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International Relations PhD Surprises: Coffee Conversations Episode 1

International Relations PhD

Rebecca Chen: Hi. I’m Rebecca Chen, and welcome to Ilkmade Careers’ Coffee Conversation, a show where we speak to various guests in the political space at different stages in their education and careers, digging deep to uncover the insight they’ve gained.

In this episode, we’re discussing International Relations PhD surprises, with Angela Ju, Visiting Assistant Professor at Quinnipiac University, Ivan Farias, Policy Consultant at Public Asesores, and Emeka Njoku, PhD candidate at University of Ibadan. We’ll look at how they dealt with some unexpected challenges and surprises, and how they overcame them.

What did you find really surprising while you pursued your PhD in International Relations?

Angela Ju: The most unexpected thing that happened to me while getting my PhD was just having to change my dissertation topic after having advanced to candidacy. I actually ended up changing almost all of my dissertation committee and getting a new dissertation chair.

Ivan Farias: Many of us can see the International Relations PhD as being only a preparation for getting into academia, and ideally a professorship. Actually, a PhD can also be a sort of tool or training for getting onto other things, research yes, but also policy practice and policy analysis.

Emeka Njoku: One of the things that surprised me when I started a PhD was how lonely the program can be.
Rebecca Chen: I think we all can maybe relate to some of that feeling of loneliness and isolation.

Emeka Njoku: You can just have an idea, and you really want to discuss it. You want to talk about it, sort of share those ideas and get feedback.

Ivan Farias: On this adventure, we are on our own, because we are, yes, trying to gain knowledge on something that someone… not anyone else has.

Emeka Njoku: You don’t really have kind of a mentor/mentee program that could help you, and sometimes, you can also feel emotionally down.

Was there some things that you did to kind of try to overcome that?

Angela Ju: Just developing a support network outside of academia. For me, that just really helped with my sanity, to not have to think about my research all the time, when I’m hanging out with friends.

Emeka Njoku: I was able to make friends with colleagues who are also in the same boats, and can really relate to what you want, so you can easily talk to them about your research and get feedback from them.

Rebecca Chen: It’s a strange enterprise for sure, and I think we are all looking back on it, Emeka’s living through it, and thinking about sort of how to deal with it and keep your sanity while you’re not only finishing your dissertation, but also looking for the career, the next big step.

Thank you all for joining us, and we’re looking forward to having you back on for another cup of coffee soon. We hope you enjoyed today’s conversation. If you did, please share, and if you haven’t already, subscribe or join our email list to stay in the loop about future episodes and new features. Until next time.

Emeka Njoku: You have a family that are always asking you, “When are you going to finish? What is the problem with your PhD?”

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