A recap of my Master’s degree journey

By Achieng’ Okello

Beyond choosing when and where to do my Master’s Degree, I must admit that doing a Master’s is not an easy undertaking. My fervency for international relations specifically international law practice and strategy and its linkage to foreign policy was crucial in my topic choice. I settled on the topic: “The foreign policy implications of the international court of justice maritime border dispute decision on Kenya-Somalia Relations.” Engaging this research provided me with a holistic view of the Kenya- Somalia relations while critically analyzing the course, evolution and transformation of these relations after the decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

There exists a dual character of disciplines within my research topic that is; international law and foreign policy- I focused on the foreign policy path through the guidance and counsel of my supervisor, Dr. Nicodemus Minde. We came up with research questions and objectives, the statement of the problem so as to fit the narrative and concept within which the research was going to address. I embarked on the literature review and produced a gap of the study. My research interest was driven by my passion to comprehend the International Court of Justice’s role in determining maritime delimitation disputes and the enforcing of the Court’s ruling as guided by international law principles which further impacts on the foreign policy of states. My research was guided by scholarly works of Korwa Gombe Adar, Mercy Kaburu, Senior Researcher Faith Mabera, Kizito Sabala and Kenneth Waltz among others.

In this intellectual journey I researched on the broad areas of Kenya’s foreign policy strategy as impacted by the Court’s ruling, the various foreign policy tools for advancing Kenya- Somalia relations post judgement as well as Kenya’s foreign policy behavior towards Somalia post judgement. My interest in Kenya- Somalia relations because of progressive educational attentiveness in foreign policy which can be referenced through the paradigms of international relations and my research goals. While I was able to focus on these objectives, the changing nature of the bi-lateral relations required my flexibility as the emerging trends required me to constantly update on the findings based on data collection.

The research journey was tedious as I experienced a sudden medical emergency that had me go into the operating room while I was on course with data collection and transcription. For almost two months I had been through a roller coaster extreme emotions, exhaustion and adverse side effects from the prescribed medication. I endured moments where I felt I was getting better yet minutes later I had to deal with excruciating pain and extreme fatigue. I was grateful to have my family and close friends stand with me during that period while giving their love and support through my medical journey. This required me to do some of the interviews virtually to finish my research on time.

This journey has been a great experience while adding to my knowledge in international relations and foreign policy as well as acquiring new skills that aid research and an ethical application for conducting field work. The Masters in International Relations at USIU-A created a structure that helped me build on my knowledge and established a social network base while navigating through the program.

I am grateful for the remarkable experience I shared with fellow students who later became friends. We did our best to maneuver the pressures of being part time students, doing assignments, preparing for examinations with the aim of seeing our names on the graduation list.  There were moments where we faced challenges and lacked the energy to keep going. Despite the challenges, we encouraged each other to forge through the journey and that one day it will pay off. Truly, slowly and surely, it did pay off.

Lastly, this Master’s program created an opportunity for me to learn to become a researcher through the responsibilities, the challenges, the constant consultations, the milestones which all formed part of the journey. It was a learning curve. It is still a learning curve. Having reached this far, I look forward to expounding on deeper horizons, scale the great heights of research in International Relations while exploring the numerous opportunities within the respective realm.


Achieng’ Okello is a Certified Associate in Project Management. Achieng’ is a Customer Experience & Corporate Communication Expert with a six year wealth of experience in stakeholder relations management. She has a special interest in International Law and Foreign Policy. Achieng’ holds a Master’s in International Relations with a major in Foreign Policy and Diplomacy from the United States International University- Africa.