My name is Joe Duquenoy-Taylor and I am a second-year Politics and International Relations student at the University of Manchester. I am originally from Brighton so moving to Manchester was both a big move and a big change, but I chose it because I love the city and I loved the course that was on offer here. Unlike many other universities, Manchester offers Politics and International Relations as a singular degree. This means that the course focuses on a wider range of political topics and issues and looks at the effects of these all over the globe.
What Does Studying Politics Involve?
The first thing that I think is important to say is that people should not be put off studying Politics. It can seem quite daunting causing some people to think ‘it’s not for them.’ This blog should dispel the myth that politics is all about parliament and Westminster. Politics impacts our everyday lives in ways we may not even realise. Issues you may have seen in the news or even discussed with friends or family, such as Black Lives Matter, the climate emergency or the MeToo movement are all political. Breaking down the myth that politics is the business of old men in suits in London is important. Politics affects everyone and therefore people from all walks of life should be involved in the political process. If you have opinions on the climate emergency, on woman’s rights, on the rights of minority groups, if you take issue with rising poverty at home and overseas or the impact of war on refugees, then you too are political.
We may not realise it but a lot of our opinions about the world boil down to politics and it is this part of Politics, not Westminster or the Whitehouse, that fascinates me and many others too. I didn’t take Politics at A level because I had a preconception that studying Politics would be learning the ins and outs of parliament and learning about partisan politics. However, when I started researching Politics degrees in my second year of A-levels, I realised politics was so much more than that. I saw that Politics degrees cover everything from nuclear weapons to chlorinated chicken. The more I researched politics the more I began to realise that everything, down to the food I had for dinner last night, is political. It was this realisation, that made me choose Politics and International Relations. In my degree so far, I have studied modules that focus on war and security, ‘third-world’ development, poverty and inequality, political philosophy and questions of social justice. The topics and issues discussed and debated in politics are infinite.
Just a year ago we thought we were in the most uncertain times in generations following the election of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK – it seemed politics as we knew was changing. However, the coronavirus outbreak means we are now living in more uncertain times than ever. Living in a rapidly changing world where news is being bombarded at you 24 hours a day can be very confusing and cutting through the noise is important. Most of us nowadays, get our news through social media, whether it be on Snapchat, Instagram or messaging apps like WhatsApp. Whilst it is positive that we are all now able to access news in seconds, the spread of fake news is becoming increasingly common.
In politics, much like in normal life, we analyse and gather information from a variety of sources, ranging from academic journals to Donald Trump’s tweets. What is important though, for everyone when learning about currents affairs and political issues, is to make sure we can trust our sources of information. For people who are new to learning about Politics and current affairs and want information in an accessible manner I recommend ‘Simple Politics.’ They can be found on Facebook and on Instagram ‘@simplepolitics.’ They break down political jargon and explain things you may have heard in the news. This is reliable and impartial information that will help keep you informed about politics and allow you to develop your own political opinions. On Snapchat you can subscribe to ‘Outside of Westminster’, ‘Pod Save America’ and ‘Good Luck America.’ These are three short snap podcasts that give a summary of current British and American political affairs and both are targeted at younger audiences. If you feel you already have a basic grasp of current affairs and you want to learn more or start to look at political issues in different countries, then I recommend googling the Guardian politics articles where you will find in-depth articles on anything you have found interesting in the news. The guardian podcast ‘Today in Focus’ which is available to stream and download on Spotify covers a whole range of issues, political and otherwise and is a great way of keeping up to date with current affairs and hearing a range of opinions on a range of topics.
Exposing yourself to views that might contradict your own is necessary when studying Politics. If you don’t understand the other sides opinion then how can you argue your case? If you feel you have an interest in some of the big global issues discussed above then Politics and International Relations may be an ideal degree path for you to explore these further and starting by reading and listening to different reliable news sources now is a great start on that path.
- To read The Guardian politics articles - https://www.theguardian.com/politics
- Listen to The Guardian podcast ‘Today in Focus’ on Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/2cSQmzYnf6LyrN0Mi6E64p?si=4BLI5NLVTbOgm1Do6SCTtA
- Snapchat podcasts – ‘Good Luck America’, ‘Pod Save America’, ‘Outside Westminster’
- Simple Politics – Instagram: @simplepolitics. Facebook: Simple Politics