by a meeting with Matt Field at the EU delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just a few days ago, it was announced that Matt Field will succeed Edward Ferguson in August of 2018. We congratulate Mr Field on his appointment and wish Mr Ferguson the best in his future career. Despite Brexit, both were involved in many aspects of Bosnian accession into the EU, which they admitted had stalled for a variety of reasons. Unlike most diplomats, they also played a governance role, liaising with a “High Representative” who was from the international community. They have supreme power, mainly so any nationalist politicians threatening the peace can be removed from office before the barely healed wounds of the country bleed once more. After going to various museums detailing the atrocities that all sides had committed, and the siege of Sarajevo, the peace agreements seemed more akin to tape over a cracked wall. More work in that regard was required, over 20 years later.

Much of the lack of progress in EU accession also came down to the ethnic tensions in the country between the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, who all had various legal entities which often didn’t effectively cooperate like a country would elsewhere. This also meant that there were 14 parliaments present in BiH, with two alone being in Sarajevo. As we soon discovered to our annoyance, when our next visit was to “the parliament” it wasn’t as simple as you would have thought!

Eventually, through the confusion we made it to the (Federal) Parliament, where we got insight into the legislative structure of the country. Again, it was unusual, with seats guaranteed to each ethnic group based on their population.

Of course, we also explored the vibrant city of Sarajevo. It is a place of so much potential, with a stunning old town, and we can all honestly say that despite its scars, it is moving forward. The food and drink too were great and cheap, with a diverse range, from local delicacies to food from outside Europe. One of us even tried Brazilian cuisine! I can honestly say that all of us had a great experience there and would go back in the near future without much hesitation.

However, the 15-hour bus journey to Pristina was not as amazing, for obvious reasons. Despite the cities being about the same distance as between Glasgow and Aberdeen, we arrived 15 hours after we left. The Balkan’s have one thing in abundance; mountains. There is also one thing they sometimes lack; good infrastructure. The two put together can be a slight hinderance. On the bright side, while some views in the light of winter looked melancholy, others were absolutely stunning, especially in Montenegro, the most mountainous and smallest of the Balkan nations.

So, 15 hours and 3 countries later (we took the longer way through Albania as well as Montenegro) we arrived in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. The city was noticeably different to Sarajevo, mainly since it was far newer and had few old buildings. The streets were also more polluted, with smog occurring often in this relatively small city. We learned later on that there was still a heavy reliance on coal for heating in many households, something alien to many cities in Europe nowadays.

To quench our thirst for knowledge, we visited two notable institutions to gain a better insight into the country. The first was the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). We talked with various people on many aspects of the organisation’s important role in building the governance structures of Kosovo after Serbian forces withdrew in 2000. They played a major part in the creation of the Kosovar Police Force, and continue to work to improve the country. While inter-ethnic tensions between Albanians and Serbs are still prevalent in Kosovo today, we talked to both ethnic Serbs and Albanians. While these people got on well, it was pointed out that integration currently is almost impossible for the two groups due to the language barrier. While in Bosnia the three groups speak “one language with three egos”, Albanian is in no way like Serbian. As Serbian regions of the country teach solely their own language, they remain isolated from the larger Albanian population. Improvements had been made though, with minority participation in certain institutions doing well.

We also visited staff members of the United Nations who worked specifically on human rights in Kosovo. The country, while having extensive rights on paper, was still struggling to implement them in real terms. The lack of recognition of the country by nearly half of the United Nations member states had also cut off access to U.N. schemes and money, which while not lethal was a handicap (e.g. it could fix the coal pollution issue).

That made Pristina different to Sarajevo. While Sarajevo had been well established with many interesting places, the Pristina had less of these and felt like it was struggling more due to these factors. It still had its nice parts of course, and could have a bright future, if money came in more easily. While many states see it as a part of Serbia, it certainly was anything but, with it having separate institutions like any state (I have a Kosovo stamp on my passport) with the vast majority of people being Ethnic Albanian.

As we left to the airport, I could not help but reminisce on this trip as a great insight into a fascinating place. The newly acquired knowledge, but also the cultures and places we came across made it an unforgettable experience.