Just as, two weeks ago, I wrapped up the updates from the Class of 2010 with posts from Luis and Hana, this week I would like to return to the Class of 2015.  Today, we’ll learn what Peter Varnum, a good friend of the Admissions Office, has been doing since he graduated.

Time at Fletcher flies.  The pace of life is often so stressful that it is easy to lose sight of the return you’re actually earning.  Obviously this comes in the form of your lifelong friendships and network; it’s a main reason we all chose this place to continue our education.  But, amidst readings and papers and presentations — and world-renowned guest speakers, lectures from the Dean, and student-organized conferences — we often forget the other reason we chose Fletcher: it’s among the top international relations schools in the world.

Never has the stellar education been more evident to me than in my first year post-graduation.  I moved to Geneva, worked briefly for the World Health Organization in its mental health policy unit, and am now consulting with a small, international B-corporation called Vera Solutions, which works at the intersection of data and development.  (Side note: Fletcher allows you to work at the “intersection” of basically anything and anything.  We build bridges.)  Often dubbed the “DC of Europe,” Geneva is rife with IR- and development-types who love to throw around jargon and number of countries visited slash worked in like they’re all badges of honor, trophies of who knows the most, who’s done the most.  But I appreciate my Fletcher brethren here, and there are a number of them: those who can hang in those conversations, but don’t feel the need to tout their accolades.  Those who hold a room when they speak.  Those with whom you can have a drink and laugh at yourselves.

When you’ve turned in your thesis, and walked across the stage, and at some point found the nerve to click on one of those emails giving you an update of how much interest your student loan has accrued, you have time to breathe a little.  And that’s when you look back and realize just how much you’ve learned at Fletcher.  You learn from the courses you take, sure — but I would argue you learn more from your immersion in a space that brings together such interesting, diverse people.  I often chat with my own classmates, as well as prospective students, about what I call “Imposter Syndrome,” which I felt quite frequently at Fletcher.  You’re in class (and at house parties) with future diplomats, foreign service officers, magnates of international business, and leading academics.  Not to mention polyglots who may as well have designed Rosetta Stone.  I often used to ask myself how I wound up there.

But if Geneva has taught me anything, it’s that, despite my hideously accented Spanish (and just plain hideous French), those experiences have made me fluent in the language of international relations.  And not just in a professional setting; I now read the news with a more nuanced understanding to go with a critical eye that I like to think we all have entering Fletcher.  I feel comfortable voicing my opinions, and confident that they are informed.  I feel more like — and excuse the cliché — a productive citizen of the world.

Navigating ambiguity is at the heart of international work — at the heart of life, really.  I believe my Fletcher education has made me nimbler.  I do not hesitate among the flutter of languages in the UNICEF cafeteria, nor while chatting with the Director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, nor while having that drink with my fellow Fletcher graduates.  A year or so ago, when I was hunkered down in Ginn Library, procrastinating by dreaming up ideas for a creative Fletcher Follies video, I often wondered whether it was worth it.  These days, that uncertainty never crosses my mind.

Varnum, Peter

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