Students: Elise El Nouchi and Andrew Fitzegerald, two of our Bachelor in International Relations students, share their insider advice with future students. They answer the must-knows of what to expect when starting the Bachelor in International Relations at IE University.

What is most valued in Bachelor in International Relations?

International Relations most values curiosity, boldness, enthusiasm, social skills, open-mindedness, empathy, and passion.

What qualities are professors looking for in a Bachelor in International Relations student?

Bachelor in International Relations students should not be afraid to take risks, especially when promoting debates or bringing other points of view to the table. Professors also look for students who are participative, proactive, inquisitive, diplomatic, resolute, persistent, and good team players.

What are the main course topics? What was your favourite?

The main course topics are anything related to the international field. This isn’t to say that it is not a concrete degree. In fact, it’s the opposite of that in that it’s very complete. The main topics are:

  • History
  • International law
  • International trade
  • Economics
  • Research
  • Methodology
  • Discovering research software
  • Political science and theory
  • Marketing
  • Humanities

Bachelor in International Relations also focuses on project-management skills and we are assigned both a thesis project and a capstone project. The thesis requires you to create an individual idea, whereas the capstone will require working with a team on a pressing policy issue.

Elise, a Bachelor in International Relations student told us, “in my case I loved being able to discover international law and economics. It was nice to combine various topics and work on many group projects.”

Andrew, who is also a Bachelor in International Relations student, said, “I learned so much through analysing past historical events and economic trends to understand today’s geopolitical topics.”

Do professors place more emphasis on practical or academic learning? Are the professors experienced practitioners?

We found that it was a combination of both styles. The main part of the theory side is reading, doing your own work, and preparing at home for classes. The classes themselves are more practical. The preferred format of a class session is an hour and a half of theory followed by an hour and a half of debate or group presentations and projects to apply the theory previously taught. Combining both learning approaches was especially interesting for us and incredibly helpful. International law, for example, requires each student to understand the foundation of international treaties and the establishing factors of international law. Once I memorized the foundations of international law, the process of applying it became much more creative and I was able to connect the laws and build strong arguments and cases.

Should I take notes on my computer or in a notebook?

This depends on what you’re working on. It may be useful to print out the readings so that you can take notes directly on the pages and highlight key points. I personally find this to be more efficient. For note-taking, do what’s best for your learning style, but it is probably easier to focus in class if you’re using a notebook and are forced to write things by hand.

How many hours will I spend on homework per day?

If you go to class, there won’t be much to do at home. The readings are quick, but you have to do them to understand the content fully. Professors will comment on your homework and this will give you a headstart. I would count on spending about two hours per day on assignments and reviewing concepts.

How are the classes structured? What’s the schedule like?

Most of the sessions will be double sessions. This means an hour and a half in class, a ten minute break, and then another hour and a half. We usually tackle two topics per day in class. You will either have one or two double sessions or one double session and one single session every day. So you will be in class between four and six hours per day. Sometimes the schedule is compacted so that you will only have morning sessions or all of your sessions will be in the afternoon.

What does a typical Bachelor in International Relations student’s day look like?

The average day for a Bachelor in International Relations student will consist of lectures in the morning from 10:30 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. Then, students usually have lunch or grab a snack. Most Bachelor in International Relations students will review what they learned in the morning lectures either at home or on campus. In the afternoon, students might attend a presentation by an internal organization or maybe meet with their career advisors to discuss summer internships or plans for after graduation. In the late afternoon, students often hang out with friends around campus, participate in various activities in the city, or join their sports team for their weekly training sessions.

Should I live in a studio, a shared flat, or the residence hall?

Andrew: “I really enjoyed living in a residence hall my first year because it was an ideal introduction to Spanish culture. I was the only non-Spanish person on my floor, which forced me to speak Spanish and immerse myself. I made a lot of friends and had a great time with them. After the first year I moved in with my new friends, which was also fun!”

Elise: “My first year, I moved into a shared flat with three people I didn’t know. We all were different ages and different nationalities. It was challenging at first, but it turned out to be the best experience because my roommates and I discovered Madrid and met people quickly. The four of us did various activities and two of them were also studying at IE University, so we would study and go to class together. During my second year, I moved into a flat with my best friend and have lived with her for three years. I personally preferred having my flat rather than living in a residence hall because it’s nice to feel independent and I think it helps you feel at home.”

Is there any preparation required before starting classes?

Andrew: “I would recommend reading Bachelor in International Relations-related books over the summer. If you read The Prince, when you show up to your first political theory class, you will have a foundational understanding of the book and this might help prepare you for the rest of the course. It’s definitely not something I would stress about though.”

Elise: “I would recommend non-native English-speaking students to listen to music, read and watch TV shows in English. All of the lectures are in English, so this will help get you used to hearing and understanding it when spoken quickly. Also, when you meet new people, you’ll have a lot to talk about!”

How can I best organize myself in order to get good grades?

Attend and be prepared for every class. Participate in class and share your ideas and what you believe in confidently. It’s also important to organize yourself and to try to study every day. Help others when you can and be sure to get organized early when doing group projects.

Are there opportunities for Bachelor in International Relations students to participate in an exchange program? What Bachelor in International Relations universities have a partnership with IE University?  

Bachelor in International Relations students can participate in an exchange program at more than 160 universities. Sciences Po Paris, University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, City University London, MKMU in Moscow, and the University of Southern California are some examples of universities that are involved in Bachelor in International Relations topics. When it’s time to pick a university to do your exchange at, you’ll be able to see the courses they offer and decide if it will work for you. There are countless opportunities and they’re a great way to make new friends, learn new languages, and engage with other cultures.

What are the internships opportunities? How easy is it to find a Bachelor in International Relations internship?

The career center sends out a list of new Bachelor in International Relations internship and job opportunities every two weeks. They also have a premium subscription to Devex, which is the main website for Bachelor in International Relations-related jobs. Students have worked in companies ranging from Amazon to working for a vineyard, and from The German Ministry of Defence to even opening their own restaurants. There are opportunities for everyone, but you have to be proactive and optimistic. The Talent and Careers Center is there to help and you’ll be able to talk to a personal advisor to help perfect your CV and find an internship or a job.

What clubs are oriented towards Bachelor in International Relations students in particular?

The International Relations Club and the Global Transformation Club promote lectures and meetings with professors and professionals in the Bachelor in International Relations field. The Consulting Club and The Rotary Club also offer volunteer opportunities and professional-related meetings.

What are the exams like?

Exam structure really depends on the professor and the class. There can be presentations, final exams, final essays, or final projects. More traditional classes, such as economics or international trade, have written final exams. Ethics, for example, might have a final presentation instead of an exam. It’s really up to your professor!

Any additional tips for getting the most out of a Bachelor in International Relations degree?

Maximize your time and be proactive! Be curious, daring, and connected to news and social media. Take advantage of any opportunity you can, and never be passive about your ideas. Stand up for what you believe in in a productive way. Be a team player by working well with others and not being afraid to give constructive criticism when necessary. Never take constructive criticism from your peers personally, feedback is a gift. Ask questions, participate in class, and don’t be afraid of being wrong. Your professors are there to guide you, plus speaking in class is a great way to share what you believe while using facts and statistics to back up your thoughts. Most importantly, have fun!

We hope this helps and good luck with your Bachelor in International Relations journey at IE University! ☺