July 27, 2022, by Rebekah

My placement with Royal United Services Institute

by Samuel Bruning, Politics and International Relations student 

I was recently fortunate to conduct a placement with the Royal United Services Institute, the defence and security studies think tank. RUSI are an award-winning think tank, highly regarded for its analysis, and with a formidable reputation. Therefore, while taking on a placement with them was daunting, it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.

First, I had to demonstrate that I should be offered the placement. This involved a revision of my CV and writing a cover letter, to demonstrate I had both the interest and skills to be of value. I then had a short interview, which I prepared for by getting some friends to ask me practice questions. Fortunately, this part of the process went well, as I ended up getting the opportunity!

My placement saw me shadow Dr Tobias Borck, a Research Fellow for Middle East Security Studies at RUSI. This meant I attended some of his meetings, as well as conducting research to support what he was doing. This helped me garner an understanding of what working in a think tank entails. Meeting relevant individuals, conducting research, writing commentaries, hosting events, and completing funding bids.

I was also able to attend RUSI events, including talks on Libya and national security education. These proved valuable opportunities for me to learn in detail about subjects, as I heard from a range of different experts and practitioners. All of this was a great chance to work out how a think tank operates. Given this is a career avenue I’m exploring, this was of real benefit.

In addition, I co-authored a piece with Tobias for the RUSI website, which can be found via this link- https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/strings-attached-implications-europes-turn-mediterranean-gas. Writing this was a great experience. I gained insight into the process of producing analysis for a think-tank: getting an idea, narrowing the focus, and then drafting, and re-drafting, as well as doing this with a co-author. I also learnt more about the writing style necessary for a think tank, given how different this is from the academic writing I’m more used to.


When completing a placement, it’s key to form a good working relationship with your supervisor. With Tobias, I was sure to communicate clearly, while also not being afraid to ask questions when necessary. This was important for both of us. He knew I was doing what he wanted, and I was getting the most out of the experience.

Also key is to ensure you stay engaged. As I was completing the placement remotely, I knew it was important for me to stay focused. This meant assigning certain hours a day in which I’d be working, to counter the challenges of remote work.

However, the main thing is to enjoy it! A placement is a great opportunity, so approach it with confidence to make sure you get the most out of it, as I was sure to do, by attending events. But it shouldn’t be something stressful, so don’t panic or overthink it. Relax, know your stuff, and it should all come together!

Posted in general placement blogs