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A master's that started a career with real-world impact: Selin's story

Selin talks about the freedom of studying MA International Security and how she's since thrived in her career with the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus.

A young woman smiling while sat in a room in front of boxes on shelves.
Selin's work focuses on helping to recover, identify and return persons that went missing during the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot conflicts.

After moving to the UK to study an arts degree, Turkish Cypriot Selin Orek chose to pursue MA International Security at Bath, which led to starting her career within the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus.

Reflecting on her time at Bath, Selin talks about what she learnt during the course and how she developed both personally and professionally in an environment that encouraged freedom of thought and discussion.

Discovering the ideal course

I moved to the UK to study a theatre-based degree at undergraduate level in 2015 and eventually transitioned to a master's programme.

Cyprus, ironically considered the birthplace of Aphrodite the goddess of love, has suffered post-independence tensions between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, resulting in a divided country. The border, as a political body, had a profound impact on my understanding of identity as a child.

I felt a strong impetus to explore how identity both shapes and is shaped by our surroundings. The MA International Security course at Bath was the perfect fit. The standards for entry are high, but Bath also values diverse backgrounds and experiences. Although my undergraduate degree focused on a different subject, my lived experience was recognised as highly relevant to my studies.

Belonging at Bath

I felt a real sense of belonging straight away. The mentorship and personal guidance offered boosted both my confidence and my sense of belonging. I was encouraged to use my experience within the units, and tailor what I focused on around my knowledge and perspective. The academics were really helpful, encouraging me to do foundational research and readings to build my general international relations knowledge.

The course encouraged discussions and used case studies, so we covered a broad range of international security issues. I was able to focus on memory politics and identity, which has significantly influenced my career and personal development.

My studies provided me with the tools to navigate and address complex historical and cultural issues and built my emotional resilience to handle difficult interviews and conversations particularly related to trauma.

The lively discussions and challenges from others also enriched my overall learning experience.

‘I acquired invaluable skills and theoretical knowledge that are essential every day in my work with the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus.’
Selin Orek MA International Security graduate (2020)

Applying International Security skills in the real world

I acquired invaluable skills and theoretical knowledge that are essential every day in my work with the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus.

I currently work as an investigator for the committee - a programme assisted by the United Nations that is one of the few bi-communal establishments present on the island. Our aim is to recover, identify and return persons that went missing during the inter-communal fighting. It is challenging work, requiring trust-building with families who are waiting for their loved ones and witnesses who often fear prosecution, retribution, and retaliation.

My work brings the past to the present every day, allowing constructive cooperation to heal past injustices and contribute to closure. It is a privilege to have a job with such meaning and impact. International Security has allowed me to truly appreciate the positive impact my work has on fostering reconciliation and dialogue between communities.

I understand the rigours of using data to support theories and solutions too. This has not only helped me on a personal level, but it has also allowed me to contribute to improving our organisation's capabilities, leading to better development and outcomes.

Life as an international student

My experience at Bath was first class from the very beginning. At the start of my master’s, I faced some issues, and my mental health suffered. The clearly signposted wellbeing channels at the University provided a safe and nurturing environment with practical help. I found a supportive community that offered genuine assistance.

I lived in the city and found it a friendly and safe place to be. It is also advantageous to be in a smaller city as an international student; it's easier to feel a part of the community. I met a fellow student in my accommodation who has become one of my closest friends.

The city itself is beautiful; at times it felt like I was living in a picture book! Facilities on the campus were amazing. I loved the Sports Training Village, the facilities that were provided were immaculate and the ‘taster sessions’ they provided during Freshers’ Week gave me a chance to try new activities I only dreamed of.

Political freedom and in an academic environment

Studying as an international student in the UK offers unparalleled opportunities, especially in fields like international security. Here, the freedom to challenge political and governmental norms without fear is invaluable. While it might seem commonplace, for many people globally this freedom is a luxury. The supportive environment encourages critical thinking, fostering personal growth and equipping students with the intellectual agility to tackle complex issues.

The environment was a safe space where big problems could be discussed freely, with different perspectives appreciated. I had an intellectual struggle with one of my cohort, whose views were quite different to mine. Despite this being a challenge, I learnt so much from considering a different perspective. I am still connected with my cohort through a Facebook group, and we engage in discussions around global issues - a legacy of our time at Bath.

My advice for people looking to study MA International Security at Bath

Make the most of all the opportunities and resources available to you. Engage with the community and utilise unparalleled resources like the British Library; these things can significantly enhance your studies.

In the field of politics and international security, the freedoms enjoyed in the UK create an unrivalled environment for learning.

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