It can be said that international relations (IR) is one of the most popular fields of study among Thai students.
Recently, Margaret K. McMillion, coordinator of the Master of Arts in International Relations (Mair) programme at Webster University (WU), Bangkok campus, and Gregory Weeks, PhD, head of the IR Department at WU, Vienna campus, explained to "Education" aspects of IR that prospective students in the field should know.
"Now, the world is much more interconnected. Things that happen in one part of the world are definitely very connected to things that will happen some place else," said Ms McMillion, who is a former senior US diplomat and the former US ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda.
Some students might think that studying IR is just to master skills in handling global political issues. However, IR is not restricted only to politics.
For example, Ms McMillion explained, with regard to the problem of human trafficking, for some Thai people, this can be seen as a domestic issue because people see that the result of people being trafficked to Thailand is that they may be taking jobs from Thais or may be contributing to crime in the country.
"But it is not a problem of one country; it involves many countries. To solve the problem, many countries have to work together," said the director. This is how IR works to find solutions.
Who studies IR
Different people have different reasons for studying IR.
Ms McMillion explained that some people want to be career diplomats, working in the United Nations (UN) or non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which require their staff to have an understanding of international affairs, rules and relationships and how all of them function as a whole.
Other people might be experienced professionals who are already in business or are working for NGOs, but they have different backgrounds, such as education or science, and need to broaden their knowledge of IR.
"Sometimes, people just think of working in the UN or working for a national government, as ambassadors, etc., [after graduating in IR]. But there are so many business opportunities open in international relations," said Mr Weeks, who teaches courses in genocide, political violence and human trafficking.
Graduates can work in loss prevention departments, he suggested, which look at factors that might cause damage to their company politically and socially, or corporate social responsibility departments, which often make use of IR concepts, such as dealing with cross-border pollution caused by companies.
"Many businesses need people who understand international relations and who also have gained analytical skills that one can gain when they study international relations. These people might find themselves working in a bank, an investment house or a company when they complete their degree course," Ms McMillion added.
In one hallmark programme, WU tries to expose their students to various aspects of IR in different counties. It is called the Global Master of Arts in International Relations (Gmair).
In this 11-month programme, students study for a period of eight weeks at each of the following WU four campuses: Leiden, in the Netherlands; Geneva, Switzerland; London, England; and Vienna, Austria. Then they have to choose to spend eight weeks at either the Bangkok campus or the Beijing campus.
"It teaches you what the life of foreign service officers moving around or working with the UN is like, as such officers have to travel all the time for a couple of weeks [at a time]," said Mr Weeks. Students will also gain experience from being in different environments and learning from the specialisation at each campus. This year, 33 students signed up.
Prospective students of Mair at WU in Bangkok have three options. They can take Gmair, or apply to take Mair in Thailand and undergo all their studies in the country, or take Mair in Thailand and choose one or two terms at one of the other campuses and then come back to Thailand. Students can also take a business course while they are taking the international relations programme.
"First of all, you need to have an interest in the world," Ms Margaret suggested to those who want to pursue IR.
"I really recommend that everybody take the time to read newspapers every day, because that is how you are going to get basic data on what are going on," she advised further, adding that people should read each section in the paper.
Another important skill that students should possess is competency in foreign languages. "The more languages you can speak, the more opportunities you have for interacting with people," added Mr Weeks.
More information on WU is available at
More information on WU is available athttp://www.webster.ac.th.