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Today, with less than a week until new students arrive for Orientation, Colin Steele offers his perspective on Fletcher’s special qualities.  Colin will soon start his second year in the MALD program and you may recall that he provided reading suggestions earlier this summer.

If you’re looking at Fletcher, you’re looking at a lot of reading.  However, while it’s certain that you’ll read, there’s some room to choose what you read — and that decision can make an enormous difference in the course of your education.  More than perhaps any other school, the most valuable syllabus at Fletcher is the one you assemble and assign yourself.

Let me give you an example.  On a recent Sunday morning, I started the day as usual, with a cup of coffee and a book.  Now, I have a few bookcases’ worth of good options in my room and a handful of books in progress scattered throughout the house, but I’ve always had a wandering literary eye.  Sure enough, while the coffee was brewing, I cast a glance through the cabinet of previous students’ left-behind books and found one with a subtitle I couldn’t resist: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy.

As an international security student with a particular interest in strategy, this book instantly proved to be right up my alley.  As I tore through it, though, I realized I likely would never have discovered it had I not come to Fletcher: however “essential” to understanding competition and strategy, Understanding Michael Porter is a business book — the sort of book I least expected to be reading in graduate school.

Like many Fletcher students, I investigated plenty of international affairs, law, and business programs before ultimately settling on the MALD program.  Interesting and useful as those fields are, none of them alone seemed to be asking or answering the kinds of questions that I wanted to tackle.  In contrast, the more I got to know Fletcher, the more eager I became to go to a school where I could pursue my own field of interest while also being exposed to others: to take classes with people of different backgrounds, to read their books, and to learn something about how they see and interact with the world.

This sort of variety is quintessentially Fletcher, and, one year in, I consider it (in Michael Porter’s terms) the most uniquely valuable part of a Fletcher education.  Many very good schools read Porter or Clausewitz; here, I’ve had a chance to read both.  And, whereas much of that (like Understanding Michael Porter) was purely fortuitous during my first year, capturing more value from Fletcher’s variety has become central to my strategy for my second year and beyond.

So, if you’re looking at Fletcher — as an incoming or continuing student about to return to campus, or as a prospective student still considering an application — I encourage you to develop your own strategy to make Fletcher work for you.  Where do you need to go deeper?  Where do you want to get broader?  Which peers, professors, or authors can help you get where you want to go?

Get a cup of coffee with someone, or crack open a new book.  You never know where it might take you.

 

Student blogger Mariya, who will soon start her second year in the MALD program, has filed an early report on her summer, starting with the first phase of her multi-country experience in Asia.

After a short visit home, my summer started with a stint on the other side of the world.  In late March, I was accepted to the Mosaic Taiwan Fellowship, an all-expense paid two-week cultural exchange program sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China that “provides young U.S. and Canadian students and professionals an opportunity to explore Taiwan through workshops, lectures, home stays, historic site visits and extensive cultural immersion activities.”

I found out about this opportunity through a former Fletcher participant who advertised it on the Social List over winter break.  Although I had a summer internship lined up at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok via the Pickering Fellowship, I decided to try my luck and squeeze in the Mosaic Fellowship before departing to Thailand.  Thanks to Professor Ian Johnstone who wrote my letter of recommendation, I was able to secure this fellowship.

Mariya, Alexis, and Meredith at the Mosaic Taiwan gala.

I was very excited to learn that two of my Fletcher friends – Alexis and Meredith – were also selected to participate.  A Boston-based Taiwan diplomat told us over a pre-departure lunch in Davis Square that three students from one school was quite rare because the ministry tries to optimize its outreach by selecting one student per school.  I guess Fletcher kids just blew them away with strong applications!

It was my first time traveling to East Asia, and Taiwan was a wonderful introduction.  The Mosaic Taiwan program was well-organized, engaging, and eye-opening.  Our agenda was jam-packed with activities, starting at 8:00 a.m. every day and ending around 8:00 p.m.  The experience was enriched by the other participants — 25 Americans from across the United States and five Canadians — all of whom brought a unique perspective to the program.  And of course, it wouldn’t be an international trip without a Fletcher connection: a recent Fletcher graduate connected us to his parents who kindly treated us to dinner.

Here is a snapshot of what we were up to for two weeks:

  • Tours: We got a feel for Taipei through a city tour that shed light on the history and culture, Japanese-style buildings, and early churches.  We also toured street markets where we tried the famed delicacy “stinky tofu,” miscellaneous chicken parts, exotic fried seafood such as octopus and squid balls, and for those who could indulge, pork blood popsicles.
  • Site Visits: We visited landmarks such as the Taipei 101 Financial Tower, National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Chimei Museum, and National Palace Museum.  We also visited the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) as well as the Foreign Ministry.
  • Lectures: There was an emphasis on the educational component of this trip.  We attended lectures on topics including Taiwan-U.S. relations, cross-strait relations, defense policy, economic and energy polices, and healthcare.  These lectures enhanced my understanding of how regional history has shaped present-day Taiwan.  They also broadened my perspective on East Asian geopolitics.
  • Workshops: The program had an equal balance of hands-on activities.  We learned Chinese calligraphy with brushes (my favorite workshop); carved bamboo sticks to design harmonicas; hand made zongzi (rice and beans stuffed in large flat bamboo leaves) in a small village; kickboxed each other during martial arts; and wrote tea-making songs with the traditional sio-po-kua rhythm.
  • Overnight Trip: We took a high-speed railway to the southern city of Tainan, where we learned about Taiwan’s efforts to protect its natural resources.  We took a boat tour of Taijiang National Park and visited Fort Zeelandia and AnPing Tree House.
  • Local Organizations: Whereas the lectures gave us an overview of the island’s history and current affairs, and the workshops immersed us in Taiwanese culture, it was the visits to local organizations and companies that gave us insight into Taiwan as a functioning modern society.  By meeting with leaders of Kaiser Pharmaceutical, Design School, XYZPrinting Company, and Garden of Hope Foundation (humanitarian), we learned about Taiwan’s diverse industries and social efforts.  Exchanging views with students from the National Taiwan University was inspiring — the young people are very passionate about social and democratic progress in their country.  In fact, during our trip, Taiwan became the first in the region to legalize gay marriage.
  • Food: This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the trip for me.  I am not a picky eater, but my dietary restrictions as a Muslim made it difficult for me to enjoy the meals, almost all of which included pork or were cooked in pork oil.  Still, I managed to indulge in seafood, fried rice, noodles, and vegetable soups and salads.
  • Group work: What made the Mosaic Taiwan fellowship so special was the collaborative component.  On day one, we all formed groups that became our official teams for the program.  At the fancy Opening Ceremony, the teams performed group chants for Taiwan representatives and Canadian and American government officials — we even made headlines in Taiwan Today.  Each group had a unique personality; my team, Love Taiwan, was voted “Most Enthusiastic.”  The Closing Gala Ceremony was our final celebration, where we were recognized for our participation with an official award and we performed salsa dancing and sang an acapella song.

After this trip, I can truly understand why the Portuguese sailors called Taiwan “Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island) when they arrived at its shores in 1542.

Mariya with the “Love Taiwan” group.

 

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Students taking pre-session courses are here and other new students will arrive for Orientation on August 28.  But returning students don’t need to be back on campus until Tuesday, September 5.  They’ll be coming back to Fletcher from a mapful of different locations.  Here’s the map!

Some of those pins severely understate the number of students in a location.  For example, in New York, students are pursuing internships at:

Asia Society Policy Institute
Bank of America
CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project)
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund
The Global Impact Investing Network (“The GIIN”)
International Rescue Committee
NATO Allied Command Transformation
Pfizer
Scholastic
SWAT Equity Partners
United Nations (Conference on Trade and Development; Women, Peace and Security Unit; Global Compact)
World Economic Forum

In Washington, DC, students can be found at:

Aid to Artisans
Ashoka
Center for Strategic and International Studies – Americas Program
Embassy of Nepal
Girl Effect
Government Accountability Office
J.E. Austin Associates
Latino Victory Project
Metis Strategy
Millennium Challenge Corporation
National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)
National Defense University
Relief International
Securing Water for Food
Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll)
United Nations Information Center, Washington
U.S. Department of Defense, OSD Policy
U.S. Department of State
WeConnect International
World Bank

Besides New York and Washington, DC, the largest cluster of interning students can be found nearby in Boston/Cambridge at:

Blue Water Metrics
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Conflict Dynamics International
EcoLogic Development Fund
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
State Street Global Advisors
U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
War on the Rocks
Wave Equity Partners

Somewhat surprisingly, the next largest cluster is in Kigali, Rwanda!

Aegis Trust / Kigali Genocide Memorial
African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC)
Inkomoko Entrepreneur Development
RONKOS

There are organizations with many interns in different locations.  For example, the U.S. Department of State.  Besides HQ in Washington, DC, interns can be found in Bangkok, Thailand; Lima, Peru; Mexico City, Mexico; San Salvador, El Salvador; Santiago, Chile; and Skopje, Macedonia.  International Rescue Committee interns can be found in Kampala/Yumbe, Uganda and New York.  Danish Refugee Council interns can be found in Athens, Greece; Maiduguri, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; and Yola, Nigeria.

We’re looking forward to welcoming everyone back and learning about their adventures this summer, wherever they may be returning from!

(A final word of thanks to the students who coordinated the collection of all this information in an informal survey.)

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A real milestone on the road to the fall semester is today’s start of the August pre-session.  During the pre-session, incoming MIB students take Strategic Management.  At the same time as it’s a required (core) course, being in the class is also a good opportunity for the MIB cohort to come together.  Other students (both incoming and second-years) can (and do) join in.

The other pre-session class is Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming.  It’s the first stop for students focused on Design, Monitoring and Evaluation, and I hear that it more than keeps them busy.

Pre-session today.  Orientation two weeks from today.  The fall semester is coming soon!

 

Having a recent graduate in the office during the summer makes me a very lucky blogger.  I mentioned to Rafael that it would be great to highlight published student writing and he was ON IT!  He sent a note to the Social List and the responses poured in.  I’ll let him tell you about it.

A few weeks ago, I sent an email to Fletcher’s current students and recent graduates.  My goal was to showcase some student publications from the past year to give you, the revered readers of this blog, an idea of what students do when they have researched an issue in depth for a seminar paper, capstone project, or internship, and don’t want their work to disappear in a drawer.  Their responses surprised me.  First, Fletcher students publish much more than I had expected.  Two, the range of types of publications is much wider than I had expected.  And three, in addition to clustering around some core themes of the Fletcher curriculum and current hot topics in the news, there are also issues that I did not know Fletcher students were working on, like fisheries in Norway, civil aviation in Timor-Leste, or entrepreneurship in Nunavik.  But more on that later.

One major theme that many Fletcher students research and publish on frequently is refugees and global migration.  In a truly international community, it is no wonder that an issue of such global importance is prominently represented.  A research fellow with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, PhD candidate Matthew Herbert, for instance, researched trends and routes of North African clandestine migrants.  For their capstone project, Mattea Cumoletti (MALD 17) and Anna Ackerman (MALD 17) produced a podcast to explore the potential of business interventions in solving the global refugee crisis (“Dollars, Displacement and Design: Entrepreneurship and the Refugee Crisis”).  Carter Banker (MALD 18), and Khaled Ismail, Claire Wilson (MALD 18), and Nathan Cohen-Fournier (MIB 17) worked more specifically on Syria; Carter considering Latin American as the next frontier for Syrian refugees, and Clair, Khaled, and Nathan conducting research with Syrian refugees in Tripoli, Lebanon.  Following the controversy around the Trump administration’s recent travel ban, Arthur Desloges (MALD 18) asked, “Does Mr. Trump know what a U.S. refugee is?”  PhD candidate Roxani Krystalli, who also works as a Program Manager at the Feinstein International Center’s Humanitarian Evidence Program, and Fletcher Professor Kim Wilson led a research team to conduct a study on the financial journey of refugees.  Some of their findings can be found here: “The Financial Journeys of Refugees: Charting a research agenda – Is corruption a relevant framework?

Additionally, Roxani published several articles on Colombia, specifically on how gender affects the peace process, through the Washington Post’s famous Monkey Cage blog: “The Colombian peace agreement has a big emphasis on the lives of women. Here’s how.”  With Professor Kimberly Theidon, Roxani also wrote “Here’s how attention to gender affected Colombia’s peace process.”  The two also collaborated on a piece on the reintegration of FARC rebels into Colombia’s society.  And for those who would rather listen than read, Roxani recorded a podcast on these issues with the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA).  Amelia Rasmussen (MALD 17), too, researched the Colombia peace process (Volume I, Issue 2, pp. 139-152) and published her findings in The Pardee Periodical Journal of Global Affairs, which is based just down the street at Boston University.  In the same edition, Protiti Roy (MALD 18) wrote about the implementation patterns of human rights treaties in India (pp. 111-126).

Moving further north on our scholarly globe, Andrew Tirrell (PhD candidate who just defended his dissertation) published on “Sociocultural institutions in Norwegian fisheries management” in Marine Policy.  Maxwell McGrath-Horn (MALD 17) compared Arctic and Amazon regional governance mechanisms in a co-authored article in Polar Geography and Putin and Peter the Great in The Diplomat, whose associate editor is, unsurprisingly, a Fletcher PhD candidate.  With support from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context, Nathan Cohen-Fournier (MIB 17) conducted a study on entrepreneurship in Nunavik in light of climate change and globalization.  Also through the IBGC, Nadim Choucair (MALD 17) and Thomas Flynn (MALD 17) published their work on startups, incubators, accelerators, and venture capital firms in Lebanon: “CIRCULAR 331: $500+ Million to create Lebanon’s Knowledge-Based Economy?”  Staying in the Middle East, Sam Bollier (MALD 18) asked, “What’s Holding Up Labor Reforms in Qatar?” Julio Rivera Alejo (MALD 17) raised another good question, this time in Spanish: “¿Qué será del acuerdo internacional sobre cambio climático?”  Tatsuo Sakai (MALD 17 and a two-year blogger) looked at the civil-aviation sector and tourism industry in Timor-Leste.

Turning now toward the realm of security studies, among our military veteran students, the Navy seems to produce prolific writers.  In addition to our dean, who cannot seem to stop writing books and op-eds, Michael Keating (MALD 19) recently commented on the tragic incident involving the USS Fitzgerald.  Andrea Goldstein (MALD 18) has written for Task & Purpose since 2014, most recently on the “Marines United” scandal, “10 Must-Read Books on Women in the Military,” and mentorship.

Among us non-seafaring students of international security at Fletcher, Mariya Ilyas (MALD 18 and another Admissions Blog writer) looked at the current dynamics in NATO-Turkey relations and Colin Steele (MALD 18) reviewed two books — The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945 and Scales on War: The Future of America’s Military at Risk — for The Strategy Bridge and the Center for International Maritime Security respectively.  Lami Kim (PhD candidate) and yours truly (MALD 17) conducted research on nuclear proliferation and published our pieces on South Korean nuclear hedging and the recent discussions of a German Bomb through the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Voices of Tomorrow feature.

This already very long list does not nearly exhaust the pressing issues Fletcher students research from a wide array of perspectives.  Nonetheless, I hope it gives you a good idea of the diversity of interests and viewpoints that fuel student discussion, research, and writing here.

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Tuesday’s post covered Cindy’s general tips for incoming students.  Today, she attacks a topic critical to graduate student survival: free food and where to find it.  With no further ado, I’ll let Cindy reveal these important nutritional resources.

Let’s face it: everyone enjoys eating free food!  Around Fletcher, there are many opportunities for students to keep themselves fueled and fed throughout the semester.  Here are some suggestions for how to do just that:

  • There’s a Social Hour scheduled every Thursday, sponsored by a different club or organization on campus each week.
  • Dean Sheehan holds a pizza lunch once per month.  This is a great way to hear about Fletcher news, voice your opinion about what could make Fletcher a better school, and also get to know your school leadership and peers.
  • A couple of times each month, the International Security Studies Program hosts guest speaker events that students can sign up for in advance.  Business attire is required, and lunch is served.  Keep in mind there are cancellation policies for these luncheons!
  • Throughout the semester, various student clubs will sponsor events and lunch will often be provided at the event.
  • If students don’t manage to eat all the food at an event, any leftovers will typically be placed in the Hall of Flags coat nook.  Free!  But also first come, first served.
  • Evening events that take place in the main ASEAN auditorium are often followed by an open/cash bar with hors d’oeuvres.
  • There are many end-of-semester events with free food, which comes in handy when you’re studying hard for exams!  Check the Social List for any updates on free food around this time.  The Office of Career Services has been known to bring in homemade cookies at the end of the semester.
  • Free food isn’t confined to Fletcher.  Plenty of Tufts-wide events include a free meal, too!

Of course, where it comes to lectures, book talks, conferences, and meetings, the hope is that students will attend for the opportunity to learn and discuss, not simply to eat.  But a free meal is a nice added bonus!

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It’s hard to believe, but the first of the students to arrive (aside from those who are on campus for a quick English brush-up) will start the pre-session courses on August 14, less than two weeks from today!  Yikes!  That’s how the summer goes: slow…slow…slow FAST!  FAST!  FAST!  Before we know it, Orientation will be here.  And timed for the pre-session and Orientation arrivals, I have some new-student advice for you from Cindy, our advice-offering Graduate Assistant.  Back in the spring, I asked her to think about the things that would have been handy to know before she arrived for her first year of study.  We like to think that we provide all the key info in official correspondence, so Cindy’s list drills down to some lesser known but still important points.

Between Orientation, pre-session courses, shopping day, and moving into a new apartment or Blakeley Hall, starting Fletcher life can be overwhelming.  Have no fear!  We have compiled a list of useful tidbits that are often overlooked during the hectic start of Fletcher study.  We hope you find this collection of somewhat random tips to be helpful when making your transition to Fletcher.

  • At the beginning of the year, you’ll be assigned a locker.  This is a great place to keep your tea, snacks, and maybe even a change of clothes/shoes for when you really need them.
  • Technology troubles?  The Ginn Library lends out cell phone chargers, computer chargers, and laptops.
  • Don’t forget to join the Social List early on!  Students (and even staff) send out emails to the Fletcher family to find used textbooks, post jobs/internships, get a Tylenol when they have a headache, or promote an event on/off campus.  You can ask the Social List pretty much anything and you will get a response!
  • There are two microwaves that are free for Fletcher students to use: one in Mugar Café and another in the Cabot lower level.
  • We have a compost bin in the coat-hanging nook of the Hall of Flags for all of our environment-friendly folk.
  • A prime study spot is the third floor study room in Ginn Library.  This does need to be booked online through the Ginn Library website.
  • There’s a new coffee machine next to Mugar Computer Lab if you are in a rush and need your caffeine.  The coffee is nicely priced!
  • If you have a bike (which is very useful for getting around campus), you can register it with the Tufts Police Department for free — an added layer of security.  And there are several bike racks near our buildings, for those who bike-commute to campus.
  • You have free access to the latest versions of Microsoft Office Suite.

Returning to point #3, contact the Social List for info on any of these points or to ask returning students more questions about student life.

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I’m going to close out this blog week with the post that wraps up Tatsuo’s Fletcher experience.  It’s hard to believe that I met Tatsuo almost exactly two years ago, and he’s already back in his job with the ministry in Japan that sponsored his studies.  As much as any student I’ve known, Tatsuo made the most of his two years away from the workplace.  He traveled widely in the U.S. and beyond, pursued an exchange semester in Paris, had an internship last summer (relatively uncommon among students who will return to their pre-Fletcher workplace), and while on campus, built community with fellow students interested in Japanese culture and food.  In today’s post, he describes his return to work at the ministry.

Two months ago, I graduated from Fletcher and came back to Japan.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I am readjusting quickly to Japanese life and work.  I miss my days in the school on the hill, but I already feel like they passed years ago.

I’ve settled in Kasumigaseki, the district that is home to almost all Japanese central government agencies, and I am serving as the Deputy Director of the Transport Planning Division in the Public Transport Department of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).

In Japan, maybe like some other countries, the name of the government district — “Kasumigaseki” — is sometimes used as a word to symbolize “conservative,” “sectionalism,” or “stubbornness.”  However, we, the people in Kasumigaseki, are now facing the tide of many and great social and economic trends.

My new position is one of the difficult but interesting positions through which the government is facing change and challenges.  Due to Japan’s aging population and the end of high economic growth, Japanese cities and towns, especially in rural regions, are struggling with economic and social stagnation.  In these areas, public transportation faces decreasing demand.  Many local bus companies will be bankrupted.  Japanese Railway and other railway companies abolished many “unprofitable” routes that are still critical for the local society and economy.  A decade ago, some free-market-oriented policies that eased or abolished governmental regulations to control transport companies accelerated the trend.

My task is to revitalize regional economies and societies such as these to reconstruct the transport networks.  Many bus routes and railways were built in the age of high economic growth.  Most of these networks are inefficient for current demand, while the companies have heavily subsidized them and lost the capability to adjust to social/economic change.  Moreover, there are many innovations on the horizon to bring a new future to public transport, such as automated driving.

This work needs very broad cross-sector approaches and communication.  I am working with many colleagues beyond a single department, ministry, or regional government.  I work with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and many businesses to tackle regional transport projects.  This complex approach is needed because we have to connect multiple transport modes, many industries, various technologies, and diverse thoughts.

The position has another unique dimension.  It is very close to “ground-level.”  MLIT is generally field-site oriented: there are tens of thousands of engineers and technocrats, in many branches all over the country, with a big influence on politicians and local governments through the huge infrastructure budget.  However, even in MLIT, such detailed field work that I am tackling is really rare.  For example, I have to check local governments’ transport network plans.  I am sometimes thinking about the location of a bus stop or route because of these very detailed transport network plans.

Although I am enjoying my new responsibilities (while struggling with terrible Japanese working conditions…) some colleagues or friends have said it’s unfortunate that this position is too domestically-focused for a person who just returned from studying in a foreign country.  They said that such a “global” person as me should be appointed to some kind of international work, for example international treaty negotiation, promoting infrastructure exports, or diplomatic postings to foreign countries.

However, in Timor-Leste, Kazakhstan, and many other places I visited throughout the world, I realized a truth.  To be a “global” person, we need to have “local” expertise.

I enjoyed working in Timor-Leste, not because my English was fluent or I had completed a year of studies, but because my transport/infrastructure expertise was very rare and important for the country.

Imagine if I had no expertise in Japanese industries, infrastructure technologies, or at least the culture and the society.  If I had one of those “international” positions, what should I negotiate for?  What should I promote to export?  How could I represent Japan?

Before Fletcher, I was a man who simply adored the image provoked by the words “global” or “international.”  But Fletcher taught me many dimensions of global politics, international business, and the lives of people in the world that I didn’t know.  I didn’t learn only on the Fletcher campus, but everywhere in the world that Fletcher opened up for me, such as Timor-Leste, Paris, Israel, and Central Asia.

My new position will give me very deep and special experiences and knowledge about regional public transport.  Many places in the world have interest in the questions: How can we build a transport network in areas without good economic/social conditions?  How can the public sector and private sector cooperate to manage transport infrastructure while maintaining market competition and people’s welfare?  Therefore I think that while this new position seems to be very “local” at first glance, it can strengthen my “global” career.

So now I am working in Kasumigaseki with big Fletcher pride.  If you visit Japan, please let me know, so we can talk about the hill in Medford.  🙂

And, if you do visit, I also strongly recommend that you stay not only in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka.  Please go to our beautiful regions — using public transportation!

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With today’s post from Pulkit, we’ll have heard about the summer activities for all three of our student bloggers who will be continuing on at Fletcher (and in the blog) in September.

Hello!  I hope all the readers of the Fletcher Admissions Blog are enjoying their summer; and if you are an admitted student, I look forward to meeting you soon.  It feels nice to be writing and sharing again.  The end of the spring semester was very busy — from winding up school with tests and assignments, to moving out of Blakeley Hall into a new apartment and traveling.  There is much to share, and I hope my story and experiences at Fletcher will resonate with you one way or another.

Pulkit (front right) with Fletcher’s other students from India.

Let me begin my telling you about my favorite class this past semester.  In comparison, it felt like spring semester went by faster than the fall semester.  I took three classes at Fletcher; the fourth was offered jointly by Fletcher, the Tufts Friedman School, and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.  International Humanitarian Response was taught by Dr. Stephanie Kayden of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Dr. Daniel Maxwell of Tufts Feinstein International Center.  The classes met every Wednesday at Harvard, centrally located in Cambridge.  It was one of my favorite classes for many reasons.

First, I had the opportunity to step off the Tufts Medford campus every week, taking the #96 bus from Tufts down to Cambridge.  Second, my classmates came from different schools — from Fletcher, Friedman, Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Medical School — making it a real collaborative environment to engage and to study.  Third, I took the opportunity to lead my project and assignment group.  Managing and collaborating with peers at different locations and liaising with other project groups was a good challenge to have this semester.  Fourth, the class had a simulation exercise towards the end of April.  The entire class, along with over a hundred volunteers, camped at the Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover to put into practice much of what we learned about humanitarian response during our classes.  The simulation had everything — UN Cluster System coordination meetings, minefields, fake militia, armed attacks on the camp, and rationed food and water supply.  I made so many mistakes through the three days of the exercise, but overall the experiential component made it a great learning experience.  (Here’s a story about a previous year’s exercise.)

Beyond the spring’s exciting classes, I also kept myself busy with extra-curricular activities.  Every Saturday, I volunteered with Teach-in CORES, a volunteer collective of Tufts University students, working with the Committee On Refugees from El Salvador, in Somerville, to teach literacy and English as a second language, and prepare the participants for the U.S. citizenship exam.  On Thursdays, I would make it a point to go to the open-to-the-public seminars on nuclear policy and nuclear non-proliferation at the Project on Managing the Atom, at Harvard Kennedy School.  I also took the opportunity to recite a couple of poems at the student-led Fletcher Open Mic Nights, a wonderful forum to express and share.

After finishing my exams and submissions, I decided to visit my family back in India.  Before that, however, moving out of Blakeley Hall was challenging.  I had to drag all my belongings into the basement of a house I was going to move into for the next academic year.  After bidding good-bye to graduating friends and winding up some important chores, I was excited to fly back to India for a short visit.  It was really special to go back home, as I was visiting after ten months.  It was surprising to me that I got absorbed into the Indian way of life as soon as I arrived back home.  I was eating street food, navigating through the thick Indian traffic, and meeting cousins and friends on the go.  It was like I had never left India.

During my time in India, along came an opportunity for the summer, and I grabbed it with both hands.  Professor Ian Johnstone offered me a teaching assistant (TA) position for a summer exchange program.  Since I had never assisted a professor, there was a steep learning curve for me.  For example, as a TA, I led review sessions —  which meant I needed to review what I had learned myself during the last semester.

As I write, I am glad to share that I have settled in my new house, and I am enjoying my summer with some time for reading, cooking, swimming, and cycling, meeting friends, and traveling in and around Boston.  I hope to share again towards the end of the summer!

At the end-of-year Diplomat’s Ball.

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This week I’m going to wrap up the end-of-year updates from our Student Stories writers.  We’ve already heard from Mariya and Pulkit’s report will appear later this week.  Today we’ll hear from Adi, who is back in Indonesia for the summer.

Just like that, I finished my first year of graduate school.  In a typical two-year graduate program, the most common question at the end of the spring semester is, “What’s your plan for the summer?”, which is really saying “Do you have an internship or not?”  Of course, there are people who are not doing an internship this summer.  They might be using the time to do research, work on their Capstone Project, travel, or relax before the start of another intense academic year.  But my sense is that when my classmates asked me the question, what they really wanted to know was what internship offers I had or hadn’t received.

I know I found myself asking that same question to others with the same intention in mind.  As I carried out my search, there were many reasons why I asked.  Getting inspiration on where else I could apply or tips on how my classmates successfully secured those internship offers, or simply to calm my nerves that someone else out there also hadn’t yet solidified their summer plans.

Indonesian Fletcher family: Adi and his wife with Angga, after Angga received the Presidential Award in May.

I remember that, at the beginning of the year, many of the second-year students assured the first years that we should not worry — by the end of the spring semester, everyone would have solidified their summer plans.  They told us that some students will receive an offer earlier than others, but this is not due to their qualifications.  It is simply a reflection of the different timelines of hiring companies, and the wide variety of interests of Fletcher students.  Investment banks and management consulting companies finish their hiring in the fall or early spring.  Many multinationals and international agencies do not start accepting applications until midway through the spring semester.  Other companies simply accept internship applications throughout the year until they hit their quota.

Nonetheless, we first years couldn’t help but stress out a little about getting an internship, so we tried to start as early as possible.  Right from the beginning of the fall semester, I approached quite possibly every single resource that I thought could connect me with an internship opportunity, starting with the obvious, the Office of Career Services (OCS).  I met with Elana Givens, the OCS director, to talk about my interests and start planning out my internship search strategy.  I attended many coaching sessions led by OCS staff throughout my first year.  I approached Dorothy Orszulak, Director of Corporate Relations for the Institute for Business in the Global Context, to ask what exactly hiring managers in the private sector are looking for in internship candidates.  I met with Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti and Kristen Zecchi to find out how previous MIB students leveraged their degree to identify internship opportunities.  Professors were also fantastic resources.  It is through my discussions with Professor Jacque and Professor Schena that I found many ideas on organizations and people to reach out to.  And then, of course, there was the structured Professional Development Program curriculum to help me with my résumé and cover letter, making informational interview requests, and acing interviews.

The winner’s prize for the annual MIB first-years vs. second-years kickball game.

After laying the groundwork with these resources, I started expanding my network.  My first thought was the second-year students.  Through casual conversations, I managed to figure out who interned where in the previous summer.  Then, I followed up on the conversations with an email asking if they would be willing to chat over coffee about their experience, both the internship search and the responsibilities of the position.  It was fascinating to hear their stories.  One student interned at a venture capital start-up in Seattle that did not have an official internship pipeline.  He simply cold-emailed the company, explaining his background and his interest in working for them over the summer, and luckily that is where he ended up.  Another student leveraged multiple contacts to reach a very busy director of a tech start-up in Kenya, who then replied “I just received two separate emails referring you to my company.  Let’s talk.”  These are only two of the many interesting stories I heard by talking to second-year students.

I had started the fall semester looking to pursue an internship at a management consulting company.  From the onset, I had heard warnings that even getting an interview would be extremely hard for non-MBA candidates.  I reached out to every single person I could who was even remotely connected to the consulting industry.  I worked together with my classmates to practice case interviews.  I attended workshops and webinars about the consulting industry.  During winter break, I received invitations for first-round interviews with Bain and BCG.  In the end, I didn’t make it over the final hurdle at either organization, but I am thankful to have gone through the experience.  I definitely think that I wouldn’t have had that opportunity had I not reached beyond the companies’ online application portals.

In the end, it all worked out.  The advice from second-year students at the beginning of the fall semester turned out to be true.  We all ended up with a satisfying summer plan and my first-year MIB cohort has embarked on our respective summer journeys.  It may not have been what we thought we would be doing when we started planning, but some of us ended up with something better.  As for me personally, I ended up joining Citibank’s Commercial Banking team for the summer and I’m definitely enjoying the challenge.

What a journey it has been!  I’m already looking forward to regrouping with my classmates for our second year.

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