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The second student blogger end-of-semester wrap-up comes from Kaitlyn, who like many of her fellow students, appreciates a busy schedule.
This first semester, especially the second half, was a whirlwind of activity. It had never felt so bizarre as when I passed in my last final exam and stepped outside the doors of Fletcher to realize there was nothing else on the day’s — or the week’s — itinerary. After four months of non-stop activity it was nice to stroll across campus in the crisp winter air and soak in the relief that everything, for now, was done. At the same time I felt restless. Having an open itinerary might be refreshing to some, but my natural mode is to be busy. Hence, as soon as exams were done: I baked chocolate cake for my classmates so we could all celebrate, finished the puzzle we’ve all been working on in the Ginn Library, and then sat down to write this blog post. The principle topic on my mind was reflection: how did I feel after one semester? What were my resolutions going into the next one?
1. It is okay to explore a lot of Fields of Study – and it’s easier than I thought.
At the beginning of the semester, surrounded by many peers who were already firmly established in their careers, it was tempting to think that I should have a very clear idea of the Fields of Study I wanted to focus on, and the specific classes I wanted to take.
And then I talked to more second years.
The advice I got from them ranged from: “don’t worry about Fields of Study — just take whatever looks interesting,” to “take one that will get you a job and one that is for fun.”
I’m too much of a planner to like the first option, but the middle ground between the two is one that suits me well: plan one, and give myself the freedom to build the second one based on what’s most interesting. There are plenty of opportunities to explore different subjects, even with only 16 credits in the MALD program. Auditing courses, attending special events, and talking to peers and professors are all ways my fellow first years and I have found to explore Fields of Study that didn’t fit in our schedules. There’s also always that one class that takes you completely by surprise – as was the case for me and Art & Science of Statecraft. I took it because it fulfilled a breadth requirement and looked the most interesting. Turns out, it was my favorite class from my first semester! I’ll be taking the follow up course in the spring. I am not sure it will be part of a Field of Study, but if my experience in education has taught me anything, it is that following my interests is the most rewarding way to go.
2. Fletcher’s community really is the best.
I cannot emphasize enough how much everyone supports each other. It is much different than undergrad; here everyone is equally passionate about their courses and equally invested in the quality of their work. My study groups worked well together for the first time in my life, and I had my first good (actually amazing) experience with a group project in “Gender, Culture, and Conflict.”
And outside classes, our community in Fletcher’s dorm has become very close knit: we organized movie nights during exams, celebrated birthdays, and organized “Blakeley chats,” where our peers could give mini-presentations about their work and their experiences. By far the high point of my semester was one of these community moments: Medford had its first snow just before finals started. And my excitement and celebration over that was exponentially more memorable and special because I could share it with my friends and fellow bloggers (shout out Akshobh and Prianka) for whom it was a “first snow.”
1. Garder plus du temps pour pratiquer le Français
I worked hard this semester on reading and writing French. I reached the point where I could do both without translating back to English, a proficiency goal I never thought I’d reach. Next year I’ll take the oral half of my French proficiency exam and (security clearance pending) have an internship in Paris this summer. Thus, my second resolution is to invest more time into practicing my conversation skills — by taking advantage of the language courses offered at Tufts’ Olin Center and carefully planning my spring classes around a French audit.
2. Get More Involved!
There’s never time to do everything that’s going on at Fletcher. I didn’t try too hard to do so while adjusting to the rigors of grad school. With my first semester over, my most important resolution for 2018 is to add more activities to my schedule: get more involved with clubs, attend more events, and buy a giant paper calendar to better plan my job and classwork around events.
As promised yesterday, four new students are joining the Admissions Blog to share their Fletcher stories. First up is Kaitlyn, who traveled a path from Massachusetts to New York to three other countries, only to find her international affairs home back in Massachusetts.
Hi all! My name’s Kaitlyn, I’m a MALD student and I’m really excited to share the next two years of my Fletcher journey with you.
I’m a local: I was born and raised in Sandwich on Cape Cod, and have been all over Massachusetts and New England. This might shock you, but winter here is my favorite season. (I’ve even gone winter camping!) All that home-town savvy has come in handy when my peers want advice about where to visit, and how to survive the winter. (Pro Tip: cotton is rotten. Fleece and polyester are your best friends.)
Prior to Fletcher, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Writing from Ithaca College in New York, where it is is even snowier than Massachusetts. At Ithaca, I came to the conclusion that while I loved writing, I wanted to find something important to do with it. My search for that purpose led me to a minor in International Communications and an internship with a London politician. As a result, I fell completely in love with international affairs as a junior in college – too late to change my major.
Fletcher was an easy choice. My earlier pivot towards international affairs was more difficult. After graduating from Ithaca, I felt unsatisfied with my job options, but with a bachelor’s degree in a subject that was decidedly not related to international affairs, I wasn’t sure if I should commit to the career change. I needed time and space to think it over. So I spent a year teaching English in the Czech Republic and France, and then completed a year of service with AmeriCorps right here in “Beantown.” Both were instrumental in my decision to study at Fletcher.
In Europe, I was immersed in cultures and languages with which I was wholly unfamiliar. It was my first time arranging my own travel and visas. More importantly though, it was 2015. I planned my trip to the Czech Republic while listening to the BBC, day-by-day, documenting the Greek economic crisis, and I began teaching there at the height of the migrant crisis (about which my Czech students had a very different opinion than me). Witnessing Europe’s migrant crisis through that lens affected me greatly and left me considering what I could study that would allow me to help people caught in migrant situations, which I could see the existing system was not equipped to deal with. It meant that, by the end of that winter, the question I was asking myself was not: “Is international affairs right for me?” Instead it was: “What program?” And: “What do I need?”
As I was researching master’s programs, I began a year of service with AmeriCorps, which exposed me to the stark realities faced by minorities and migrants in my own country. The demographics of the Boston charter school where AmeriCorps placed me were half students who hadn’t succeeded in the public school system, and half who didn’t have the English level to matriculate into an American high school. I once again had students who didn’t share my cultural or, often, language background. And I had students who were refugees, or ought to have been. It was a crash-course in cross-cultural relationship building and a sobering learning experience on the hardships faced by people driven out of their homes by poverty, violence, or disaster. I hadn’t needed to travel to a different continent to learn about the realities of human migration, or how the current international system lets people fall through the cracks. There was a whole microcosm of people with first-hand experience sitting in my Intro to English class, right at home in Massachusetts.
Human migration wasn’t the only thing closer to home than I thought. When I found Fletcher, it didn’t take long for it to stand out as my first choice. I was excited by the flexible curriculum and the Human Security field, and (contrary to most of my peers) even more excited by the prospect of another New England winter. Fletcher seemed perfect. And there it was – a 20 minute drive away.
I’ve been a student for a little over two months now, and it more than exceeds my expectations. I’m in my favorite kind of place — a community of people with a wealth of diverse experiences. I feel very fortunate that I get to learn with and from them everyday.
At Fletcher, I live in Blakeley Hall, an on-campus housing option specifically for Fletcher students. It was a blessing coming out of AmeriCorps (a volunteer job) to skip the stress of searching for an affordable apartment. And everyone here appreciates that Blakeley is a two-minute walk from class. I love living with this vibrant slice of the whole Fletcher community — even if sharing a kitchen is a daily exercise in negotiation and patience. Yes, the bedrooms are small, but I’m not in my room enough to notice. I’m at events, or workshops, or splitting a table in the library’s “Harry Potter room” with my friends, while we study and appreciate our mutual obsession – coffee from the red machine outside the library door.
So here I am: done with mid-terms, and midway through the first course in the Human Security field. I’m familiarizing myself with Turabian style citations and working a few hours a week with the Tufts Literacy Corps. I also spent two weekends last month in a mediation certification program. There are some challenges: I am still trying to improve my time management so I can fit in more clubs and events, and winter is coming a lot slower than I want. One thing’s clear though – with my B.A. in writing, I feel right at home here.
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