Fall slipped away without a second post from Mirza, but I’m happy to say that he’s still very much part of our Student Stories feature.  Unlike Maliheh, who is in the final semester of her MALD program, Mirza has completed only four courses, and is now taking his second group of four.  Graduating students’ curricula have a way of looking very planned and intentional.  What Mirza shares below is that the curriculum formation process is best approached with an open mind.

After submitting my enrollment deposit for the Fall 2012 semester, I immediately began compiling a comprehensive list of courses and Fields of Study that I wished to pursue at Fletcher.  The idea was simple and quite reasonable: the more prepared I was at the outset of my Fletcher career, the more I would get out of the MALD program by the end of its two years.  I spent the summer before my first semester crafting intricate tables with various combinations of courses, highlighting breadth requirements with tacky colors, and endlessly matching courses with depth and certificate requirements.  I even met with a professor and emailed the Office of Career Services.  I was determined to be as prepared as possible.  Though I did also manage to do other (more fun) activities over the summer, this “figuring out my two years at Fletcher” became a passion, if not an obsession.

So, naturally, I strolled into class Shopping Day after the week-long Orientation thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  For me, these shopping sessions would be purely informational since I had my class schedule firmed up — not only for this semester, but for the ensuing three semesters as well.  Everything needed to happen in a particular manner for my academic grand strategy to materialize.  There was no room for deviation — that’s what undergraduate study had been for, after all.

My grand strategy lasted for about 24 hours.  One full day of classes, and I was back at the drawing board.  Slowly but surely, I was switching from one class to another.  Econometrics replaced finance.  A security studies class replaced a law class.  International communication replaced policy analysis.  By the time the add/drop period ended, I had switched all but one of my original classes.  The prudent summer planning was in shambles, and I was rethinking my entire approach to the academic curriculum at Fletcher.  The simple truth was that everything — classes, people, events, and new opportunities — was exciting, but also slightly overwhelming.

What I learned was that being here matters.  Even though two years is a short amount of time, and knowing one’s academic direction and career trajectory is essential, there is only so much that can or should be planned prior to joining Fletcher in person.  Why?  For me, the key was meeting peers who voiced passionately just how interesting and useful a particular class is — a class I didn’t think much about when reading its description in the course bulletin.  I also came to understand the importance of studying with a great professor — even if I don’t ultimately specialize in that professor’s field of expertise, I will value his or her contribution to my development as a productive and successful Fletcher student.  And factoring the advice of peers and professors into my course selection will help me create the curriculum that will best support my job search and career.

Once classes began, I also discovered the importance of being involved in the Fletcher community outside of class, leading me to redistribute my course load for a more realistic balance.  And, finally, before I enrolled, I hadn’t foreseen that learning and intellectual growth can take unexpected turns, and even at the master’s program level, it is possible to discover new — and previously untapped — interests.

If you are planning for your Fletcher program, take it from me, you simply cannot anticipate all this without being here, and that is entirely o.k.  Those two special (and potentially most memorable) years of your life begin in late August, and the real planning starts in the Hall of Flags.

Mirza’s first semester classes:
Processes of International Negotiation
Internal Conflicts and War
International Communication

And this semester:
Entrepreneurial Marketing: Building a Winning Business Plan
Analytic Frameworks for International Public Policy Decisions
Political Economy After the Crisis [cross-registered at Harvard]
Values, Interests, and the Crafting of U.S. Foreign Policy [cross-registered at Harvard]

Fields of Study:
International Information and Communication
International Business Relations
International Security Studies

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