Laura Dunkley

International from the get-go: A career in international relations

You’ll often hear universities speaking of ‘global graduates’, ‘outward-facing mobility’ and ‘broadening international horizons.’ Unfortunately, these don’t mean much in isolation, but occasionally a student like Laura comes along to show us what a global grad really is.

‘I grew up abroad and have always been interested in current affairs, so I've always had an international element in my life, but I think the defining moment for me was when I was chosen for a youth leadership course in Canada, just before starting my A-levels.’

At the age of 16 Laura was already traveling, meeting government officials and learning about the history of another country. The experience was a key factor in her choosing Aston.

Placement aborad

‘It was the placement year abroad which convinced me’, she says, ‘at Aston, I was able to combine International Relations with German. I also thought the mixture between the historical and contemporary international relations would be useful.’

And it was. Laura landed a placement year as a Translator with Schimid Group in Germany, where she supported company administration and even taught her colleagues English.

The experience laid the ground work for future positions with The Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences, The London School of Economics and, her most recent position, the international think tank Chatham House.

Work at Chatham House

‘I support fundraising and relationship development at Chatham House. My key project right now is exploring the intersection of gender, international relations and think tanks. It’s something I’m very passionate about and researched during my masters.’

It’s worth mentioning that Laura is a bit of super-human when it comes to studying, balancing a full-time double masters with a full time job and achieving a Distinction.

‘You’ve got be disciplined and keep on top of stuff, but once you are ahead it’s easier to hold the lead than make up for lost time.’

Having a double masters and a range of experience in international roles has opened doors for Laura.

‘I’ve always wanted to work for Chatham House ever since I first started reading the journal – now I’m here. I finally got what I was aiming for.’

Getting an international job

It’s tough to get into international relations focused roles. Internships and experience is a must, but it can be costly, especially with the best opportunities being based in London, New York or Brussels. 

‘If you are looking for a way in, I recommend balancing online internships with study. I did some work experience with the organisation Make Every Woman Count and I didn’t even need to leave the house. It made applying for other jobs a lot easier.’

Laura has what might be referred to as a “portfolio career”. She’s moved between a few different roles and has eventually found her feet at Chatham House.

‘I guess career paths are never a straight road, so I have no idea where I'll end up at this point. For me, my work has to be meaningful and must contribute to something larger, hence why love my job and will always work in the not-for-profit sector.’