Louis Train was living and working in Moscow when he decided to pursue postgraduate studies in global governance and security studies. Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) is the best-known school for international relations in the post-Soviet world, so that choice was easy. And it was through MGIMO that he learned about the dual-degree programme with the University of Reading and Reading itself.
"I chose to study the MA International Security Studies programme at Reading because of its connection to the Governance and Global Affairs programme at MGIMO in Moscow. This dual-degree arrangement allowed me to earn two master's degrees in two years."
DUAL EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE
Louis was keen on examining the main issues of governance and security from different perspectives.
"It would be easy to say I've learned the Russian perspective and the British perspective, but it's much more than that. In Moscow my studies were based on figures affiliated with the Russian government and I gained real insight into the workings of the Russian government. In Reading I took in a lot more theory. I had the chance to go back and ask critical questions about security, risk, peace. Together, I think these two educational experiences provided a really holistic perspective.”
REAL WORLD MODULES
In his second semester, Louis did a module on conflict in the Middle East.
"Loads of reading, loads of thinking. It was a seminar class with fewer than a dozen students and some of the discussions we had were just fantastic. Insightful, thought-provoking and exciting. I wish every conversation in my life were like that."
He also had the pleasure of taking a module on diplomacy jointly taught by an academic in the Department and a diplomat who had a really extraordinary career in the Foreign Service.
"It was the perfect balance of theory, practice, personal narrative and world history."
Louis also enjoyed the International Security Studies module.
"Through this module I was introduced to a framework of looking at peace and security that really challenged the way I looked at pretty much everything."
Louis is grateful for the support, encouragement and inspiration he received from his lecturers at Reading.
"The module conveners themselves were fantastic in supporting me during my studies. Sometimes it was simple as recommending a book and sometimes they got really involved in helping me figure out how to approach a challenging essay or project."
What really stood out about the academic style of Reading for Louis was that students get to develop their independent study skills.
"To succeed I really needed to be independent in my learning. I think that's something I really developed in Reading - independence. And the understanding that you have to be proactive in seeking help. That's been a big part of how I've approached my life since graduating."
Louis is currently working in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and he is glad to be back in the (former) USSR.
"This time I have brought with me the knowledge and theoretical skills I developed during my studies, which have really helped me see the region in a new light. I also feel as though I am able to be much more ambitious in thinking and writing about the topics that brought me to Reading in the first place, which I intend to continue exploring through research."
TIPS FROM AN ALUMNUS
When asked to share some words of advice for future PGT students, Louis said:
"Choose a topic that interests you and ask whoever you can find, to improve your mastery of that topic. I came to Reading with a fairly narrow focus: I wanted to know more about Russian diplomacy. I was able to explore this topic and develop my understanding even in modules that weren't explicitly relevant to it. What role does Russian diplomacy play in the Middle East? How can you apply critical security theory to the founding of the Collective Security Treaty Organization? If you ask the right people the right questions, you'll get better answers than you could have expected."
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