Student Story: From Journalism to Politics and International Relations

21 April 2021

My name is Jose and I was born in a small town located in the north of Colombia called Fonseca, La Guajira. I grew up around my parents, who raised me the best they could, and two older sisters who always showed me how important I was to them. In 1994, my father was kidnapped by a guerrilla group, forcing us to leave our town when my father returned home. After that difficult moment for my family, we arrived in the city of Santa Marta. This city allowed us to start over again and helped me grow in all senses of my life. From a very young age, in Santa Marta, I recognised what I wanted to be and do when I grew up. My Spanish teacher, who was passionate about writing, taught me how to tell stories and work for my country through communications and journalism.

In 2012, I began my undergraduate studies in the Social Communication and Journalism program at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia. There, I met a great professor in a Communication and Politics class. Through writing, presentations, and reports, I studied and analysed the armed conflict in Colombia. Through each course presented by this professor, I felt motivated to focus my profession on political issues and the resolution of armed conflicts. As a student in 2016, I travelled to Washington, D.C., to live the experience of my life. Witnessing the signing of the peace accords with the FARC guerrilla as an intern at the Colombian Embassy press and culture office in the United States of America (USA) was a defining moment. There, I decided that I wanted to be a diplomat and work for my country from its valuable Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

However, the road would not be easy. Since I finished my undergraduate degree in 2017, I knew that I needed to expand my knowledge in Politics and International Relations to achieve my goal of being a diplomat. I applied and looked at several universities in Colombia and countries like the USA and Germany. Still, my applications were rejected, and those that did admit my applications did not offer me any scholarship, which made financing the program impossible. While looking for my postgraduate options, I worked as a journalist in the International Affairs office of the Colombian Agricultural Institute, ICA. In that job, I learned about international treaties between Colombia and countries like Argentina, China, and Australia. Working at ICA, I decided to travel abroad to seek my Master's options. This decision was timely and helped me find what I was looking for.

In the year 2020, destiny and a pandemic would define my future and end up, allowing me to finally study for a postgraduate degree in International Relations at an extraordinary institution. While travelling in Perth, The University of Western Australia (UWA), one of the world's most prestigious universities, admitted my application to the Master's program in International Relations. Perth is a city with many international students, and has worked effectively to keep the community relatively free from COVID-19.

My first contact with UWA was through an event at the end of Spring in 2020. Five weeks before returning to Colombia, I decided to attend an informative meeting to meet students and academics of the Master of International Relations. At the end of the event, I was lucky enough to meet a former student. She was from Africa, and she was in the last semester of the graduate course that I wanted to do. She had come to Australia with the dream of pursuing her Master's degree and returning to her country to work with the African Union. Like my family, her family had also been affected by the armed conflict in her country. We had similar goals and dreams, her story motivated me to follow in her footsteps, and I decided to research everything about the program. A few days later, I sent the application with all of the required documentation. I did not think I would be admitted, but I wanted to give it a try. Two days before travelling to Colombia, my flight was cancelled due to the pandemic. On the same day that I was supposed to be flying back home, I received the admission offer to the Master of International Relations at UWA, and with it, a $ 20,000 scholarship.

The best thing about this program at UWA is learning about International Relations in theory and practising it simultaneously. It addresses international security issues, governance in the international system, global economy, politics and the evolution of international society. Students can choose a capstone unit from two options during the program: Responding to International Crises or International Relations in the Indian Ocean Region. The Master's degree has electives on cross-cutting themes, such as democracy, non-governmental organisations and religion. We also conducted studies on significant powers and regions, such as the USA, China, East Asia, and Africa. Furthermore in 2020, UWA was ranked highest among the world's best universities, rising from 99 to 85 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

I am in my second semester of my Master's degree and I am thrilled with the experience. I feel like I am undertaking my postgraduate studies at a great institution and living in the safest place in the world. Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, I have attended classes and events in person. This factor was determining when deciding whether to take the opportunity to carry out my studies at this institution.

Once I finish my Master's degree, I will return to Colombia and compete in future diplomats' selection process that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds every year. Working for my country through the communications office of its various diplomatic missions is my greatest dream and wish. I know that this postgraduate course will give me the necessary tools to be considered a public servant of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia. I still have a lot to learn and tests to overcome, but today I have all the motivation to continue working and achieve all those goals that I keep in my heart. I am a committed person who has spent the last years of his life preparing to serve his country. Even though I have had many failures on the way, I will continue to persevere until I get what I have always dreamed of.

Find out more about me here.

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