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As I mentioned last week, I joined colleagues from our closest peer schools at a Summerfest event hosted by Georgetown MSFS on Wednesday.  With nearly 150 prospective students attending and only five schools to chat with, one Fletcher rep would never have been enough.  I recruited a happy band of alumni and current-student volunteers to help me out.  Here’s the team, just before the evening ended:

Grace, Ishan (who turned up without my even having asked), Mariya (F18), Akshobh, Harsha (F14), Kelsey, and Katie all answered questions on a very wide range of topics (research on Russia, the Map Your Future pathway, the PhD program, joining the Foreign Service, self-designed Fields of Study, to name only a few).  Harsha did double duty — he was the alumnus representing Fletcher for a panel discussion and then he joined us at the table.

At Fletcher, we talk endlessly about the community, but I never find the endless talk to be an exaggeration.  All these folks gave up a lovely summer evening to stand in a noisy meeting room and answer question after question and — let’s be honest — represent the student experience far better than I can.  They also make every event more fun!

There are two more Summerfests coming up, in New York and a second evening in DC.  I hope you’ll join us — one of my Admissions pals and a group of student volunteers — on one of those dates.


For the final Qs&As, the Admissions Graduate Assistants will turn to locations — on-campus and off-campus, for study, housing, or simply learning about the area.  Don’t miss their previous advice on preparing for Fletcher generally and preparing for Orientation and classes.

What is your favorite place at Fletcher or elsewhere on the Tufts campus?

Brooklyn: Ginn Library has a no-food policy, which I wholeheartedly endorse because nothing is worse than trying to read for class with someone crunching in your ear.  However, there are times when I get really busy and it would be great to be able to do some work while I eat.  This is where the Mugar Computer Lab comes in!  Obviously, if you’re going to eat a whole meal, you might as well go to the café, but for snacking while reading, Mugar Computer Lab is the place to go.

Cece: My favorite place on campus is the roof area of the Tisch Library, called “Alex’s Place.”  It offers a gorgeous view of the Boston skyline and the Medford/Somerville neighborhoods since Tufts sits on top of a hill.  It makes a great reading spot or just a place to take a calming break from the library below.

Cindy: To be honest, I spend pretty much all of my time in or around the Fletcher building, but I don’t have a particular favorite place.  I guess I’d say my favorite is anywhere I’m hanging out with friends.  There is, however, a restaurant on the Tufts campus called Semolina Kitchen and Bar which has excellent food!

John: Hall of Flags during Social Hours — free food and great company — what could be better?

Do you have any tips for finding housing?

Cece: Fletcher Facebook pages and the Social List, Fletcher’s informal student listserv, are a good place to start a housing hunt if you are looking for places around Fletcher.  Alums, current students, and incoming students all post housing-related messages all the way up to mid-August, so don’t panic if you are not successful early on.  I would also say that living close to Fletcher is not the only housing option.  Many students live in other parts of Medford or even in neighboring cities like Cambridge.  The options are wide, based on what logistical arrangements you are comfortable with.  I live 25 minutes away from campus but I took the distance as an opportunity to get back to cycling and it has worked out.  Do keep the winter weather in mind as well — the cold and snow can complicate long commutes.

Cindy: I am in an unusual situation compared to most Fletcher students: I am married and have a dog and guinea pig.  Roommates were not the best option for us to keep our rent costs down.  I would highly recommend taking a trip to visit the area and search for housing on your own, or connect with other students on the Facebook group.  If you cannot visit, get in touch with current Fletcher students who have used trusted realtors, and maybe they can help you find a place.  Keep in mind that realtors typically charge fees.

John: The Social List and the Facebook group are both great resources for incoming students, but more important than the search medium is that you really think about what you want out of your housing in terms of price, roommates, and proximity to campus.  There are a lot of options that come online throughout the summer so you can afford to be a little picky, but I would also recommend being open to new experiences that may be different from your ideal housing situation.

Brooklyn: Coming from Washington, DC, I had gotten used to looking for housing closer to the move-in date, probably 30 to 45 days out.  In the greater Boston area, this is not how things work!  Because something like 90% of leases in the metro area start September 1, people will start looking for housing as early as March/April.  While you don’t need to start that early, the earlier you can start looking the better!

What location in the Boston area should students be sure to visit?

John: Beacon Hill is a cool historic district in downtown Boston.  It’s very close to other noteworthy spots, including the Massachusetts State House, the Boston Common, and Newbury Street.  Chinatown is a nice change of pace; there are some great restaurants and it’s a fun way to see a different side of Boston.  I also really enjoy Harpoon Brewery in the Seaport District.  Be sure to order one of their famed pretzels while you’re enjoying a beer!

Cindy: I love to sing, so I would recommend going to any of the karaoke bars in downtown Boston with your friends.  There are also some excellent local breweries if you’re into trying interesting beers, such as Slumbrew and Aeronaut.

Cece: The Boston waterfront (while the warm weather lasts) or any neighborhood near the Charles River is where Boston feels complete to me.  I love that this city has a great balance of urban and nature.  If you don’t feel like going as far as downtown Boston, you’ll find a lot to explore in Medford, Somerville, and Cambridge, all of which have their own vibe and charms.  Anybody new to Boston should definitely go on the Freedom Trail as well, to learn about the rich history of this city.

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Today’s Q&A with the Office of Admissions 2017-18 Graduate Assistants (GAs) zeroes in on Orientation and the start of classes.

What tips do you have for after classes start?

Cindy: Get organized quickly!  I use a planner that I refer to when I need to check what readings or assignments I have coming up, and I use Google Calendar to alert me where I need to be.  This has been extremely helpful for me because I can always be thinking ahead, and it has helped me make tough choices about whether to attend events or focus on coursework that is due soon.

I have also found that forming reading groups early on will help you be on top of your classes and help you meet new people.  It is a fact that you will not read everything for your classes, but it’s more manageable if you’re splitting things up and sharing notes.  Those notes also come in handy during exam time. 🙂

John: I agree that it’s really helpful to try and form a study group/reading group, especially with classes that have a heavy reading load.  I would also say that it’s important to find that balance of activities early on in the semester.  It’s easier to start this early in the year and you’ll thank yourself when things get crazier later on.  Finally, don’t forget to get involved!  Classes can take over your life, but one of the best things about Fletcher is the exchange of ideas that happens outside of the classroom through organizations, conferences, and social events.  Dive right in and get involved in something that you’re passionate about, but also don’t be afraid to try some new things.

Brooklyn: After classes start, but BEFORE the end of the add-drop period, make sure to check the work required for each class by taking a look at the syllabi.  Some classes will require more written paper assignments while others will be more exam based.  It’s good to select classes that are a mixture of the two.  You don’t want to end up writing five papers or have five exams at the end of the semester!

Cece: Enjoy learning and don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of reading or assignments.  You’ll get used to the flow of graduate school and learn to balance academics and your social/professional sphere.  It is important to apply your professional lens to what you are learning as well, so take time to think about what you learn in class and consider how it might be relevant for you professionally in the future.  You will find that the Fletcher calendar is filled with numerous exciting events, guest speakers, lectures, and student-run club events.  It can feel like a lot, but you will soon learn that it is not humanly possible to attend everything and meet everyone in the first semester.  It’s okay to take some time just settling in.  I would still recommend making the best use of all the extra resources Fletcher provides outside of the classroom and begin building a network that will stay with you even after you leave Fletcher.

If you could speak to your pre-Orientation self, what would you say?

John: Take a deep breath.  You’ll receive a lot of information during Orientation.  It takes time to process it and it’s really easy to get overwhelmed.  Make sure to pay attention to these sessions, but also take the time to get to know your classmates and the rest of the Fletcher community.

Cece: Make the most of your first week by attending the social hours held during orientation.  Orientation is a gateway to meeting a lot of amazing people you will call classmates for the rest of your Fletcher experience.

Cindy: Graduate school will go by so fast, so make sure to try new things, get involved in opportunities that come your way, meet and connect with others, and enjoy the experience!

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The Graduate Assistants (GAs) who work in the Office of Admissions are a great resource for prospective students.  Not only do they have their own experience to draw on, but they have also learned about the experience of other applicants and incoming students through their work.  (Answering dozens of calls and emails each shift will do that for you.)  Two of the 2017-18 GAs — Brooklyn and Cindy — are newly graduated and have moved on to new vistas, while two — John and Cece — will return in September.  Before they all left campus in May, I asked for their tips for incoming students.  Today and later this week, I’ll share their responses, in Q&A format, starting today with the big picture.  (Note that there are some recurring themes, which should reinforce their importance.)

Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students do to prepare for their Fletcher studies?

Brooklyn: I would suggest taking the time to study for the equivalency exams.  The two years at Fletcher go by fast and there is a limited number of credits you can take, so you do not want to waste them on classes that you have already taken.  If it’s been a few years since your last economics or statistics class, it might take a few hours of studying to prep for the equivalency exams, but it will be worth it when you can skip basic classes and take ones that are more focused and challenging.

Cece: Go through the course listing on the Fletcher website and map out your next one or two years very roughly.  I would suggest incoming students do that during the summer, as it can be overwhelming to select classes at the last minute and most students panic initially, even by sheer excitement about all the choices.

I would also recommend students orient themselves to the faculty, if they have not already, as making early connections with a faculty member from your field of study can really help you shape your academic experience and build a professional track for after Fletcher.  Student-faculty relationships at Fletcher can be very informal and professors and administrators really care about the success of their students.  Start the process of becoming familiar with Fletcher and the opportunities you may want to pursue once you are here.

Cindy: If you know that you might need to brush up on your second language skills, it’s better to do it early on than after your classes start.  Take some time over the summer to practice on your own or enroll in a class/program if you have the resources to do so.  Once classes start, try to take your reading and oral exams as early as you can, and definitely don’t leave them until your last semester!

Second, take some time to RELAX over the summer.  Read books that you haven’t had the chance to read, travel, visit family and friends, or take up a hobby.  Once school starts, your calendar will fill up very quickly and you will be incredibly busy with classes, meeting new people, exploring the area, and getting involved in Fletcher events and clubs.

John: While I don’t recommend planning out every facet of your Fletcher experience, I do think that it’s useful to consider the bigger picture of how Fletcher fits into your plans and where you want your degree to take you.  This answer will likely change during your time at Fletcher, but it’s a useful question that can help frame your experience and what you want to get out of it.

If you plan on taking equivalency exams for economics or quant in August, make sure to study a little bit over the summer.  The tests are offered during Orientation, when there are a lot of different activities happening, so it’s important to plan ahead.  I would also recommend brushing up on your language skills.  I remember thinking that I would have time during the semester to do this, but that hasn’t proven true thus far.  If you can get the requirements out of the way, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.

More than anything, I think it’s important to rest and recharge before you begin school again.  Transitioning to graduate school is challenging under the best of circumstances.  Give yourself space and time to tie up loose ends in whichever city you’re coming from, visit family and friends you haven’t seen for a while, and mentally prepare for the journey ahead.

Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students NOT do to prepare for their Fletcher studies?

Cece: I would say do not NOT connect or NOT familiarize yourself with Fletcher, thinking you’ll figure it out all when you’re on campus.  Read all the materials the school sends, because it has a lot of useful information that you will need while transitioning to graduate school.  Even if you are a local student, still make time to orient yourself to Fletcher.

Cindy: Do not assume that you will come to Fletcher with your classes planned out for every semester.  It is good to do your research, chat with current or former students, and have a rough plan.  Every semester, however, has a “Shopping Day,” when you get to shop around for interesting classes, hear quick pitches from the professor about a particular class, and ask questions.  Almost every semester, I attended Shopping Day and changed my initial plans for what I thought I would be taking.

John: Don’t stress yourself out!  There are some things in your control and some things that are not.  For the things out of your control, don’t worry.  Everything will line up eventually.  In that same line of thought, don’t feel like you have to plan out your entire career at Fletcher.  You’ll probably change your concentrations, much less your class schedule, multiple times during your first semester.  That’s one of the benefits of having such a flexible Fletcher curriculum.  Additionally, Shopping Days at the beginning of the semester, where professors give a brief description of their course, is a great resource to get a better feel for which classes you’d be interested in taking.  All this to say, your schedule may come together last minute and that’s perfectly normal for Fletcher.

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Over the course of the summer, I’ll be sharing advice for incoming students and for applicants.  Mahmoud Jabari, who graduated from the MALD program in May, offered up his tips, which will be helpful for both groups.

Giving remarks during the Fletcher Honus Civicus induction ceremony in May. (Photo by Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

In April 2015, I chose to attend The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy for one main reason: the unique structure of Fletcher’s academic programs and how they intersect and overlap.  What does that mean?

Basically, it means the opportunity to build my degree with courses across a range of fields.  Within the Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy are twenty-plus concentrations and each student has to choose two.  I chose to focus on International Business Relations and International Political Economy, and at the same time pursue a certificate in Strategic Management, one of the five professional certificates Fletcher offers.

My classes ranged from law-oriented areas such as international trade and international business transactions, to economics and finance including underground finance and economics of public policy.  I wanted to fulfill two goals at Fletcher.  The first was to gain better understanding of business in the context of international relations and how they influence and shape each other.  The second was to develop tangible skills that would enable me to be an active, effective, and strategic professional in international business strategy and public-private partnerships.

As I recently graduated from Fletcher, I wanted to share some thoughts and takeaways from my two years here, in addition to the year I took to work full time.

Most important: Never cease asking questions.
When I entered Fletcher in September 2015, I was overwhelmed by the diversity of talent, professional backgrounds, and experiences of my fellow students.  I had just finished my undergraduate studies in May of that year.  When I did my readings for a class, my goal was to be prepared to give an answer the next day in or outside of class.  While answers are important, they are not necessarily and always a solution.  In fact, at Fletcher, I learned the opposite: It is all about the questions.  Questions that arise from professors and from students’ input, or those a reading should provoke.  Whether it is the “what,” the “how,” or the “what if,” questions matter.  I am leaving Fletcher driven by questions more than answers.

Among my other thoughts: The impact of professors goes beyond a classroom or class materials.
There has not been one class at Fletcher where I did not leave with new knowledge, questions, frameworks, and ideas.  Nonetheless, those that have been the most fun and enjoyable were when professors inspired students by sharing their stories.  Professors’ dedication, in time and effort, and their stories from their professional careers, research, and experiences left me with advice, learning, and lessons.  Last semester, I took a class on Leading the Global Corporation with Professor Richard Thoman.  His stories about his experience making business deals, leading business expansions, and managing change in big-name firms were invaluable.  The insights of Professor Ibrahim Warde, my thesis advisor, has enriched my independent study on the “Palestinian Quest for Statehood.”  His expertise and experience at the nexus of economics, politics, and history were invaluable to my work.  The same applies to my experience in two classes with Professor Joel Trachtman.

Internships matter but there are tons of other possibilities.
By the beginning of my second semester, internships became the dominant topic and concern of most students.  For those looking for opportunities in the business world, the conversation started even earlier.  It is overwhelming.  If you cannot find something on time, it can be intimidating.  I got my internship in early June and started around mid-June.  It worked out for me, but I remind myself that I could have done something else, such as field research, learning a new language, or a summer program in a relevant field.  Don’t freak out about internships.

Find time to get to know people.
Meeting students and learning about what they have done before Fletcher was my favorite part of my time here.  Every student has a unique life story.  They worked with refugees, or on global or national policy issues, new business ventures, interesting research projects, and so many other areas in a wide variety of fields.  Between homework, assigned readings, and exams, time is limited.  Nonetheless, try to find time to meet fellow students, and learn about the work they have done.  I enjoyed it, but I know that I could have dedicated even more time to it.

Have fun and don’t rush.
Between my first and second year at Fletcher, I took a year off to work full-time as an Economic Development Associate at the Office of the Quartet (the United Nations, U.S., European Union, and Russia) in Jerusalem.  It was a great opportunity to bring one year of Fletcher education to the field, build professional experience, and bring that mix back to Fletcher for my second year.  It enriched my time and education at Fletcher, widened my horizons, and strengthened my confidence.  I highly recommend such a break to those who can afford to take the time to do it.  Nonetheless, time flew by, so it’s also important not to rush.

Ending my Fletcher chapter is a bittersweet feeling — a mix of sadness, happiness, pride, and gratitude.  Time will tell whether I fulfilled my goals while at Fletcher.  However, I know that my education at Fletcher has helped me build an understanding of my areas of study and beyond and helped me develop the skills I will need to succeed.  I will forever cherish my experience and memories here.


Not only did Pulkit graduate in May, but he was one of the two students elected by their peers to give speeches at Commencement.  For his final post as a Student Stories writer, he has shared his speech with the blog.  I can confirm that Pulkit carefully followed his father’s advice that he describes below.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

Thank you for this greatest honor.  For a boy from India, whose parents always pushed him to go beyond what he thought he was capable of, this is big.  I cannot express how happy I am in this very moment.  There is no place I would rather be, than here — to celebrate with you all.

I see happy and smiling faces.  Did you know that in Hindi, Pulkit means Happiness.  My father gave me this name.  Before I began this journey here at the Fletcher School, he also told me to greet everyone with a big smile.  That there was no comparison to a smile, and that the smile is the most lethal weapon ever invented and produced.  He asked me to proliferate smiles and happiness.  Even if you tear up today, those are tears of happiness.

As we all turn a page today, firstly, it is befitting of me to thank you and pay my respects.

In Sanskrit, there is a word, and most of you must have heard it.  It is a beautiful word: formed by the amalgamation of two words – नमः and ते, नमस्ते (namaste) and means “I bow to Thee.”  It is very analogous to the Japanese tradition of bowing in respect.

Today, I bow to thee, Dear Fletcher School.  As an institution of learning and a place I am proud to call home; your warmth embraced and held me, nurtured me, and nudged me forward.

I bow to thee, Dear Professors, in reverence and gratitude.  When you shared your knowledge, you shared it with utmost honesty.  You implored us to listen intently, question the status quo, and to zealously advocate for the weak and powerless.

I bow to thee, Dear Staff.  Thank you for guiding and supporting us all throughout.  You made life easier for us.

I bow to thee, Dear Family and Friends.  Thank you for all your sacrifices.  You struggled before me in order for me to be here.  You were there since the very beginning — from scrambling to find resources to fund our education, to keeping us in your thoughts and prayers, and for encouraging us all along the way.

To Fletcher spouses — for taking care of home and children, and lending support as we labored through our assignments.  It wasn’t easy.  Thank you.

I bow to thee, Dear Classmates, my friends and peers.  Your exemplary courage and due diligence to work on the most pressing global issues and your tenacious pursuit of knowledge is immensely commendable.  I am proud to be one of you.

The first time I had heard about the Fletcher School, I was sitting in a cubicle in India — in the process of finding purpose in the work that I was doing.  As I was rummaging through Fletcher’s website, I remember thinking to myself, “I can never get there.”  Since my admission to the Fletcher School, it has been a remarkable and extraordinary journey of self-discovery.  We are here now, ready to Commence.  A big part of my journey, my story, has been you, my fraternity at the Fletcher School, and your powerful, captivating stories.

What is it about institutions that makes them so powerful?  Apart from the ideas that dwell there, it is the people, and here at Fletcher, I have found and interacted with the best.  I have found inspiration in your stories.  We realized in one form or other that these stories were the common thread that bound all of us — in classrooms, during study groups and case study preparation, during educational tours, and during cultural nights.  When you generously and thoughtfully shared your experience, you stimulated my curiosity.  When you asked the tough questions, you challenged me and my assumptions.  You forced me to think critically.  As I interacted with you, my dear friends and classmates, I started internalizing bits and pieces of you.  These interactions gave me an opportunity to dig a little deeper, to introspect, and critically analyze my own history and my perceptions of your history.

I know that I have changed and I know I am taking a part of you with me.  I know this is true for you too.  Let me share a story.  I live with four housemates, from Japan, France, Brazil, and the United States.  Over the year, organically, we cultivated a habit of dining together.  Every night when the weary souls would get back home, we would share our resources, and cook together.  Our understanding of each other has now come to a point where we all prefer a French croissant for breakfast every Sunday morning, and the Indian Basmati rice for dinner.

To me that is what Fletcher embodies — an oasis of knowledge and a place of confluence of peoples from all across the globe and from different walks of life.  At Fletcher, I have learned to listen to people’s stories with humility, and most importantly to appreciate the diversity of opinion.

Even as I continue to thank Fletcher, I nudge it to be more inclusive of diversity of ideas and people.  We, too, owe a bit of ourselves to this institute — and hope we all will contribute to the growth of this institution and for the next generation of students’ ability to be here.

We are ready to commence our journeys with a mix of pride, jubilation, and expectation.  As my friend Lauren pointed out, Fletcher has set the wheels in motion and now we are to keep moving them forward.  We are to use the foundation that Fletcher has help us lay, and in furtherance of it as we continue to seek, we are to find the answers.  In the words of Mark Watney, from the movie The Martian, “You begin.  You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next.  And If you solve enough problems, you’re home.”

In time, as we all move on to taking roles in different institutions and organizations, the challenge is not whether we will be successful.  After all, we are walking in the shoes of legends.  The challenge is to work in contexts of discrimination and with marginalized communities.  The challenge is how to lead others and to be a resource for everyone in the face of adversity.  To that effect, I encourage you to treat the world with compassion and kindness.

Today, whether you are an MIB, an LLM, an MA, a MALD, a MAHA, or a PhD — as my friend Clare shared with me, a common characteristic that binds all of us is a sense of pragmatic optimism for the world.  Whether through business, security, diplomacy, gender studies, civic or humanitarian action, we at Fletcher believe that people-to-people cooperation and international cooperation ought to and can build a better future for the world.

I sincerely hope we all continue to place faith in that belief.

You are extraordinary, Fletcher.

Watch the speeches given by Pulkit (starting at about 17:30) and Laurance below.

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The final post this week from our continuing Student Stories writers comes from Akshobh.

Professor Sulmaan Khan is the eternal polymath – he knows everything about everything.  Hyperbole aside, all of Professor Khan’s students agree that he is the ultimate historian with domain knowledge second to none.

Professor Khan’s Historian’s Art class outside Ginn Library. I am in the front row in a brown jacket, not quite acclimatized to the weather.

I took Professor Khan’s Historian’s Art class this spring.  The class is as esoteric as the name sounds.  It’s certainly a class for history connoisseurs, however with a twist.  The key element of the class lies in being able to transport yourself into the shoes of decision makers at various times in history, forgetting what you know and trying to rationalize why they did what they did at that point in time.  The class ensures you don’t fall into the hindsight fallacy and that you understand the extenuating circumstances that existed then, and that as a result, shaped key world events.

One of Professor Khan’s interesting traits is to be able to conduct his classes outside.  Naturally, a New England winter precludes this happening too often.  But one fine March day, we found ourselves seated on the grassy lawn.  Professor Khan reassured us that it was spring and ergo when the weather is pleasant, it’s time to make full use of it.

“I still see snow, professor,” remarked one of my classmates, pointing to a muddy block of ice.  “Well, it’s New England, so you’re always going to see snow,” remarked Professor Khan.  “But, snow should not be the key factor in ascertaining whether it’s spring time or not; it’s actually robins,” he explained.

It was almost as if Professor Khan then put on his ornithology hat and stated, “People presume that the sighting of a robin is the first sign of spring in the U.S. and that robins are not seen in winter.  This is a myth.”  He stated confidently, “Robins are seen in winter; however, they’re seen in the trees, since it is too cold for them to be on the ground to forage.  In spring, they are seen scurrying away on the ground.”  And sure enough, we turned to find two robins on the ground, in their search for worms while we searched for answers to some of history’s biggest questions.

The spring semester is a peculiar time at Fletcher.  Unlike the fall semester, you don’t come onto campus with trees in bloom and the sun shining brightly, and there are certainly no robins hopping on the ground.  Instead, you walk in after a relatively cold winter break, with more cold weather ahead.  Spring doesn’t arrive till late March or early April, which is the business end of the semester.

Except for Januarians, who are just starting their studies, the spring semester is the antithesis of the fall semester, and that’s not even referring to weather.  For second years, it’s the last hurrah of their Fletcher sojourn and that means capstone season, along with fulfilling last course requirements and the job hunt.  For first years, you’ve dipped your toe in the Fletcher well in the fall, and the second semester is now balancing your classes with the internship hunt.

While a Fletcher curriculum can be both exhaustive and (given the workload) exhausting, the internship hunt is almost a fifth course.  Or maybe like one or two whole courses, where you need to keep putting in the research and tidying up your résumé, writing succinctly yet waxing lyrical about your experiences in cover letters.  The internship search has no fixed timeline and is a continuous work in progress.  It concludes only when the dotted line has been signed.

My unsolicited advice is that, as hackneyed as it may sound, it is important to start early; perhaps start in the winter break if you have to.  I got so caught up in my classes, assignments, and club activities that I didn’t start hunting till March.  Fortunately, after an exciting spring break visit to Israel & Palestine, my internship found me.

I will be working with the South Asia center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, focusing on U.S. foreign policy and business engagement with the region.

As I wrap up my first year, I’m looking forward to an exciting summer.

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Kaitlyn is a local — or almost local, given that her home area of Cape Cod is a region unto itself.  For her final post of this academic year, she has suggestions for summer fun to share with incoming students or anyone else in the region.

The warm weather is here!  And the sun’s returned with it.  It’s surreal to think about, but as of Wednesday, May 9th, I’m a Fletcher second year.  The last month of the semester was quite hectic, but we’re past it, and with half of us having graduated, it’s high time for celebrations — and taking advantage of the wonderful summer weather.  There are plenty of exciting things to do in Boston in the summer time.  Here’s my top five ways to take advantage of the sun.

1. Hiking in the Middlesex Fells

The Boston skyline from the Middlesex Fells.

Just a 15-minute drive from Fletcher, the Middlesex Fells consists of beautiful hills and forests that surround reservoirs and ponds.  This state reservation has bike and walking trails of varying difficulty, so you could do what I did in March and take an easy stroll around the lakefront, or you could try what we’ll be doing this week and hike up the hills for beautiful views of Boston.  The area is quiet and tranquil, with a visitor center, a zoo just to the north, and a boathouse that opens at the end of May for anyone interested in renting a kayak or canoe.  All the trails are loops, and the Fells website has estimated hiking times for each one.  Pack some snacks, some water, and a camera, and enjoy the great outdoors.

2. See Shakespeare on the Common

Every summer in July and August, the Boston Common (easily accessible by Park Street Station on the Red and Green line) hosts Shakespeare on the Common, where open-air Shakespeare performances go on in the early evenings.  It’s the perfect outing for anyone staying in the area for the summer or returning early from an internship.  This year, they’re performing Richard III.  Go early, bring a blanket or folding chair, and grab a good seat.  You can buy snacks from one of the vendors on the Common or cross the street and pick up something from one of the surrounding restaurants.

3. Kayak the Charles

The activity I most looked forward to during the week before graduation was joining other students for kayaking the Charles River.  It’s a fun daytime activity.  You can rent a kayak by the hour and see Boston from the river.  The closest starting place is in Kendall Square, just a few T (subway) stops from Tufts.  Go on a warm sunny day and be prepared for your Fletcher friends to splash you.

4. Take a tour on the Duck Boats

If you’d like to spend a day being a proper tourist in Boston, a duck boat tour is one of the best ways to do it.  The signature boats that carry our sports teams in parade processions will bring you all around the city to view historic sites.  Then, most exciting, they’ll drive right off the road and into the Boston Harbor (it never gets old).  So you’ll see Boston from the water, too, and maybe hear a story or two about the Boston Tea Party.

5. Walk the Freedom Trail

If you’re interested in being a tourist, or learning more local history, or if you liked my hiking suggestion earlier but would rather hike in the city, check out the Freedom Trail!  Just follow the red-brick road!  The Freedom trail is a 2.5-mile red-brick line that leads you down Boston’s sidewalks and to many of its historical sites and museums.  Go with friends or with a tour guide.  Who knows — you might even see a pilgrim or a revolutionary soldier.

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Last week, we heard from Mariya and Adi, two of our newly graduated Student Stories writers.  This week, I’m turning back to our continuing bloggers for their end-of-spring reflections.  Today, Gary reports on his first year in Fletcher’s PhD program.  He will complete his coursework in the fall semester and move on to his comprehensive exams and dissertation.

As the spring semester came to a close, I paused to reflect back on my first year of doctoral studies and attempted to put it into context.  Remarkably, it is the fourth year of full-time study I’ve enjoyed since the completion of my bachelor’s degree in 2004 (all while serving on active duty in the Marine Corps).  I was previously fortunate to spend three consecutive years as an Olmsted Scholar (one year of language training in California, while simultaneously working on an associate’s degree in Mandarin Chinese, followed by two years in a master’s program in Taiwan).  As a military officer, it is unusual to have the opportunity to follow those years of school with additional graduate studies.  In that regard, I’ve benefited from the recent emphasis that my service has placed on developing officers with doctorates, paving the way for what I am doing now.  I’ve been deeply impressed with the quality of the first year of my education at Fletcher, and I am very happy that I will have another year here to continue my work.  Following a vote in May by the PhD Committee, I have now advanced to PhD candidacy.

An aspect of the program that I have appreciated is Fletcher’s PhD colloquium, a forum for doctoral students and candidates to present their research to their peers and faculty members and receive feedback and (constructive) criticism before making their actual dissertation proposal defense or conference presentation.  Some students also use the colloquium at a later stage in their dissertation research and writing process, presenting at the colloquium only a short time before they plan to defend their dissertation in front of their committee, almost like a “dry run.”  For example, at a colloquium session in late January 2018, we heard David Wallsh, currently a Research Analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses, present his dissertation research, entitled “Switching Sides: Foreign Policy Realignment in Egypt and Syria.”  Wallsh integrated the feedback he received at that colloquium session and then successfully defended his dissertation in April.  He graduated from Fletcher at Commencement last month.

Over my two semesters at Fletcher, a total of a dozen of these sessions have taken place about every couple weeks.  Since Fletcher PhD candidates have wide-ranging research interests, we get to enjoy presentations that run the gamut of topics.  For example, last fall, PhD candidate Fang Zhang gave a presentation entitled, “How Governments Mobilize Finance to Support Innovation: The Case of the Domestic Clean Energy Sector,” which she later presented in a revised form at a China Global Research Colloquium at Boston University.  Ben Naimark-Rowse presented on communication across enemy lines; Jamilah Welch presented on her research into the adoption of new agricultural technologies in Niger, centered on Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags; and this past March, Andrea Walther-Puri presented on “Assessing the Impact of U.S. Military Counterterrorism Assistance.”

In addition to being a venue for presenting research, the colloquium also periodically serves as a forum for mentorship by the more senior PhD candidates.  For example, a panel of students has spoken about what to expect and how to prepare for comprehensive exams, which come after completion of the coursework phase.  We’ve also enjoyed a panel featuring senior PhD candidates who have attended the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research at Syracuse University, which we are all encouraged to attend after completion of the second year in the program.  Finally, we’ve also included students and faculty from the new joint Tufts-Fletcher PhD in Economics, and Public Policy program, inviting them to join the colloquiums and other social events put on by the Fletcher PhD program.

Looking ahead for me, one additional semester of coursework remains.  Last summer before matriculating at Fletcher, I attended the Public Policy and Nuclear Threats workshop run by the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at University of California-San Diego, which was an excellent venue for recalibrating my mind for the academic challenges and opportunities that doctoral studies experience, and for networking with students, professors, and policymakers in the nuclear realm.  This summer, I’ll likely get started on developing and working through the reading lists for my concentration areas, International Security Studies and Pacific Asia, in preparation for the comprehensive exams that I plan to take in the spring of 2019.  During May and June I’ve attended or will attend some interesting conferences in Washington, DC and Philadelphia.  Later in the summer, I’ll attend the Aspen Security Forum and a seminar in history and statecraft for PhD students at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin.  I’m happy that the Clements Center seminar will provide another rich learning and networking environment to keep me invigorated between semesters.  Around those events, I’ll do some road-tripping with my family, spanning much of the continental United States, continuing to enjoy being back in our home country after several years assigned overseas.

Last summer, as my family drove across the country moving to the Boston area to start at Fletcher, we made a couple of stops.  One of them was at Fallingwater, arguably American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous work, located in western Pennsylvania not far from Pittsburgh.  I’d long wanted to see that work in person, at least since high school (which for me was the early 1990s), so it was a big deal to me to finally see it.  As an architecture aficionado, I hope to stake out a few more American classics on my wanderings this summer.

With my family at Fallingwater, near Mill Run, PA, July 2017.

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This week’s blog posts will come from our three continuing Student Stories writers, Gary, Kaitlyn, and Akshobh.  All three posts will wrap up their writers’ spring semester and start looking toward the summer.  The semester seems to close so quickly, and the building empties out so quickly, but only two weeks ago there were plenty of students keeping us company.

Stay tuned for Gary’s post tomorrow.

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