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Like Tatsuo’s post from last week, this one, from Adnan, has been awaiting action from me for a little while.  But at the same time as Adnan describes wrapping up his own first year, his focus in the post is to offer suggestions for incoming students, and I decided to hold it until closer to the arrival of the newest members of our community.  With that said, I’ll let Adnan take us back two months to Commencement at the end of May.

One of the great things about sticking around in Somerville after finals ended was getting to attend Commencement weekend.  It was wonderful to celebrate with members of the Class of 2016, many of whom I’m not just good friends with, but had also learned to rely on for all sorts of advice as I navigated my way through my first year.  Saying goodbye is never fun, and thinking about how quickly time had flown bummed me out a little.  Listening to Commencement speeches by Dean Stavridis, Arianna Huffington, Fletcher alumna Susan Livingston, Professor Schaffner and the graduates themselves, however, was quite uplifting.  It reminded me of everything that makes Fletcher amazing, and left me feeling grateful that I have one whole year to go.  Officially “half a master of law and diplomacy” now, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far, and hope it helps new students make the most of your limited time here.

First, prepare to be swamped.  Between readings, assignments, papers, extra-curricular activities, events, part-time jobs, and trying to build a social life, you’ll wonder how to juggle time.  It’ll often feel overwhelming, sometimes even unmanageable.  And you know what will make it worse?  Stressing about it.  The sooner you learn to take it easy, the happier and more productive you’ll be.  That does not mean sitting back and letting Fletcher pass you by.  Rather, remind yourself that you’ve got what it takes, and you’re not here only to do as much as you can, but also to have fun while doing it.

Adnan at graduationPerhaps the single most important thing you can do in preparation for Fletcher — and life — is to know yourself.  You’ll have a dizzying number of options.  Picking what’s best for you will require having a clear idea of your interests and goals, one you should revisit and refresh frequently.  Furthermore, the more clarity you have about what you want, the easier it will be for your professors and peers to guide you.  For every class you enroll in, think about what you’ll take from it and how it will help you reach your goal.  Be strategic about complementing fields of study with the right extra curricular activities.  Think about the professional and personal narrative you are building.  Have a roadmap — a sense of your bigger picture — and know that what works for someone else may not be the best for you.  Every Fletcher student is unique.  That being said, it’s equally important to be flexible and open to trying new things.  If you’ve discovered a new interest, which you probably will, dare to pursue it.  It’s all about finding the right balance, and that’s always easier said than done.

When you get caught up with Fletcher life, you may not always remember all the resources available to you, but it’s important to use them!  One that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is Fletcher’s alumni network.  Fletcher graduates are doing great things, and as a student, you have access to them.  Look up alums working in areas you wish to join and reach out to them.  In my experience, they’re always happy to provide guidance and help.  Don’t miss the chance to meet them during the New York and Washington DC career trips, and other alumni networking events.  Also, visit the Office of Career Services frequently.  Make an appointment to review your resume, or practice your interview skills.  The OCS also arranges events and workshops that you want to keep an eye out for.  And don’t forget that you have the option to cross-register at Harvard and can also access classes at MIT.  Use this opportunity to experience what they have to offer and tap into their networks.

Lastly, always stay on top of your game.  Manage your time well, and hustle.  Don’t let things pile up, and keep clearing your plate as you go.  So take those equivalency exams before classes start, get your second language proficiency requirement out of the way as soon as you can, and go to PDP.  Plan ahead to the best of your ability.  Try to get a head start on your capstone project so you can use your summer to travel and do field work for it, if necessary.  Start applying for summer internships as early as you can.  The more effectively you manage your time, the more of it you’ll have to spend with your friends and have fun.  And you’ll want a lot of that, because, in my experience, those moments are the ones you’ll cherish the most.

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The Tufts Digital Library each year collects and catalogues Fletcher students’ capstone projects, which can then be found from the research section of the Fletcher web site.  Each year I see the call for capstones, but fail to note when they are available online.  So with considerable delay, let me point you toward the capstones for the class of 2015 and earlier.  With topics ranging from South-South Technology Cooperation to Terrorism and Freedom of Expression: An Econometric Analysis, the titles provide a nice picture of the scope of interests among Fletcher students.

I’ll try to link to the most recent capstones as soon as they’re available later this fall.

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Due to a little disorganization on my part, I’m only now sharing a wrap-up of the spring semester that Tatsuo sent me in June.  With apologies for my delay, let’s revisit Tatsuo’s extremely busy semester.

My second semester at Fletcher is over and half of my study in Medford/Somerville has quickly passed.  I realize that the phrase “time flies” is true.

Many friends in the MA and LLM programs and second-years in the MALD have left the School.  I was a little surprised that few first-year students were at commencement.  In my home country, first-years would also attend such an event to say goodbye to students who are leaving.  Maybe Americans like more casual opportunities to say goodbye to their friends and they think formal events like commencement are mainly for families.  On the other hand, we Japanese (and other East Asians?), think that formal events such as commencement are good opportunities to say farewell to each other.  For our families, we like more casual settings.

Looking back, this semester was very fruitful for me.

My first Field of Study is Law and Development; however, I am also interested in another area of international relations, Maritime Affairs.  The economic and cultural prosperity of Japan largely depends on the sea surrounding our country.  The ministry that I work for is also responsible for the vast area of maritime issues, from the shipping industry to marine leisure to maritime security conflicts.

Unfortunately, Fletcher does not offer a Field of Study in Maritime Studies, even though the school has some highly experienced professors in the area.  Fortunately, the School allows students to design their own Field of Study.  Thus, I combined some relevant courses and designed my tailor-made Field of Study, “Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy.”

I took four and half a credits this semester: Global Maritime Affairs, which was the core of my self-designed Field of Study; Science Diplomacy, another course for my Maritime Studies Field; The Foreign Relations of the United States Since 1917, which was the last class for Professor Henrikson; International Investment Law; and Islamic World (0.5 credit).  I took the last two courses for my interest in development studies.

For non-native English speakers, especially Japanese students who were accustomed to a more passive style of study in our college and high school education, it’s difficult to join the discussion in large classes (although at Fletcher, “large” means only 20 to 30 students in a class), so I try to take at least one small discussion class each semester.  Science Diplomacy, led by Professor Berkman, had only around ten students, and the lectures and discussions were friendly and easy to join.  The class focused on issues concerning the Arctic Ocean and the relationship between science and diplomacy.

Fletcher offers a lot of courses dealing with diplomacy or negotiation, but Science Diplomacy was unique for two reasons.  First, the course dealt with scientific results and methods to use them in diplomatic negotiations.  Most of us at Fletcher are not scientists and do not have science backgrounds.  At least in my country of Japan, we (political or legal professionals) tend to think that scientists live in a different world.  When I was a college student, I was interested in connecting people and studies in the arts and sciences.  I helped to organize a forum on outer space development that gathered many researchers and students with different backgrounds, to improve exchange among them.  The perspectives in Science Diplomacy at Fletcher awoke that interest again.

Mock Arctic conference

A mock Arctic Council conference in the Science Diplomacy class.

Additionally, Science Diplomacy focused on “common interests” for all the participants.  In most diplomacy case studies, we have to define certain interests for each participant in the negotiations, even if these negotiations are not zero-sum games.  However, this course provided another perspective on participants’ interests, by introducing the context of science.  It was thought provoking for those of us struggling over global issues with many deeply intertwined interests.

Outside of classes, I joined a project led by Harvard Law School’s Law and International Development Society (LIDS).  For the project, our team drafted policy guidelines for local stakeholders in Afghanistan seeking to promote community development in resource-rich areas cooperating with local government and mining companies.  It was a very interesting practical opportunity to learn how we could use legal skills to tackle issues of international development.  Thanks to the instruction and support of CLDP, the U.S. agency that provided the project to LIDS, I learned a lot, from Afghanistan’s unique practices to global issues for mining-community development.  On the other hand, I was afraid that our work could deprive Afghan stakeholders of an opportunity to develop legal and policy skills.  When I was a young officer of the Japanese Government, I drafted a lot of policy papers and guidelines.  I could not complete the work alone because of my inexperience, and I had to draw on support from my boss and colleagues.  As a result, over time, I acquired the skills I needed to be effective in my work.  With that history in mind, the project was a very thought provoking opportunity for me.

For recreation between studies, I took part in a Fletcher student activity, Fletcher Strategic Simulation Society (FS3), where we mainly enjoyed playing board games.  In Japan, most board games are for family parties. especially including small children, and the rules tend to be simple.  When I asked my Japanese classmates to join FS3, they worried it would be a little childish.  But in the U.S., college students enjoy many board games and the rules can be very complex, requiring strategy to win.  This cultural difference is the mirror image of the perspective on manga or anime.  Many Americans think that comics and cartoons are not appropriate for intellectual adults.  By contrast, in Japan, even old or well-educated people like manga and anime, because many are very literary and include social satire.

I like to play strategic simulation games with Fletcher’s future diplomats, officers, and negotiators.  In particular, I was very excited to play “Diplomacy,” which is a classic game dealing with World War I.  Players negotiated, allied, and deceived each other, posing as great powers of the era.  It took more than four hours to complete a game, but I truly enjoyed playing “Diplomacy” with the people of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Also outside of classes, I tried to organize a Japanese Table.  At Fletcher, there are many language and culture tables, and I wanted to make my contribution to the cultural diversity of Fletcher.  Additionally, I wanted to find people who are interested in Japanese language and culture, and to increase the number of interested students.  One of the reasons is that I work for Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.  I regretted that I could not organize the table too many times.  The number of students who participated was not too large — except when we served Japanese cuisines and drinks!  On the other hand, I realized that there are a good number of Fletcher students who are learning Japanese, although the Japanese presence in the U.S. has been dramatically decreasing over the past few decades, compared with that of China and other emerging countries.  I think one of the reasons that it continues as an interest at Fletcher is that many students are focused on security studies.

Japanese table

We also have Japanese students at the School, and most of us have worked for the government.  I think it should be our role to build, strengthen, and deepen the community to benefit both our country and international society, by staying connected to people from other countries who are interested in our culture.

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PicnicI received a lovely note the other day from Clare, a newly graduated MALD, telling me about the “Left Behind Group,” which she described as “a mix of the graduating class, rising second years, PhD students, and other Fletcher affiliated folk in the area over the summer.”

The Left Behind Group has been gathering weekly for the “Fletcher Picnic Series” organized by Molly, another new alum.  They’ve picnicked in a variety of local spots, both on campus — the roof of Tisch Library — and off — Nathan Tufts Park at nearby Powderhouse Circle, and wanted to spread the word to incoming students.  I was happy to share the details with folks I know are in the area, and I’m equally happy for blog readers to know that the Fletcher community adapts to new circumstances and locations, and always finds a way to come together.

 

A couple of summers ago, I was lucky to be able to share a list of students’ blogs and for-public-consumption Twitter feeds (not all still active) that a student had collected.  I tried to accomplish the same thing this year, but, alas, did not persevere enough to accumulate much of a list.  Still, I’d like to share what I have.

MALD student, Sydney, is writing about her summer as part of the Blakeley Fellowship program.  As Sydney notes, she’s spending her “summer in the winter,” in Santiago, Chile.  You can read introductions to all of the 2015 (last summer’s) Blakeley Fellows here.

Another MALD student, Laura, notes that she’s at UN Women in New York and she tweets “periodically about UN Women’s work as chair of the Global Migration Group.”

And last, three students are Advocacy Project Peace Fellows.  You can access blogs by all of the Peace Fellows, or go directly to the pages for Allyson (who is in Jordan), Megan (in Nepal), and Mattea (in Greece).  Poking through the list of past Peace Fellows will tell you what other Fletcher/Tufts students have done in their work.  Fletcher’s relationship with the Advocacy Project goes back to 2004.

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Yes, it’s July, but we’re still catching up with the students who are sharing their stories on the blog.  Today, let’s read McKenzie’s summary of the first half of her experience in the MIB program.

Wow – what a year!  I can’t believe that this time last year I was telling my former company that I’d be leaving to pursue graduate studies.  I had no idea of the types of adventures I was embarking upon when I accepted my offer here.  As it is for most of us transitioning out of the work world and back into an academic setting, the fall semester was a bit of an adjustment period for me.  I had to calibrate how I would prioritize my time between academics, Fletcher friends, my “pre-Fletcher life,” and family.

Fletcher prom

McKenzie (second from left) and friends before the Diplomat’s Ball.

It seems Fletcher students are up at all hours pursuing all manner of endeavors — from starting businesses to competing in case competitions; from working one, two, and sometimes three jobs or internships in between classes, to traveling abroad to conduct research as part of a capstone project; or from organizing Fletcher’s famed Culture Nights to planning and participating in many other school traditions.  It is tempting to jump in and sign up for all of these things at once.  I didn’t go quite that far, but I did spend the fall semester enrolled in five courses, leading an advisory project for the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG), competing as a member of a team in a public equity research challenge, working part-time, researching target firms for my summer internship, and attending the numerous great events that happen at Fletcher.  I did this while traveling on weekends for a friend’s bachelorette party and wedding, visiting friends and family back home, attending a career trip in New York, and building new friendships with some of my classmates here at Fletcher.  Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time winter break rolled around.

At some point after submitting my last final exam on a cold, December morning, I realized that I was running through grad school without fully and completely appreciating the opportunities around me.  Over the subsequent weeks, I spent time prioritizing the activities and experiences I wanted to be sure to savor in my two years here and returned to campus in January with a plan to pare down certain commitments to fully value the benefits of others.

As I reflect back on the spring semester, I’m happy to report that I was really satisfied with the new balance I found.  Ironically, I was able to feel as though I was doing more by doing less.  In January, I took a break from all things academic to go north on the Fletcher ski trip.  In February, I went to DC for a two-week intensive training on impact investment and social enterprise management.  In March, I began transitioning into my now current role as CEO of FSIG and traveled to India with five close friends from school.  In April, I spent more time on the weekends exploring the sights and opportunities offered by Boston.  And in May, I survived yet another round of finals, attended the Diplomat’s Ball, and played bubble soccer during “Dis-Orientation” week, which is a collection of activities and events between the end of finals and commencement weekend dedicated to celebrating the end of school for second years.

Bubbles, 2016-05-16 at 5.01.38 PMThis leads me to an important aspect of this school that makes it so great, yet can also make it challenging: there is a tremendous diversity of opportunity at Fletcher.  The hardest (and most rewarding) task for students is to identify the two to three opportunities that best fit with their career and personal goals.  I’ve managed to pare down and focus on those that are most important to me, and it’s been interesting to see my classmates go through a similar process.  The most exciting aspect, however, is that even as I have defined the activities I would benefit from or enjoy the most, I have friends at Fletcher whose interests led them to entirely different opportunities.  While we’re each invested in our own “flavor” of Fletcher activities, it’s always interesting to learn about the events and happenings of friends studying completely different areas.

With that, my concluding piece of advice for incoming and prospective students is two-fold.  First, in addition to the myriad courses that you are undoubtedly considering, know that beyond the classroom are tremendous opportunities to build practical skills and experience in the area of your choice through student activities and clubs.  The second is perhaps lost on every generation of ambitious, enthusiastic incoming first years, but to the extent possible, you should prioritize the opportunities most important to you.  This is tremendously difficult at Fletcher, but the rewards from focusing on the most essential elements across your classes, activities, jobs, family, and social obligations will make your time at Fletcher that much more special.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts for now.  Over the summer, I’m heading to South Africa to work with the portfolio companies of a small firm in Johannesburg, helping them to scale up proven business models and transition from small, unstructured startup teams to more developed, growth-oriented companies.  I’ve never been to South Africa, but I am excited to dive in and learn as much as possible about the people and history of one of Africa’s largest economies.  For those of you joining us next year, enjoy the summer and we’ll see you in the fall.  For the rest of you, thanks for sharing in my experiences here at Fletcher — I look forward to checking back in September!

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Recently graduated student bloggers Ali, Alex, and Aditi are wrapping up their stories for the blog.  First to report on the conclusion of her Fletcher experience is Ali.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was writing to you with excitement about the end of first year and my summer internship at YUM! Brands.  Today, I write with even more enthusiasm about the completion of my degree and my return to that same place.

Ali, final postFletcher has been a wonderful two years for me.  I’ve made new friends and colleagues; gained the knowledge and experience I need to transition to the private sector; accepted a fantastic job in my hometown; and completed a capstone project that took me back to Brussels, where my professional journey began.

It was interesting to end my Fletcher career back in Belgium, thanks to capstone research funding from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context.  During my spring break there, terrorist attacks at the airport and local metro station made international news that showed me Belgium is not the same place I lived before.  Its quirky citizens and hidden, lively bars have become more exposed to worldly cares.  Belgian companies are being acquired by international competitors; family brewers are innovating to stay relevant amongst microbrewers; and ISIS is launching a full assault on the country.  Just like the little country I love, I have changed and become more exposed to the world, too.  While many students at Fletcher dedicate their lives to careers abroad, I can’t imagine not using my new travels and knowledge to return home and create change from there.

At YUM! Brands, I’ll be working to explore the material impact of extra-financial environmental, social, and governance issues and to improve the company’s performance and transparency around them.  I’ll communicate proactively with key stakeholders, like investors, and use their feedback to drive internal change, as well.

Fletcher isn’t just a place for students desiring careers in governments and non-profits abroad.  It’s also a great training ground for people looking to transform the world of business right here in America.

See everyone back in Kentucky soon!
Ali

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The final post in the series of advice from the Admissions Graduate Assistants asks for their most important overall suggestion.

GAs

Q: What one tip/suggestion would you provide to incoming students?

Ashley: I’ve seen many fellow students dive head first into every opportunity to get engaged that they could get their hands on.  If you can balance it all, that’s great!  There’s no shortage of ways to jump into student clubs and campus events or part-time jobs.  But I’ve often found it better on my sleep and sanity to really dig in deep with a more strategic selection of activities.  (It doesn’t hurt the narrative on your resume either).

Auyon: Explore the area around Fletcher, check out Cambridge and downtown Boston, and get familiar with the transport system.  Don’t forget to relax before school starts!

David: Talk to second-year students and alumni about what their favorite classes were.  They would love to share their experiences and they can also serve as a great resource at Fletcher.

Dristy: Don’t hesitate to ask questions, whether they are about courses, direction to classrooms, the Campus Center at Tufts, or the nearest water fountain.  We have all been in the same boat and everyone at Fletcher is friendly and happy to help.

Moni: Come with an open mind and don’t take things too seriously. Some students arrive knowing their academic focus, having selected both Fields of Study.  However, it is o.k. to take a class, attend an event, or have a moving discussion with someone, and realize that you may want to shift your focus to something more specific within your initial field or something entirely different.  This can happen and it is great when you have such a huge support system, such as everyone in the Fletcher community, who can guide you along the way!  As John Lennon used to say “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

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We know that many incoming students are still actively making their housing arrangements, so today’s post of advice from the Graduate Assistants considers housing options.

GAs
Q: How did you find your housing?

Ashley: Once I’d found my roommates — one through a mutual friend, and another through a combination of the unofficial admitted student get-togethers in DC and the “I’m looking for a roommate” group spreadsheet — we decided on what we were looking for and set a time to visit Boston in person.  From there, it was a lot of time spent scouring Craigslist, Padmapper, and the like… making a shared list, reaching out to realtors and landlords, sending locally based family to visit prospective units, and setting a schedule for our own visit here.  In the end, one realtor actually led us to a place that wasn’t on our radar, but was perfect for us.  All told, it took some extra elbow grease, but it did result in finding a great apartment!

Auyon: I did an extensive search, initially primarily on Craigslist and the Fletcher housing spreadsheet, but ultimately I had to go through a realtor using sites such as Zillow.  Because I was looking for a one-bedroom apartment (I came here with my wife), my options were limited.  In terms of the budget, the fewer the rooms, the higher the rent per person.

David: When I applied to Fletcher, I was living in the Czech Republic.  To make life easier on myself, I decided to apply to Blakeley Hall and lived on campus for my first year.  Blakeley is a community within the Fletcher community and it was a great way to get to know an awesome contingent of Fletcher students.

After my first year, I moved into a house with four close Fletcher friends.  Our house is one of the four “color houses” that host some of the social events for Fletcher students.  I would advise those looking for housing to try to reach out to second-year Fletcher students, as many of them are graduating and their off-campus housing will be available.

Dristy: I found my housing on Craigslist — a great place to find rooms and apartments in the area, but it’s definitely important to be very careful and strategic in vetting out spam postings.

Moni: I, unfortunately, did not have much time to look for housing since I left my job shortly prior to starting Fletcher, but applied for Blakeley housing my first year and got a spot!  Friends of mine who looked for housing mentioned that the Admitted Students Facebook page served as a great source for finding housing options, since current students post listings.  Admitted students also organized a Google Doc with what they were interested in renting and paired it with available options.  There are many options around campus and many wiling students in the community to help out!  Another added incentive to connecting with current or graduated students is that houses usually come furnished, since they are passed down from one student to the next, and it makes the process easier when picking what to go for.

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As important as it is to have some tips on what to do as a Fletcher student, it can be equally helpful to know what not to do.  Today, the Graduate Assistants provide their tips along those lines.

GAs

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

David: Do not feel that you need to have all the details about graduate school and the future figured out before you arrive for Orientation.  You will find that Fletcher is not only a great place to further develop your current interests, but also to discover new ones.

Dristy: It is exciting to think about classes and all the interesting things you are going to learn at Fletcher, but I would suggest incoming students not worry about having to figure out classes for the fall semester or how you would fulfill the breadth and depth requirements.  Shopping Day, when many professors give brief introductions to the courses they will offer that semester, is incredibly helpful for learning more about the course and the professor, and also helps a lot in making decisions about what classes to take.

Moni: It is tempting to get a head start on readings for classes you plan to take.  However, use this time wisely and refine other skills that will serve you well during your time at Fletcher.  Spend time with family and friends — don’t go crazy trying to beat the curve.

Ashley: Don’t forget to take a little time off, if you can.  Though that month-long backpacking trip around Asia won’t be a possibility for everyone, taking even a week (or at least a long weekend) before settling in at Fletcher is a pretty vital opportunity to recharge the batteries and clear your mind for the rewarding and exciting – but often exhausting and stressful – adventure that is grad school.

Auyon: Don’t narrow down your options in terms of courses and fields of studies before starting at Fletcher and before talking to professors, your advisors, and other students (especially second years).

Q: What is something that you worried about that you found you didn’t need to worry about?

Moni: Completing all the readings, for all my classes, all the time.  It is very hard to do so and you exclude other options of analyzing the readings more in depth and grasping ideas by other means.  Life at Fletcher is great, but very busy.  So if you cannot cover all the readings, organize study groups with students in class and split up the readings.  This is a way to provide summary reports of all the readings and then discuss in the group setting, before class, some of the main points and theories covered.  You may also find it incredibly helpful as it helps shape the discussion once you are in class.  Adapt and overcome!

Ashley: Don’t worry too much about making ALL of your BEST friends in the first week, or even in the first few months.  Just like any new relationship, it will happen, but it will happen organically.  You’ll have plenty of people to hang out with until it really clicks — this is the Fletcher Community after all — and some of those folks will end up being your best buds here at Fletcher and beyond.  But don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed with expectations.

Auyon: I worried about the challenge of grad school studies more than I needed to.  If you are on top of things — you do the readings and assignments, prepare for and contribute to group meetings/projects, talk to the professors and TAs, actively seek help when you need if from classmates and others, and are organized about your schedule and time (highly recommend using google calendar) — you will be fine!

David: I thought that I needed to have my life figured out by the time I arrived at Fletcher.  I realized that I was one of many who had an idea of what I wanted to do, but definitely did not have every step of the way planned out.  During my time here at Fletcher, I found that my interests also grew and transformed, and so did my plan for post-Fletcher.

Dristy: I was worried about going back to student life after working as a professional for almost four years, but I realized that it is a fairly common concern that most of us have.  Although the first few weeks required some discipline, soon enough, I easily adapted to the student mode and started enjoying doing the long list of required readings and writing papers for class.  It may take time to adjust at the beginning, but the pace of coursework picks up very fast, and we adapt pretty quickly.  So, definitely no need to worry about that!

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