Scholar Profile: Giuseppe Spatafora

3 May 2018

For this blog series we asked our Scholars to tell us about their experience of studying at Oxford as well as what it’s like being a student at Kellogg. Giuseppe Spatafora is studying full-time for an MPhil in International Relations, he holds a Kellogg College Scholarship.

Why did you decide to apply for Oxford and how did you hear about the Kellogg College Scholarship?

I decided to apply for at Oxford not just because of the prestige of the programme and of the university, but because I wanted to take up a new challenge. After being brought up in the Italian school system, I studied for my undergraduate degree in International Affairs, History and Economics at an American college in Rome, called John Cabot University. I was therefore used to US academia, but I was also curious to see how learning and researching would be like in the United Kingdom.

When Oxford accepted my application, I was elated but also concerned about the financial aspects of two more years of study. There were very few funding applications available by then, one of which was the Kellogg College Scholarship. The scholarship application asked to demonstrate both academic an extra-curricular commitments, and therefore was compatible with my undergraduate curriculum. I gave it a shot, and luckily I was selected!

What research are you currently working on?

I am one of the very few members of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Kellogg, where I study a two-year MPhil in International Relations. My interests lie at the intersection of institutionalist and realist theories of international relations. More specifically, I research on the deterrent role of military alliances and on the effect of instruments for intra-allied control and military coordination. My goal is to understand whether these institutional mechanisms help to reduce the occurrence of intra-state war.

Aside from my main research project, I am also interested in the international relations of East Asia and the Pacific, on which I wrote a couple of posts for the Kellogg blog. This interest stems out partly from the short period of time I lived in South Korea and Malaysia, and partly because it is the area of crucial geo-strategic and economic importance for the present and future of world politics.

What does the Scholarship mean to you?

The Kellogg College Scholarship is one of the reasons why I have accepted a place at Oxford. It is not just merely about the material value of the award. To me, the message of trust that the scholarship conveys matters the most: the college has decided to bet on me and to put its funds to support my academic upbringing. This is even more remarkable in a place like Oxford. Every day I meet people who amuse me for their intelligence and ability, and I’m very honoured that Kellogg College has seen a similar potential in me and has given me the chance to be part of this environment. I doubt I would have had such a rich experience at this stage of my life if it weren’t for this scholarship.

What do you value about being a student at Kellogg College?

Being the youngest college at Oxford might, at first sight, reduce its appeal, but in reality Kellogg is both a centre of academic excellence and a very friendly and dynamic environment. To me, Kellogg is actually very prestigious as it can boast the famous Italian medievalist Umberto Eco among its Honorary Fellows.

As I mentioned before, there aren’t many people from my department, so every guest dinner and social event is a chance to divert my attention away from my studies and to learn about the fantastic projects my fellow ‘Cornflakes’ are working on. Kellogg is also very international: every time I go to college, I get the chance to brush up my Spanish, exchange a few words in Korean, and learn Chinese in a spontaneous language exchange. For me, Kellogg’s liveliness is a perfect complement to Oxford’s academic rigour.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to Oxford?

My first piece of advice is: do not apply to Oxford just because of the name. Consider the different programs well, and do apply for it if the courses and scholars really match your interests. If they do, then don’t hesitate to apply! Don’t be intimidated by the level of competition: that should push you to do the best.

My second, much more pragmatic advice is: think early about how you want to fund your studies. Scholarships are available, but they aren’t that many and it’s not straightforward to find them, so take your time to search for funding opportunities. The Kellogg Scholarship can provide a great help – both in funding your studies and in showing that someone believes in you.

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