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I now know that I’ll be sharing four reports from the Arctic Circle Assembly.  Today, adding to the post from Ana last week, we’ll hear from two more students, Katrina (who is one of the active duty military officers at Fletcher) and Colin (who is one of the pioneers in Fletcher’s new Master of Transatlantic Affairs program).


Attending the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland sounded like a fantastic opportunity but one that required some prodding before I committed.  I wanted to attend and participate in every single thing the Fletcher community offered, and the Arctic Circle was no exception.  However, as a brand spanking new first-year MALD student, I was wary of missing classes since I was still (re)acclimating to the schedule and demands of academic life.  Matt Merighi, the Assistant Director for Maritime Affairs, quickly convinced me that this conference is the type of quintessential enrichment that Fletcher students must experience.  So, I prepared myself for what would become one of the best experiences I have had at Fletcher thus far.

The Arctic Circle is “the largest network of international dialogue and cooperation on the future of the Arctic” with participants including governments, organizations, academic bodies, and others from all over the world.  The Assembly gathers annually during three days in October.  Participants packed the sessions covering the range of issues facing the Arctic.  As a naval officer, I was keen on attending the sessions that dealt with maritime security.  One of the first sessions I attended was “Security and Insecurity in the Arctic and High North: Current Trends and Future Issues,” and I was incredibly impressed with the arguments posited.  I found the geographic and national lenses through which panel members framed the issues concerning the Arctic thought-provoking, and I kept them in mind as I listened to other speakers.  It was a humbling reminder that nations are affected by problems in different ways, and future solutions must account for all parties facing the challenges of maritime security, technology, trade, or any of the other issue in the Arctic.

Because about 2,000 people were in attendance from 50 countries, I was bound to meet fascinating people.  During the opening reception, a gentleman next to me gleefully gave me a Maine lapel pin after I told him I was at Fletcher.  When I asked where he was from, he casually replied: “I’m the governor of Maine.”  I never thought I’d meet the governor of Maine, much less 2,500 miles from home!  I also had the opportunity to engage with the Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Deputy Chief of Operations of the Icelandic Coast Guard.  Listening to them discuss the most pressing problems they see in the Arctic, and the steps they are taking to address, them caused me to reconsider how I look at maritime security issues, not only in the Arctic but around the globe.  I conversed with academics, fellow students, government officials, and organizational representatives, and I walked away from each conversation having learned something new.

My time in Iceland was not all serious, however.  During the precious few hours I was left on my own, I wandered the streets of downtown Reykjavik and visited key sites and museums.  I went to the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church, where I took in the beauty of the city from 244 feet in the air.  I visited their Culture House, which featured a thought-provoking exhibition that explored how outsiders and Icelanders look at history and society in Iceland.  Yet, the highlight was visiting the world-famous Blue Lagoon, where I soaked in an outdoor hot spring and watched the sunrise while wearing a silica mud mask plastered to my face.  This was unquestionably a once in a lifetime experience.

One of the most important things I learned during the Assembly is that the Arctic embodies a new frontier of international collaboration.  In an increasingly polarized world, I am encouraged that the Arctic engenders discourse and a collective action among countries that would not typically interact otherwise.  It turns out Matt was right — this was an incredible experience.  I look forward to sharing the spirit of Arctic Circle with the Fletcher family and hopefully convincing them that Arctic Circle Assembly is a must-add to their list of Fletcher memories!


I have long been fascinated with the Arctic, and my time at Fletcher has only further cemented this interest.  As a student in the brand-new Master of Transatlantic Affairs program, focusing primarily on international security and the EU, the region represents a fascinating case study.  Will new opportunities in shipping and resource extraction lead to tense geopolitical competition, or to peaceful and cooperative development?  Thanks to the generosity of the Maritime Studies program, I was granted a chance to travel to the Arctic Circle Assembly, the preeminent conference for Arctic affairs, to find out.

My interest in the region began as a personal one, but was expanded through various research projects, including an op-ed I published while working at The Stimson Center, a think-tank in Washington, D.C.  As the article was about the possibility of militarization in the region, I kept a close eye out for Arctic conference events that discussed similar issues.  Fortunately, I was able to attend a talk by a researcher from the University of Saskatchewan who laid out the arguments for demilitarization in the region, arguing that, for the most part, countries have compatible interests in the Arctic, and that military investments should be seen as a misallocation of funding.  Instead, she urged Arctic nations to focus on confidence-building measures, particularly by creating a political forum to discuss security and demilitarization.  Our discussion with Admiral Charles Michel about the Coast Guard’s surprisingly diplomatic role in the region was another interesting perspective on Arctic security cooperation.

My interest in the EU was well-represented as well.  In a presentation on EU Arctic policy, I learned how Europe is approaching the region, particularly through the EU Arctic Cluster, a network established to link policy makers with other groups like indigenous peoples, civil society, and business representatives.  I was also fascinated to learn about the EU-Polar Net, the European Union’s consortium of science experts, which coordinates numerous European research projects.  It was impressive to see the degree to which the EU was already cooperating in the region.

True to Fletcher style, I also did my best to take an interdisciplinary approach to the conference, rather than simply focusing on my core academic interests.  Easily my favorite event was the Arctic Innovation Lab, where students from Fletcher, the Harvard Kennedy School and Reykjavik University presented their ideas for concrete improvements to the region, from transshipping ports to indigenous-run tourist businesses to an Arctic investment index.  I was very impressed by my fellow students’ ingenuity.  At another event, a professor from the Arctic University of Norway opened my eyes to the human security element of Arctic affairs by arguing that the common suicide crisis within Nordic countries actually constitutes a security issue in itself.  Another panel discussed environmental hazards in the region, in particular a fascinating presentation about the dangers of a particularly toxic fuel called unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine, which was recently used in a Russian satellite launch despite its dangers to human health and the environment being very well known.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see the variety of delegations from non-Arctic countries, especially Asian countries like China, India and Japan, and attended a number of events where they laid out their interests in the region.  As a student who primarily focuses on transatlantic affairs, it was a tremendous opportunity to be exposed to perspectives from other parts of the world.

The conference was not only fascinating from an academic perspective, however.  It also provided the opportunity to get closer to my fellow Fletcher students, and make some new connections as well.  Most memorably, two other Fletcherites and I were fortunate enough to befriend a student from the University of Reykjavik, who gave us a ride away from the light pollution of the city to see the awe-inspiring northern lights.  It was just one of several unforgettable experiences I had while attending the Arctic Circle Assembly.

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Following their return from the Arctic Circle Assembly last month, the Fletcher Maritime Program encouraged students to share their observations in a blog post, and then asked me whether I would be interested in including the posts in the Admissions Blog.  Of course I would!  I’m not sure how many I’ll receive, but today Ana Nichols Orians, a first-year MALD student, writes of her experience in Iceland.

“South Pole at Top of Earth” by Joaquin Torres García.

When I was in college, Latin American writer and activist Eduardo Galeano’s salient prose guided much of my thinking.  One message stood out: we must question the traditional narratives reinforcing colonial dynamics in global politics.  In his book, Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking Glass World, Galeano presents Joaquín Torres García’s map of an upside down Latin America.  From this viewpoint, the global south is emphasized by its proximity to the sun and the moon.

Prior to the Arctic Circle Assembly, Joaquin Garcia’s map was the closest I had ever gotten to thinking about the poles.  I remain dedicated to the idea of focusing on Latin America, especially in terms of reaching my professional goals of being a negotiator on topics pertaining to food, climate, and sustainability.  Attending the Arctic Circle Assembly might not seem like the most logical step towards professional realization.  Yet attending offered the possibility of discovering a more dynamic view of the Arctic while simultaneously learning from diverse actors considering global consequences of climate change and negotiating on policies for global cooperation.  And so, I went to Reykjavik, Iceland, to attend the conference with my internal global map reversed, as per Galeano’s guidance.

The Arctic Circle Assembly attracts some of the most important actors across the globe.  Within the first few hours in Iceland, I witnessed plenary discussions with Bob McLeod, Premier of the Northwest Territories, Peter Seligmann, Chairman of the Board of Conservation International, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, and H. E. Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands, and I even introduced myself to and shook hands with H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson, chairman of the Arctic Circle and former president of Iceland.  Over three days, religious leaders, scientists, artists, and policy makers led attendees through discussions about their priorities and opened the floor for creative responses.  It was exhilarating and, at times, intimidating.  Luckily, my role as moderator for the Arctic Innovation Lab gave me purpose.

Working with Ryan Uljua, second-year MALD candidate, on his pitch, “An Arctic Investment Index,” afforded me the opportunity to dive deeper into the idea of the Arctic as a new economic frontier.  Ryan presented a new type of investment index designed for the small-scale investor.  The roundtable conversation after his presentation incorporated the voices of students, bankers, and artists, and brought to light the importance of finding balance through corporate social responsibility and sustainability.  Vanessa DiDomenico, another first-year MALD student, pitched the idea “Navigating Vessels Through Compliance” at the lab and discussed the importance of determining safe operations with risk mitigation strategies for the emerging sea-lanes in the Arctic.  The lab provided valuable insight into a “young” perspective of how to manage the region in a sustainable and socially equitable way.

Inherent in the discussions at the Assembly was the question: whose interests will be at the table if the ice melts?  The Arctic narrative I was accustomed to proved limited.  Once again, it was a map that made my preconceived notions evident.  Looking at the map of the Arctic Ocean, one can see how the melting ice accentuates the role of the northern coastlines and the potential for additional sea-lanes, fundamentally changing the scale of global power relations.  Not all stakeholders value the Arctic for the same reason, or for that matter, have the same desired outcome for the region.  Depending on whom you ask, the Arctic provides grossly different services: biodiversity, opportunities for economic investment, pristine environments and glaciers, potential shipping routes, untapped energy, political power, and more.  As with the opening of any frontier, many actors are ready to exploit these resources for their own agenda.

A sustainable future may be a larger conversation than a single map can represent, but it is one that the Arctic Circle Assembly has been developing since its first meeting in 2013.  The future of the Arctic is a global issue and those with the closest proximity and with the most money should not be the sole decision makers.  Understanding the nuances of the political power and the diversity of interest regarding climate change will be fundamental to defining a strategic and sustainable approach to the Arctic.


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Some of my favorite initiatives each year are the ones that involve students creating learning opportunities for each other.  This year there are two “chat” series underway, one that features a professor talking with students about non-classroom topics (or, as the organizers describe it, “practical, personal insights that they may not directly address in the classroom”), and another that brings students together in our Blakeley Hall dormitory to learn from a fellow student.

The Faculty Chats series (also called “What Every Student Should Know About _____”) kicked off with Professor Sulmaan Khan whose first talk in the series promised to “challenge your assumptions, make the case for thinking like an historian, and possibly make you see whales in a whole new way.”

The second of the chats featured Professor Michael Glennon, who promised to “share some of his accumulated wisdom on work, life, and the law,” focusing on what he has learned thanks to mentorship, and experience that he wishes he’d had at the outset of his career.

The latest chat invited students to hear from Professors Monica Toft, Ibrahim Warde, and Elizabeth Prodromou.  Just this past Wednesday, the three members of the faculty told stories from their careers and reflected on the question, “How did you get here?”  And specifically, they discussed how the study of religion informed and impacted their work as academics and practitioners.

And now for the Blakeley Chats, which were actually developed last year after students realized that their classmates had interesting experiences worthy of sharing in a semi-formal setting.  (Sort of the mirror image of the faculty chats, which create a relaxed atmosphere for faculty and students, the Blakeley Chats give structure to the standard student conversations.)

I haven’t happened to see an announcement of the first chats, but subjects are meant to include jobs, travel, projects, or anything interesting to other students.  Last year, some students created presentations or photo slideshows, while others simply, well, chatted.


The Admissions Staff is perennially grateful for the help, support, and good humor of our student staff.  These Admissions Graduate Assistants (GAs) both handle many mundane day-to-day tasks and also are available to serve as resources for visiting applicants.  If you call the office or send us an email, there’s a good chance that you’ll be chatting with one of these fine folks.  From the perspective of the staff, it’s just a treat to see them when they arrive in the office, and they help to keep us connected to the student community.  I like to introduce the GAs so you’ll know that the person at the other end of your phone call or email is a real live Fletcher student, working in the Office of Admissions.  Read about them today, and then you’ll know whom your email is from tomorrow.

Hi everyone!  I am a second-year MIB student focusing on Strategic Management and International Consultancy, as well as Global Political Economy.  Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, I moved to Washington, DC to attend American University, where I studied international relations, focusing on U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and Spanish language.

After completing my bachelor’s degree in 2012, I started working at Chemonics International as a project management team member.  Six-months into my time there, I moved from the Latin America Regional Business Unit (RBU) to the Asia RBU, where I had the opportunity to learn about the culture and complexities of a region of the world that was new to me.  While working in the Asia region, I was involved in projects spanning from Pakistan to the Pacific Islands that covered topics such as governance, climate change adaptation, combating human-trafficking, and economic growth.  It was my work with the Vietnam Governance for Inclusive Growth project that sparked my interest in the public sector and led me to Fletcher!

During my first year at Fletcher I explored new subjects, from finance to law.  I got involved with many groups on campus including Fletcher Social Investment Group, Fletcher Political Risk group, and Net Impact.  This year, I am co-leader of Fletcher’s Net Impact chapter and a member of the MIINT (MBA Impact Investment & Training) team.  I look forward to hearing from you in the Admissions Office this year!

Namaste!  My name is Cecelia Rana, more popularly called Cece by friends, family and colleagues.  I am a first-year international student from Nepal doing the MALD program here at Fletcher.  My undergraduate degree is from Clark University where I majored in international relations with a minor in economics.

Having grown up in a country that suffered through a ten-year long civil war with never-ending political chaos, I am interested in exploring the nature and processes of political conflict, specifically in relation to information and communication channels.  I am a curious, adventure-loving individual with multiple interests that range from world politics, films, music, and nature/culture exploration.  I have a diverse set of professional experiences and have worked for organizations including the United Nations (UNRCPD), AmeriCares, and ChildReach Nepal.  Most recently, I coordinated a collaborative art project called the “True Stories Project,” a partnership between U.S. and Nepali art institutions aimed at bringing out stories of abuse, exploitation, and trafficking through the medium of art.  I am interested in continuing to use the visual medium to tell powerful stories pertinent to international affairs while at Fletcher as well.  My current activities besides my classes allow me to hone my media/filmmaking interests.  I am a part of an upcoming John Oliver-inspired Fletcher TV show and the Fletcher AV, two very exciting student-run project/clubs that have started this year.

I look forward to sharing my Fletcher experience!

Hello everyone!  I am a second-year MALD student, concentrating my studies in International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and International Organizations.  I grew up in Spring Hill, Florida and later received my BA in political science, anthropology and a minor in Russian at the University of Florida (go Gators!).  I was very fortunate to work with a professor in the political science department on a thesis related to ethnic violence against minorities in Russia.  This experience sparked my interest in pursuing a degree related to international affairs.

When I graduated, I was accepted into Teach For America as a fifth-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Halifax, North Carolina.  As a teacher I honed my leadership skills, shared my passion for reading, writing, and history with my students, and fostered lifelong relationships with my colleagues.  Through learning about Teach For America’s mission, I became devoted to issues of minority rights and inequality, bridging differences between diverse communities, and pursuing a career of public service.

At Fletcher, I am focusing my research on improving diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia through good policy, the causes and consequences of polarization between diverse societies, and the role that education plays in shaping the beliefs and perceptions of conflicting societies.  This past summer I completed an internship through the Tufts Tisch Summer Fellows program at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., where I conducted research on U.S./Russia/NATO relations and the Baltic states.

This year I have the pleasure of co-leading two clubs: the Ambassachords a capella group and the Eurasia Club.  I also engage with the wider community by teaching an adult learning class with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, helping to organize Fletcher’s annual Building Bridges Conference and Fletcher recitals, and volunteering for FletcherCares.  In my spare time I love to cook, read, go for walks with my dog Obi, and spend time with my wonderful husband Brian.  I am very excited to be working with the Admissions team, and I hope that I can bring the spirit I have for this school to both current and prospective students!

Hello everyone!  I am a first-year MALD student concentrating on International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, as well as Human Security.  Originally from San Antonio, Texas, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee to study at Vanderbilt University where I received a BA in public policy studies and a minor in French.  As a student, I was able to study abroad in southern France for a semester which first piqued my interest in exploring international affairs.  While writing my senior capstone, I had the opportunity to work with local refugee communities in examining how they resolved intra- and inter-community conflict.

After graduating in 2014, I applied to volunteer with the Peace Corps.  For the past two years, I have been serving as an English teacher at a university in southwest China.  I really enjoyed interacting with my students and colleagues, not only in improving their English, but in sharing differing worldviews, trying new foods, and cultivating meaningful relationships.  In addition to teaching spoken English, I helped my department run speech contests, host international studies conferences, and even win a few relay races.  I also worked with my counterparts to introduce a creative writing competition and other cultural events that gave the members in my community the opportunity to engage with each other in an informal learning environment!  It was both my experience in China and my time volunteering with resettled refugee communities that brought me here to Fletcher.  In my free time, I love to travel, practice yoga, and bullet journal.  I look forward to connecting with you and answering any of your questions about the admissions process and life at Fletcher!

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As promised, today’s post comes from second-year MIB student, Adi, who provides the final summer update from our continuing Student Stories bloggers.  Adi’s internship gave him a chance to test a new field, as he continues the career shift process he started in his first Fletcher semester.

At one point during my first year at Fletcher, someone told me that, in the end, everything was going to be o.k.  Everyone will do something during the summer break, be it an internship, research, writing, or catching up with old friends and family for two or three months.  As much as I wanted to believe that, I couldn’t help but get a little nervous when it was a couple of weeks after the last final of the spring semester, summer had officially started, and there was still no official offer letter for a summer internship.  I even flew back home to Indonesia, not knowing whether I was going to intern at all during the next few months, or just plain relax (or maybe start writing my capstone).

Adi (in the red shirt) and the CCB team at Citi Indonesia

Then the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived.  I was offered a spot in the Global Consumer Summer Associate batch at Citigroup’s Jakarta office.  While extremely relieved, I also came to realize that now the hard work would start.  This would be my first exposure to working at a global corporation, first time at a financial institution, in an industry far away from my previous professional background.  I was put on the Commercial Lending team.  My role was to support the business analysis and marketing staff in the division.  My main deliverable was an official guide for new employees of Citi Commercial Bank (CCB).  This meant that I had to learn how CCB operates, understand the complete business process down to the individual roles of each person on the team, and package all this information into a guidebook that would be easily digestible to a newcomer.

Throughout my time at Citi, there were many new learnings for me.  What was very noticeable from the onset was the fast pace of the work.  Prior to Fletcher, my experience was in the non-profit and public sectors.  Life at a private corporation like Citi was definitely different, in that on any day you could suddenly receive a million (figuratively) new tasks to be completed within the next couple of days (if not by the end of that business day).  Second, people were not lying when they said that working at a bank means you have to get good at Excel fast.  I learned more spreadsheet shortcuts and functions in the first week at Citi than I did in one year at Fletcher (or even my three years of work prior to grad school, for that matter).  Finally, I realized how vast the finance world is.  The Commercial Lending work that I had been doing during the summer was just a minuscule percentage of the whole operation that Citi does as an organization.  I really enjoyed learning about other functions within the bank, including corporate development, investment banking, and risk management.

In the end, it was a fruitful summer.  The skills and knowledge I learned from all three of Professor Jacque’s classes that I took in my first year, Professor Schena’s investment class, and Professor Trachtman’s fiscal and financial law class all came in very handy at different points of my internship.  To anyone pivoting to finance, or simply needing a refresher on the topic, I found the Wall Street Prep workshop both in the fall and spring semesters to be very useful during my time at Citi, and I highly recommend it.  Now that I have entered my second year at Fletcher, I have more context on how things click in the financial services industry.  I still am very much interested in exploring career opportunities in other parts of the industry, specifically asset management.  Hopefully, I will be able to build on my experience this past summer, and successfully navigate this exciting industry.

Family picture in Bukittinggi, Indonesia



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I’ve recently published posts by Student Stories writers Pulkit and Mariya.  Coming up next week is a summer update from Adi.  For those readers who are new to the blog, I should take a step back and point you toward the stories of all our past writers.  Each of these folks volunteered to write several posts during their two years at Fletcher.  I try to leave it to the student writers to choose their topics so that they reflect their own experience, but a little structure has developed over time, this year even including deadlines.

To make it easy to access each writer’s posts, here’s your Blogger Table of Contents.

This year’s returning writers are:

Adi, second-year MIB student

Mariya, second-year MALD student

Pulkit, second-year MALD student

Previous year’s writers were:

Adnan: F17, MALD

McKenzie, F17, MIB

Tatsuo: F17, MALD

Aditi: F16, MALD

Alex: F16, MIB

Ali: F16, MIB, who originally applied through Fletcher’s Map Your Future pathway to admission

Diane, F15, MALD

Liam, F15, MALD

Mark, F15, MIB

Mirza, F14, MALD

Roxanne, F14, MALD, who has also written occasionally as a PhD student

Scott, F14, MIB

Maliheh, F13, MALD

Plus, when I first launched Student Stories, I also included a first-year graduate, Manjula, F12, whose experience inspired me to ask students to write about their time at Fletcher, and which then led to the posts from First-Year Alumni.  I hope you’ll enjoy scrolling through and reading about all the writers’ Fletcher stories.

I’ll be introducing four (!) new bloggers in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned!

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I was walking outside the building at about 4:00 yesterday and saw a cluster of students huddled around suitcases.  They were in the first stages of their trip to Iceland for this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly, the world’s largest gathering of Arctic-oriented policy makers, business people, and other stakeholders.  The Fletcher contingent, including students, faculty, alumni, and staff members, is organized by Fletcher’s Maritime Studies Program, in collaboration with Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, Science Diplomacy CenterInternational Security Studies Program, LLM Program, Institute for Human Security, and Institute for Business in the Global Context, as well as Pan-Arctic Options and the Institute for Global Maritime Studies.  Having so many different organizations on board means that students were able to have their participation subsidized with a travel stipend, in hopes (expectation!) that Fletcher would (for the third year in a row) bring the largest non-Icelandic academic delegation to the Arctic Circle Assembly.

A key link between Fletcher and the Arctic Circle Assembly is Fletcher alumna Halla Hrund Logadóttir, F11, who is organizing the Arctic Innovation Lab component of the Assembly.  According to the Fletcher trip organizers, the Arctic Innovation Lab is a platform to bring young and entrepreneurial thinkers into the Arctic debate to help solve its myriad social, economic, and political challenges.  Each participant gets two minutes to pitch an idea, which can be related to anything, but the focus is on sustainable solutions, and then students participate in round-table discussions with experts on their idea.  The top three ideas will be selected as winners by the event organizers.I always feel an ongoing connection to students whom I meet before they apply.  Way back in (probably) 2008, I interviewed Halla before she applied to Fletcher.  It’s very satisfying for me to see the relationship she has built with current students and staff.And Fletcher’s connection to the Arctic won’t end with the Arctic Circle Assembly.  In February, students will organize the seventh annual Fletcher Arctic Conference.

Here is a short video that shows images from last year’s Arctic Circle Assembly and Arctic Innovation Lab and an article on the ideas presented at the Arctic Innovation Lab.  Of course I don’t yet have photos from this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly, but you can follow along on Twitter as Fletcher participants post their observations and the organizers tweet about each day’s panels and events.

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Continuing to welcome back our second-year bloggers, today I’m sharing the first report for 2017-18 from Pulkit, who brings us up-to-date on both his summer activities and the start of his fall semester.  When you read about everything he’s engaged in, you won’t be surprised that he is also offering time-management support to other students.

Last time I wrote for the Admissions Blog, summer had just started and I was in the middle of my teaching assistant responsibilities with Professor Ian Johnstone.  After the course ended, I decided to stay in the Boston area for a long, warm, and wonderful summer.  I enjoyed it especially because it was quiet in Medford, and on campus.  I did not have to worry about rushing to classes or scheduled meetings in Cabot basement.  I took time for leisurely walks around campus, and went swimming and cycling.  I also spent time with my housemates, all Fletcher folks, cooking, watching movies, and traveling around Boston.

Later in August, I had the opportunity to visit Vienna, Austria and Geneva and Zürich, Switzerland.  The purpose of my visit was to gain exposure, for professional networking and academic activities.  I attended the ten-day International Summer Academy at the Institute for Peace and Dialogue in Baar, Switzerland, where I learned about the history of the Middle East, arms control, non-violent civil resistance movements, peacebuilding, and conflict resolution.  I also did a lot of sightseeing, and ended up walking 70 miles (112 kilometers) in a span of two weeks.  It was my first visit to mainland Europe and it was a great learning experience.  One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Fletcher alumni in Geneva.

As school started gearing up for another academic year, and in the lead-up to new-student Orientation Week, I decided to volunteer with the Office of Student Affairs.  This gave me a nice opportunity to interact with the incoming class.  I volunteered to facilitate the Navigating a Diverse World session and, along with Zoltan (a current Ph.D. candidate and former diplomat), led one of the sessions on Social Media Skills and Strategies.

As I jump into my second year of school, there are many things lined up for me.  I am taking four courses, and auditing one.  I will also be the teaching assistant to Professor Johnstone for ILO 220: International Organizations.  Even though it may seem a lot, this is essentially the story of every Fletcher student.

In my first year, I was elected to the Committee for Diversity and Inclusiveness, and I thoroughly enjoyed working as a student representative.  In spring 2017, I was nominated and elected to the Fletcher Student Council, and being an active student representative will be one prime responsibility and commitment this academic year.  For me, taking up these roles was about giving back to the School, as much as the School has done for me.  I also wanted to work with the school administration.

In addition to my committee activities, I am also the Managing Director for Digital and External Affairs, 2017-2018, for the student-led journal The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, where along with my co-editors, I will be responsible for the timely publication of articles for the print journal and web.  For The Forum, I will be managing a team of 12 senior and staff editors.  Further, I am the co-President of the Science Diplomacy Club.  Science Diplomacy is a rather new self-designed Field of Study at Fletcher.  With increasing conversations around nuclear security, environment, health and infectious diseases, Arctic issues, and cybersecurity, this specialization has become all the more important.  The club’s mission is to bridge the gap between science and policy, to ensure informed decision making.  Underscoring the club’s vision, we hope to bring science diplomacy practitioners and experts to the School for them to share their knowledge and experiences.

Besides my TA responsibilities, I am also working part-time at the Office of Development of Alumni Relations (ODAR), and as a Time Management and Study Strategy (TMSS) consultant at Tufts University’s Academic Resource Center.  ODAR is primarily responsible for Fletcher alumni relations, fundraising, and stewardship.  My responsibilities as a Graduate Student Assistant, among many tasks, involve project management and assisting with stewardship projects and annual fund initiatives.  As a TMSS consultant I work with undergraduate and graduate students at Tufts, to help them overcome academic challenges, and by providing them effective strategies to manage their work and time.

As I mentioned earlier, while it may seem like too much, Fletcher students are always known to juggle between multiples tasks, roles, and responsibilities.  For me personally, remaining involved in extracurricular activities is as important as academics and I wanted to prioritize out-of-class learning as much as in-class learning.  These experiences have helped in my personal and professional development, and are what I will eventually take with me as I move on to my post-Fletcher career.

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It’s great to have the Student Stories bloggers back on campus.  I’m in the process of selecting new writers even as continuing writers are sending me their first posts of the academic year.  Kicking off the summer reports is Mariya.  As it happens, she first wrote about her summer for the Fletcher News & Media page.  Check that out for the details on her work.  Today, she’ll tell us about some of her out-of-office activities.

While my internship at U.S. Embassy Bangkok was phenomenal, I want to share with you adventures that occurred outside the office.  Here is an assorted list of 14 unexpected things I did this summer — mostly in Bangkok, but also a few in South Korea and Singapore — that are not mentioned in the interview linked above.

1. Kissed, fed, and bathed with elephants at an elephant sanctuary in the northern city of Chiang Mai.  I learned that elephants are not camera-shy — one of them even flapped his ears in a video with me!  Too bad the elephants were a bit heavy to zip line with me afterward.

2. Became addicted to “boba” (bubble tea), especially green tea flavor.  I also loved coconut water, which I ordered at my every meal; and yes, I carved out the coconut with a spoon afterward.

3. Ate a range of exotic fruits I had never heard of or seen before, including mangosteen, pomelo, rambutan, water chestnuts, dragon fruit, papaya, and durian (known as the “King of Fruits”).  Fresh fruit from the street vendors was only $1.20 — I felt like the queen of fruits.

With Fletcher friends.

4. Toured various temples in Bangkok with Fletcher classmates Jittipat and Takuya.  In Thai, “wat” means temple, and it was interesting to learn about and compare the architecture and intricate designs of Wat Pho, Wat Saket (Golden Mount), Loha Prasad, Wat Benja, and the Grand Palace.  “Wat” fun!

5. Interviewed a Fletcher alumni couple, Deputy Chief of Mission Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond, over lunch at their home.  Keep an eye out for the exclusive interview coming soon in my next blog post!

6. Visited pork, cattle, poultry, and dairy farms to learn about the efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  My internship supervisor was keen on my learning about the interagency process at an embassy and I definitely learned a lot about the “farm to table” supply chain process.

7. Shopped until I dropped — literally — at the Chattuchuk Weekend Market.  After a few hours in the heat and maddening crowds at the market, which sold everything you could ever imagine at bargain prices, I would come home and collapse on my bed.

8. Snorkeled for the first time during a speedboat daytrip to Phi Phi Islands with my college friend Dashawn, who was traveling for the first time outside of the United States.  Our weekend in Krabi also included riding ATV’s through a muddy obstacle course, riding an elephant through the jungle, shopping for gifts at the night market, and attempting to hike the monkey-ridden Tiger Cave Trail before sunset.  I am honored that Dashawn spent his first international trip with me.

9. Rode motorbikes that weaved through traffic.  While not the safest choice, they were definitely faster than the local “tuk tuk,” Thailand’s version of a rickshaw.

10. Invested in a custom-made suit in Phuket after feeling major FOMO (fear of missing out) when another visiting friend purchased multiple suits for his business school endeavors.  Tuk tuk drivers have a habit of dropping you off at suit stores to lure you in, and it’s quite tempting (case in point), so be careful if you visit Bangkok!

11. Relaxed at the spa at least once a week.  Thai massage is famous for combining acupressure techniques and yoga postures; in other words, compressing, pulling, stretching and rocking your body in every which direction.

12. Was captivated by the beauty of Super Trees and multimedia shows on the waterfront in Singapore.  Shortly after Ramadan, on Eid al-Fitr holiday, I was lucky to tour the Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore, because it is open to the public only a few times during the year.  Singapore is known for its “racial harmony” and it was beautiful to see a mosque, Hindu temple, and a Buddhist temple lined up on the same street downtown.

13. Walked through the Third Infiltration Tunnel, one of four known tunnels under the border between North Korea and South Korea, as part of a tour of the demilitarized zone (DMZ).  During the DMZ tour, we also visited Imjingak Park, Freedom Bridge, and the Dora Observatory, where I looked across the border into North Korea.  I felt like I was at the juncture of history and present.

14. Had serendipitous encounters with Fletcher friend Angga and a high school friend in Seoul. The Fletcher family, and apparently the West Potomac High community, is in every corner of the world.

A wise man once said, “we have nothing to lose but a world to see.”  With that mindset, I said yes to every adventure that knocked on my door, and blogged, as much as I could, about all of them.

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At the Idealist fair on Monday, I had a nice long chat with a prospective student who is in the process of starting a business.  I was glad to be able to tell him how much great stuff is happening here in the entrepreneurial orbit.  Or, as the folks from the Institute for Business in the Global Context put it in a recent message:

Grad school is one of the safest spaces to test out your entrepreneurial skills in highly supportive and nurturing environment.  The Fletcher/Tufts ecosystem is filled with unique opportunities to stretch and learn, especially when it comes to venturing in the emerging markets and having social impact.

Some of the opportunities here for students are:

There are coaching opportunities available in the lead-up to the competitions.  And entrepreneurs aren’t limited to creating ventures!  They like to hang out, too, which they did last week at a “Venturing Social Evening” at a local café.

For more information about all the options for Fletcher entrepreneurs, follow the news on the IBGC Entrepreneurship page.

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