“Write a clear and detailed description of your study objectives and give your reasons for wanting to pursue them. Be specific about your major field and your specialized interests within the field. Describe the kind of program you expect to undertake, and explain how your study plan fits in with your previous training and your future objectives. This statement is an essential part of your application” (no more than 1000 words)
I consider a Master’s program in American Studies with a focus on U.S. foreign policy in an accredited U.S. educational institution a stepping stone to my future academic and career success.
My academic interest in the foreign policy of the United States, the most important actor in today’s world, dates back to my early days at the Institute for International Relations (IIR). It has gained more strength ever since I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and came back to the IIR – a leading think-tank to high level decision-makers in the field of foreign policy. My current duties involve research, making periodic reports and forecasts on the U.S. foreign policy and its relations with other countries including Vietnam, and thereby directly and indirectly contributing to the shaping of Vietnam’s foreign policy toward the U.S. As an IIR prospective lecturer, after obtaining the Master’s degree, I may be assigned to teach the U.S. foreign policy to senior students and will also get involved in the IIR’s curriculum formation. To be able to discharge these responsibilities, I need a Master’s degree in the field to further understand the United States, to improve my academic performance and to add to my practical experience.
The very first objective of my academic endeavor in the United States is to approach and master innovative research and pedagogical methods. There is no denying that the U.S. higher education is of top-notch quality in research and teaching. Its quality is measured not by the volume of knowledge that students accumulate but by the advanced knowledge-searching tools and skills with which they are equipped. I want to go there to learn more about these tools, especially quantitative analysis and statistics, survey or questionnaire design, as well as computer-based analysis applied to social science research which are popular in U.S. academic environment but quite new in Vietnam’s. I also wish to see how teaching and learning are conducted in the American class with Vietnam’s pedagogical practices. By the end of the course, I hope to bring home these state-of-the-art methods and practice and make them known and applicable at my home institute.
Secondly, my desire to learn in the U.S. is also motivated by the need to acquire a direct, first-hand understanding of American culture, values and world views which give rise to the fundamental ideas behind the U.S. foreign policy. For five years, I have been doing research on America, writing articles about its external relations but I have never set foot on the American soil. Thus, although I have gone through dozens of books, participated in five research projects and spoken at several workshops on American politics and foreign policy, so far I have only a theoretical grasp what has made the United States the most important actor in the world politics. Moreover, I sometimes come across conflicting descriptions and assessments of America, which increases my curiosity about the country. I am aware that I am looking at the United States by others’ eyes. That is the reason why I have declined to pursue several courses in American Studies elsewhere. I enter this tough competition with a hope that I will have a chance to get a truer image of the U.S. by immersing myself in the American society, to understand its political system, to learn in the American academic environment, and to see how American intellectuals think and how American policymakers act and react.
Thirdly, regarding U.S. foreign policy as the focus of my academic endeavor, I would like to make a penetrative study of how foreign policy is formulated. In this study, I would investigate the major elements involved, such as public involvement, the influence of political parties, civil society organizations, lobbyist groups, legal frameworks, comparative roles of legislative, executive and judicial bodies, secret agencies, global issues and intergovernmental relations. If possible, I hope to take an internship at the White House Office or the Department of State to track down the path of decision-making in foreign affairs. Certainly, this practical experience is required to supplement all I have read about the making of U.S. foreign policy.
Finally, with all these tools and insights into U.S. foreign policy, I would embark on my final objective to decode U.S. policy towards Vietnam – to decipher the true intentions of as well as political and economic motivation behind U.S. rhetoric, words and deeds. In this bid, I expect to interview American decision-makers, scholars and students about their perspectives on Vietnam, discuss with them about the similarities and differences between the two sides’ world views and values. There is no doubt that these dialogues not only help me to see the world as Americans see it, but will allow the Americans to see Vietnam more accurately.
In terms of my career, I am sure that the Master’s course offered by your program would be professionally valuable to me in several ways. First, I see the Master’s degree as the first major step in my studies towards a PhD and possibly post-doctoral studies. Furthermore, a Master’s degree is recognition of an in-depth knowledge, practical experience, research efforts and communication skills that will make me qualified to independently do research and participate more deeply in teaching activities at my Institute. Ultimately, the combined skills and knowledge I will get from the program may evolve into my way of working and thinking, which will have positive impact on my students and colleagues, and impart some degree of influence over actual foreign policy decisions.
I am aware that all these objectives are ambitious and that the Master’s program is not a magic solution. Some objectives will be achieved by the end of the course, but some I will pursue for all the rest of my life. However, the Master’s program is indispensable for me to make my dreams come true.
Note: This is the Study Objectives of Tran Thanh Hai – an Eramus Mundus student, who also submitted his application dossier for Fulbright Vietnam in 2007. This post is for reference only, please do NOT copy it in your essay. Copyright to Tran Thanh Hai.