Archive for the ‘Diary of a MIR Student’ Category


We’re back in full swing and already deep into classes for our third and final normal trimester at IE.  But still the memories of the week in Brussels live on and are frequently revisited between me and my colleagues. We received numerous talks from leaders from various institutions.  Highlights for me include the Parliament, Commission and Council as well as NATO.  We were able to mix with men and women wearing military garb from all over the world and other very influential global players. The personal highlight for me was a dinner and get-together at the personal residence of the Saudi Ambassador to both Belgium and Luxembourg.  For now, its back to the books as we’ve already had a few classes touching on democracy in Latin America, Game Theory and also the Middle East.  It looks like its going to be another challenging and interesting trimester.

 Check out pictures from out trip to Brussels!

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Tomorrow marks the beginning of the third semester for the MIR program.  We’ll have only two classes instead of the typical three which is a nice way to start the semester.  But as we already have readings for them both, we’ll have to all show up with our ‘A’ game.  Our first class is ‘Rational Choice, Game Theory and International Relations’ and then we have ‘Challenges to Democracy in Latin America’, both of which sound really promising.  Plus, this is the semester that everyone is feeling the squeeze of the upcoming Thesis deadlines so there’s not a lot of time to relax.  Everyone has finalized their Thesis topics and gathered loads of research, now we just need to shift through it all and actually write it…so wish me luck.  As for now, I am off to organize for the first day of our last MIR semester!


Finals week is finally over which means we’re off to Brussels! 

We ended the week today with our foreign language finals.  I had advanced Spanish and I am hoping it went well.  Two days back we had an exam in our History of International Relations course.  It was two hours and twenty minutes and we had to answer nine questions from four different texts which spanned centuries—it was quite an interesting class.

But that’s all behind us now and we leave tomorrow as a class for Brussels.  We start off on Friday with a visit from the European Economic and Social Committee.  Afterwards, we have a day off on Saturday for personal travel—I think I am going with some friends to Ghent for the day.  On Monday we’re off to the European Commission and later to the European Council.  Our last day we’ll be heading to NATO headquarters and the European Parliament for field study work.

We head back as a group next Wednesday only to start the 3rd semester the day after.  But I am not looking that far ahead yet…we still have a great week to enjoy in the Capital of Europe!


This is an interesting week here at IE.  My fellow MIR students and I find ourselves in the middle of finals, which span three weeks, and then it’s off to Brussels for 6 days of fieldwork before resuming with the third trimester.

Finals are the culmination of work spread across anywhere from 10, 15 or 20 class sessions which last an hour and twenty minutes each.  Some classes are still in session and some have already ended so it’s an interesting balance of continual class preparation and studying for each final examination. 

We have a lot of incentive to study hard because the day after our last final, which for me is my Spanish class, the entire class is off to Brussels to visit the major EU institutions about which we have been learning (Commission, Council and Parliament).  Additionally, over the weekend we’ll be having a bbq like session with a handful of Saudi diplomats.  The trip should prove to be an interesting application of everything we’ve been taught thus far.

Its been quite the interesting time to be studying International Relations as the possible fourth democratic wave is hitting many of the north African countries.  We have been having many of our peers in the program who come from the region teach us a great deal about their countries, the political system as well as provide their own opinions.  It has really served to enforce what we learn in class and read in the media.

With that said, I am off to study for my History of International Relations class!



As this is an introductory post, I guess I should start by introducing myself.  My name is Aaron Thornburg and I am an American with fascinations regarding all things international.  Whether it simply be traveling the world, further understanding the international inter-connectivity of it all or even the importance of diplomacy in this globalizing world, I realize I am drawn towards international relations.  I also have interests in furthering myself and my marketability—really gaining a continuing and deeper knowledge concerning all topics related to IR.  Thus, for the academic year of 2011, I ll be studying at IE in pursuit of my Masters in International Relations (MIR).  It makes perfect sense as Madrid is an amazing capital city, in the heart of Europe and also IE is a globally respected institution recognized for quality graduate studies. 

The MIR program is young, but already I have seen a return in value.  The students with whom I study come from all over the world and are open and happy to share their perspectives and ‘cultural takes’ on anything I might ask them.  The professors have very impressive backgrounds and experience in various fields of IR and the classes cover a wide variety of subjects related to IR.  Speaking of the many different subjects…I have readings to get done for tomorrow, a memo to prepare, and a group meeting to go to, so I should go.  But before I do, I’ll just say that I look forward to posting my experiences and perceptions of the MIR at IE in hopes that I can help those reading to see that IE is a great place to study, and Madrid a great place to live.  Hopefully this blog helps to attract those in pursuit of an IR degree—I recall having some doubts when I was browsing for IR graduate schools and I would have benefited greatly with guidance from others who have been through similar situations.  One thing I don’t have doubts about is that I am completely happy here in Madrid.

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