Currently viewing the tag: "Mariya"
Mariya is one of the busiest students I know, which makes me lucky that she continues to write for the Admissions Blog. And not only is she busy, but she’s busy in varied international locations. Today we’ll read about her fall and winter travels.
Hello readers, and belated Happy New Year! My fall semester ended with reflections, and this semester, too, begins with reflections. As I think about all the opportunities I have had at Fletcher, I cannot help but be grateful for so many unique experiences. To give you a sense of the types of opportunities Fletcher students can pursue during their time here, I would like to highlight two international experiences that have broadened my academic horizons.
Presenting a paper in London
In November, I presented my paper titled “Religious Roots of American Democracy” at the “Democracy and Rule of Law” conference at the University of Westminster in London. My paper explores the role of religion in the founding and shaping of American democracy and politics. There were about 15 other scholars of different ages who traveled from all over the world (India, Turkey, Serbia, Italy, Canada, Poland, to name a few) to meet in this intellectual forum, share their research, and solicit feedback. I was impressed by the diversity of topics presented at the conference. A German scholar, for example, gave a presentation about heavy metal screaming as a form of cultural resistance and freedom of expression. A practicing lawyer talked about the principle of legality in the EU’s economic crisis management as it related to Greece’s recession. And a research fellow shared his paper on whether an Italian law was capable of guaranteeing the rights of beggars against the will of the majority. I was the only American in the group and my presentation on religion in democracy drew numerous questions.
Although intended mainly for the scholars who would later refine their papers for journal publication by the Center for the Study of International Peace and Security, which hosted the conference, the event was open to the public. In fact, I met a couple from France who approached me afterward to say they enjoyed my presentation and we engaged in a lengthy dialogue contrasting our countries’ religious freedom laws. My time in London was very short — literally two full days — but it was nice to connect with my Fletcher scholarship donor, Kate Hedges, who kindly showed me pockets of the city a tour bus would have skipped. I squeezed in a few touristy excursions before catching a flight back.
While my paper will not be published until April, check out my op-ed published in the Kennedy School Review about the role of religion in the public eye.
Learning Middle Eastern politics in Beirut
In January, after completing a half-credit “J-term” (January course) on lobbying at the Harvard Kennedy School, I flew to Lebanon for the weeklong Beirut Exchange Program. Nadim Shehadi, director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, encouraged me to apply to this opportunity, given my regional interests in Middle Eastern politics. A group of 12 professionals from around the world engaged with politicians, journalists, and civil society activists to get an in-depth picture of Lebanese politics. With the upcoming election in May and the changed electoral law, politicians and Lebanese citizens alike wait with anticipation the unfolding future of their country. It was fascinating to hear different perspectives on sectarian political representation, Palestinian and Syrian refugee crises, and Lebanon’s 2006 war as it relates to regional geopolitics.
The agenda was jam-packed with lectures, workshops, and a day trip to Tripoli, an hour north of the capital. There was little time for tourism, but a group of us took advantage of our evenings to explore the downtown nightlife, admire the close proximity of mosques and churches, and indulge in delicious Lebanese cuisine. I fell in love with the creamy hummus, fresh tabbouleh and perfectly seasoned moutabbal (also known as baba ganoush, an eggplant dip mixed with tahini). And as always happens on all my international trips, I met a Fletcher alum in the program! A middle-aged media commentator from Pakistan studied under the same capstone advisor as me: Professor Richard Shultz.
Both of these international experiences were incredible, and would not have been possible without generous support from the Fletcher Educational Enrichment Fund, the Graduate Travel Support Program of the Provost’s Office, the Dean’s Fund, and various campus institutes. I feel incredibly grateful and blessed to be at a place like Fletcher where students are supported in the opportunities that knock their doors.
With the fall semester behind us, the Admissions Blog Student Stories writers are starting to report in. Today we’ll hear from Mariya, who kept herself more than busy throughout the semester.
Hello readers! It has been a while since I last wrote. Let me take a moment to update you about my life at Fletcher. Traditional wisdom has it that your third semester at Fletcher is the hardest — this has certainly been true in my case.
For me this year has been about change. Physically, I moved into new, smaller apartment two streets over from my previous home, and acquired two lovely roommates: Riya, an old friend from last year; and Misaki, a first-year student from the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Academically, I decided to switch up my security and diplomatic history courses with finance and investment courses. Thanks to the flexibility of a Fletcher curriculum, doing so was no problem. And personally, I am making conscious efforts for self-care, including making time for mindfulness and spirituality. I am grateful to the Tufts Chaplaincy and Fletcher’s meditation room, which have facilitated this growth. Change is often stressful, but for me, it has been refreshing and beautiful.
Earlier this semester, Fletcher alumnus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford came to campus for a talk. He said something that particularly resonated with me. “To be successful,” he said, “surround yourself with good people.” As I reflect on my fall semester, I feel grateful to be surrounded by good people who share my passions, challenge and motivate me, and make me appreciate the Fletcher community all the more.
Here’s a list of activities that have pushed me to new horizons — I hope it gives you a flavor for what a busy second-year MALD student looks like.
♦ Competing in a research challenge. Four peers and I submitted a 22-page report resulting from eight weeks of research, interviews, and model valuation for a medical device company as part of the Boston CFA Research Challenge. Thanks to Professor Patrick Schena and mentor Cameron for their guidance and expertise. We’re hoping to advance to finals like last year’s team!
♦ Serving as a TA. I welcomed the quintessential graduate student experience: serving as the teaching assistant for an undergraduate course called “Peace Through Entrepreneurship,” taught by Fletcher alumnus Steven Koltai. It has been an absolute pleasure working with and learning from both the professor and the highly motivated students. One of my favorite moments from class is teaching economic development theory.
♦ Staying hopeful. Former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra and now Dean of Tisch College Alan Solomont sat down with Fletcher’s State Department Fellows (Rangel, Pickering, and Payne) and shared his experiences and advice. His wisdom gave us hope to continue our chosen paths in diplomacy.
♦ Sharing ideas. I am so proud of the Fletcher Islamic Society for hosting a number of impactful events this fall, including an ISSP luncheon with Fletcher alumnus Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Aizaz Chaudhry, a guest lecture on the Palestinian Diaspora, a panel discussion about intersectionality and diversity in the Muslim community at the Gender Conference, and most recently, a community dialogue on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.
♦ Interviewing leaders. What a privilege to sit down with Ambassador Chaudhry and with Sean Callahan, CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and interview them for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.
♦ Role playing. “Representing” the Chinese defense ministry, I helped my team devise a strategy to effectively respond to the hypothetical unfolding crisis on the Korean Peninsula for this year’s SIMULEX.
♦ Exchanging perspectives. My “U.S.-Russia Relations” course, which Skypes with students at MGIMO university in Moscow, has given me an appreciation for the Russian perspective on world affairs. It was great fun to moderate a panel on the “Instability in the Middle East and the Threat from Radical Jihadism” at the Fletcher-MGIMO Conference on U.S.-Russia Relations.
♦ Learning from professionals. In Professor Michele Malvesti’s “National Security Decision Making” course, it was an honor to be in the presence of high-profile individuals who came to class as guest speakers to share their knowledge with us. We had the privilege to learn from General Tony Thomas (Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command); Mr. Thomas Shankar (Assistant Washington Editor of the New York Times); The Honorable Derek Chollet (Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs); and The Honorable Nicholas Rasmussen (Director of the National Counterterrorism Center).
♦ Leading a workshop. Recognizing the importance of professionally marketing ideas, Pulkit and I led a “Blogging and Website Design Workshop” supported by the Ginn Library and the Murrow Center.
♦ Celebrating Diwali. Dressed in salwar kameez, saris, and kurtas, Fletcher folks came together to celebrate Diwali, Hindu festival of lights.
♦ Meeting a celebrity. It was inspiring to learn about Michael Dobbs’ path from Fletcher to the House of Lords. He was on campus for a two-week stint, teaching a leadership workshop, engaging in lectures and debates, and meeting students one-on-one.
♦ Cruising the Boston Harbor. Thanks to a classmate’s friend, about twenty of us enjoyed a BBQ lunch on a cruise boat in the Boston Harbor. What fun!
♦ Sharing my experiences. My summer in Bangkok affected me in more ways than one. After reflecting on my faith journey, I decided to share my poem “Return to Spirituality” at the Winter Recital in the Goddard Chapel earlier this month.
♦ Enjoying a home-cooked meal. There is no replacement for the intimacy and the deep connection that is shared when someone invites you to their home. Thanks to the lovely Airokhsh for hosting a delicious Afghan meal for 15 or so of her female friends and allowing us to take a break from the hustle and bustle of student life.
♦ Organizing a Trek. Much of my energy was devoted to organizing the first-ever Fletcher Pakistan Trek. Though the trip won’t, in the end, take place, the leadership team and I worked hard to raise funds, design a robust itinerary of meetings and outings, coordinate with local contacts, and work within the school guidelines to make this opportunity available for 10 classmates.
♦ Presenting in London. More details coming in the next post!
In yesterday’s Thanksgiving reading, Mariya’s interview, we learned about the early life and Foreign Service career of Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond. Today we’ll read about their experiences at Fletcher, where they met.
How did you meet at Fletcher?
Peter Haymond: Because of my background in Thailand, I sought out the Thai students at Fletcher when I first got there. The student I was probably closest to was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as we got into the second year, he of course introduced me to the new crop of Thai students, and that’s when I met Dusadee for the first time. She was already a diplomat for Thailand. She assumed at the beginning that our graduating class years [Dusadee, F87 and Peter, F86] meant that I was older than her which led to, in the Thai way, showing respect for seniors. A few months in, she found out that wasn’t necessarily the case.
We dated the summer after my first year. Beginning from when I departed for Morocco (after completing my MALD), I was writing a weekly letter to this young woman here who I had met the previous year. We had three years of weekly exchange of the old airmail grams, folding in three parts. There was no email. Phones were prohibitively expensive. We met once a year at one place or another.
Dusadee Haymond: I remember we met in the cafeteria and he greeted me in Thai! But I just wanted to study so we were good friends for a year. Then we dated summer of 1986 and got married in 1989. For three years we were split, he wrote these beautiful, romantic letters. Usually my responses were complaints, but he was romantic.
PH: Our theme song was “Yesterday is Here” by Tom Waits.
Well today’s grey skies
Tomorrow is tears
You’ll have to wait ‘til yesterday’s here.
Mr. Haymond, what inspired you to complete a PhD after your MALD?
PH: I worked a bit for Dirck Stryker, [former] professor of economics who did a lot of development projects in Francophone Africa. The summer between my first and second years, I spent at a livestock project he was doing in Niger. When I was coming to the end of my MALD and casting about what to do next, he helped me learn about and apply for a Shell Fellowship, and found me a place to land with one of his collaborators in Morocco. So I went to Morocco for a year as a teaching assistant with this professor at l’Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture in the city of Meknes, and did research for what turned into a dissertation. It was on small-scale fruit and vegetable markets and the role of middlemen, because at the time there was a move in Morocco to try to take control of agricultural markets that were not already controlled by the government.
When I got tired of writing, I moved to Thailand to get married and worked two years — one year teaching English and economics at a private university and one year working in a financial firm — while she was continuing on with her diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I was working on my dissertation in the evenings, which is why it took so long. And Dusadee kept reminding me that our agreement was she would only get married to someone with a PhD.
DH: Actually, I did that because his dad came around and asked me to make sure that Pete finished his PhD. So I set the condition for getting married.
Did you partake in activities at Fletcher?
DH: I didn’t attend parties much because I didn’t feel comfortable with my English. I did a lot of Thai cultural promotion — Thai nights, cook Thai food, dress up in Thai clothes, and teach others simple dances.
PH: I hung out with the Thai students a lot. Can’t say I was the most social person at Fletcher, but I was comfortable with the Thai students in general because of my background.
What were some of your favorite classes at Fletcher? Any particular class you recommend as a must-take?
PH: I was a development economics person and had a background in Asia, so I enjoyed those classes. Some of the classes and lectures that had the most impact on me were when I tried something that was out of my comfort zone, where I did diplomatic history. For example, a professor who had been there for 30 years gave a lecture on the Balkans and it was stunning. I enjoyed and sought out classes following my particular interests, but the ones that made the most memorable impression were often ones where I didn’t know much going in and I wasn’t expecting anything.
DH: I was majoring in diplomatic history. I remember a really good background course “History of U.S. Foreign Policy” taught by Professor Alan Henrickson. He is my favorite! For a foreign diplomat, it gave you the across-the-aisle viewpoint about why Americans think a certain way and do certain things.
Any final words?
DH: Remember, the connections you make at Fletcher last a lifetime.
If you’re off for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving, you may find yourself with extra time to read, and when it comes to providing reading materials, I’m at your service. Back in the summer, Student Stories blogger Mariya interviewed the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, along with his wife (and fellow Fletcher graduate). The interview, which has been condensed slightly, will appear today and tomorrow on the blog.
It’s true what they say about the Fletcher community: it is everywhere. This past summer in Bangkok, I met a lot of Fletcher students and alumni of all ages. I’d like to share the story of two of them.
During the HR onboarding for my internship at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, I was given a folder full of materials about Mission Thailand. As I skimmed over the bios of Ambassador Glyn Davies and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond, I was excited to learn that DCM Haymond is a Fletcher alum. My curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to learn more about his time at Fletcher, but waited for a conversation opportunity to come up naturally. One week later, at the Gay Pride Reception at the Ambassador’s residence, I ran into a cheerful Thai woman called Ms. Dusadee. She gave me a hug, and told me she also graduated from Fletcher. I was touched by her warm gesture and became even more excited to meet the Fletcher alumni at Mission Thailand. It took me another five minutes of conversation to realize that Ms. Dusadee was the wife of DCM Haymond — and they met at Fletcher! I blurted out: “I would love to interview you and Mr. Haymond.” Ms. Dusadee smiled and replied, “Of course, of course, I’ll invite you for lunch at the Raj.”
I wasn’t sure what the “Raj” was, but I agreed. One month later, Ms. Dusadee stuck to her promise and invited me for lunch at their beautiful residence at the Rajadamri compound. In an exclusive interview, here is what I learned about the backgrounds, Fletcher years, and diplomatic careers of Mr. Haymond (MALD, F86 and PhD, F94) and Mrs. Haymond (MALD, F87).
Q: Tell me a little about your backgrounds.
Dusadee Haymond: I grew up in Bangkok and attended Mater Dei Catholic Girls School, just around the corner from the U.S. Embassy. My mom’s family came from the north of Thailand so I always associate myself with the north. I studied European history at Chulalongkorn University.
Peter Haymond: I was born in Seattle, where my dad was working at Boeing. We left there when I was three and continued on a series of moves including two and a half years in Thailand in the 1960s, which I call the “Oz of my childhood” — bright, exotic memories from [age] seven to nine. I went to middle and high school in Prince William County in northern Virginia, and then went on to undergraduate at Brigham Young University. My dad was originally from Utah and I had only visited relatives there, so it was a way to get in touch with my Mormon roots.
What was your path to Fletcher?
PH: While in Utah, I took two years off to do voluntary missionary service. They sent me back to Thailand, and that’s when I learned Thai. Coming back from that experience, I was studying economics and international relations. I was interested in something international. I was looking at law school, but in the end decided I wasn’t really interested in being a lawyer. The best lecturing professor I had during my undergraduate years was head of the IR department, and when I started to look at graduate programs, he called me in and told me about this graduate school for international affairs out in Boston. He had graduated from Fletcher some years earlier and offered to set me up with the dean who was coming out to make his circuits of various universities in the west. I had a talk with [former Admissions] Dean Charles Shane, who later took Dusadee in as a host family and whose daughter became one of Dusadee’s closest friends at Fletcher.
DH: I always wanted to study in America. But my family comes from middle class. Both my parents worked for the government. So I knew I had to look for scholarships and take a lot of exams. I attended Fletcher through the full-tuition Fulbright Peurifoy Scholarship. In return for my two years of study, I had to come back and work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for twice as long — four years.
What led you to the Foreign Service in your respective countries?
PH: I had lived in Thailand twice, was interested in economics and international economic development. I like living in countries for extended periods of time to get a feel for the people and language and the culture, and the Foreign Service offered that while being able to represent the American people. For me, it’s been a great bargain.
DH: Destiny. Actually, I wanted to be a professor at a university. I was teaching on a contract when I heard about the foreign service exam from my friends, and I said, “why not?” I took it and passed it. Then I got the Fulbright to study at Fletcher, and I met Pete…so it was destiny. I’m willing to take an opportunity when it comes. I studied Western history in college, so from the start, I wanted to be a bridge that promotes understanding between East and West.
Because of my scholarship, I needed to come back and work for the Thai Foreign Service for four years. I almost finished my service but with a few months left, Pete was called to join the U.S. Foreign Service and we didn’t want to be separated for too long. We had a baby too, so we had to make a decision. So Pete paid back almost $3,000 for what I still owed the government, and I used to tease him that he bought me off. <chuckles>
PH: We had a big decision to make. We had to either go with her Ministry, where I was the dependent diplomatic spouse finding things to do, or go with the U.S. Ministry. Given they paid a little more, and our daughter had just been born, we decided to go with the U.S. side. That’s led to Dusadee’s 25 years as an eligible family member.
Ms. Dusadee, how has it been, being an eligible family member (EFM)?
DH: I have to say it is very tough for foreign service spouses, who tend to be drawn from the same economic, educational, professional level as the foreign service officers (FSO). It’s tough because for the FSO, you move into a different country and you already have a job waiting, there is a structure for you. But for the FSO spouse, you have to change the country and then find the new support system for the kids, pets, car, domestic assistance, etc. And then start looking for a job if there is something appropriate you’d like to do. But I have to say for myself, State Department has been very supportive. The Family Liaison Office in Washington does a great job taking care of family members, especially finding work for trailing spouses. My advice for the newer generation is to try a career that is portable like a teacher at an international school or a nurse. I have been teaching, working for the Embassy, learning new languages, and writing or translating work on my own. I’ve taught at Foreign Service Institute for two different stints and the International School in Korea. One thing that has certainly helped is my Fletcher education. I was once hired for a Foreign Service Officer-equivalent job at the State Department for two years working on trafficking-in-persons issues in Southeast Asia. Everyone looks at the Fletcher degree, and says “wow, she is qualified for an FSO job.” No questions asked.
Can you tell me more about your writing?
DH: The summer before I graduated from Chulalongkorn University, one of the magazines was looking for a writer and one of my professors knew I loved to write. So my friend and I started a travel magazine that is still in print called “Tour Around the World.” I wrote monthly travel articles for several years, but when I went to Fletcher, I didn’t have a lot of time for research-based writing. I decided the experience as a foreign student in the U.S. was interesting, so I started writing a monthly column on life as an American graduate student, everyday life, studying, trips around New England, entertainment. When I came back, the magazine compiled my columns and published them in a book which became one of the best sellers for that publisher at the time. The title of the book is in slang Thai, translates to “Studying in the States.”
I’ve also translated a number of books, including a short history of Laos by an Australian historian, Galileo’s Daughter, and a semi-illegal book in China called Will the Boat Sink the Water in which a journalist chronicles abuses of Chinese peasantry.
Was interracial marriage difficult?
DH: It was tough at the beginning. During the Vietnam War, there were a lot of GIs in Thailand. A lot of them married Thai wives. Unfortunately, many of these wives were not educated. When I came back to visit my family in Thailand, I had to wear my best clothes, wear good jewelry, and speak English to differentiate myself. Later on, it became more fashionable to marry Caucasians. Fortunately, my family realized Pete was a good man. Education was the most important thing for them, but still it was a risk for me to quit my good career and follow him. And Pete has proved himself. They’re all very proud of him.
PH: From my side of the family, they were excited and pleased because they had nothing but positive memories from Thailand from back in the 1960s.
How many languages do you speak?
PH: I speak Thai, Lao, Mandarin, and some French and very basic Korean. [On July 27, Mr. Haymond was one of four foreigners to receive the Thai Language Proficiency Award by the Ministry of Culture for excellent mastery of the language.]
DH: I speak Thai, Lao and English and I’ve studied French and Mandarin. My proudest moment in Beijing was when I went to a market and the vendor asked me “are you from Yunnan?” — a southwestern province where there are a lot of ethnic minorities. I was being taken not as a foreigner, but as a Chinese citizen of another ethnic group. I took it as a compliment! But you know, my Chinese is very street level because that’s what I used — bought groceries, used the taxi to get around.
Where have you served?
PH: We’ve served in various capacities in Washington; Chengdu and Beijing, China; Laos, Korea; and of course, Thailand. My favorite post was probably a three-year assignment as a narcotics affairs officer in Laos. It was the purest fun I’ve had in my entire Foreign Service career, traipsing around the mountains of northern Laos. I was cutting roads into remote mountain valleys, to which villages then migrated to access the outside. We built small schools, little clinics, little irrigation systems. It was very enjoyable, in part because you could see tangible positive results from the work!
What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in international affairs?
PH: Take the Foreign Service exam to have that option open. You may find something you’re more interested in, and if you find that, by all means take it. But the exam is a minimal investment in time to keep the option open that can provide a rewarding career.
The world needs dedicated, passionate, interested Americans engaging in public service, in NGO work, in business around the world. Most important is the day-to-day work, the Americans they meet in walks of life in capitals around the world. In that sense, students of Fletcher that go abroad will all be ambassadors of the United States because the U.S. will be interpreted as a place that produces people like them — for good or for ill. For someone who is meeting an American for the first time, those informal ambassadors are America.
Depends on what your stomach is for risk. I have utmost respect for people who are brave enough to jump from a job in one country to one in another on their own. The Foreign Service has worked for me because there’s regular change, but within structure. I’d add that the Fletcher background helps maintain a lot of options, particularly in international careers.
DH: If you’re interested in the Foreign Service, keep in mind that it’s a family unit. Always consult your spouse when deciding on a new assignment. Foreign Service is a family decision. It’s not his or her life, it’s our lives together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Admissions Blog’s Student Stories writers are busy with their summer activities, but I have end-of-year reports from them to share. I’ll start with this post from Mariya, who pursued an outrageously busy schedule during the spring semester.
It’s hard to believe that my first year at Fletcher has come to an end. It feels like yesterday that I was meeting new people at Orientation, figuring out my classes, and making sense of my new community. Over the last ten months, a lot has happened; at Fletcher, in the United States, and around the world. The frequency of breaking news buzzing on my phone made it difficult at times to focus on my studies, but as any student or professor would tell you, consuming articles from a variety of sources is an important part of a Fletcher education. These unofficial “supplemental readings” became topics of discussion in classes and our homes, in the Mugar Café and on the Social List. In these spaces, we analyzed and debated world events in a way that challenged our long-held beliefs and pushed us outside our comfort zones. At those moments, I couldn’t help but be grateful. What a privilege it is to be a student now — to study history, to discuss the present, to prepare for the future, to think out loud and debate different ideas.
While the real world seemed to be in disarray, I was struggling to manage my own world at Fletcher. My second semester was especially challenging because I took six half- or full-semester courses including two at Harvard, audited three classes including intermediate Spanish, and was an active leader of three campus clubs. In this post, I’d like to highlight one of those clubs: The Fletcher Islamic Society (FIS).
When I arrived at Fletcher in September, I learned that FIS was not an active group. With others, I applied for club funding and we were able to re-charter it. The purpose of the Fletcher Islamic Society is to create a space that furthers the understanding of Islam in different social, cultural, political, ethnic, and spiritual contexts. By hosting speakers, engaging in community service, and facilitating open dialogue, our hope is to foster an environment where Islam can be understood in all its complexity and diversity. We collaborate with the Tufts Muslim Chaplaincy and the Tufts Muslim Student Association student group for recurring events such as Jummah (Friday) prayers and Quran recitation circles. This year, FIS was one of the direct beneficiaries of a new prayer room that allows Muslim students to pray in a convenient space and for others to meditate.
I would like to highlight a few events that FIS organized to give you an idea of the types of student-inspired programming that is a norm at Fletcher.
- In sponsorship with the Fares Center, we hosted Pakistani Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Rizwan Shiekh, who spoke to an audience of about 40 students about the “knowns and unknowns” of Pakistan from a security perspective. Pakistan is often a case study in Fletcher courses, and it was refreshing to hear a different perspective from a career diplomat about the role of the military in public life and foreign policy, as well as in diplomatic initiatives.
- Shortly after the 2016 election and the highlighting of the Khizr Khan family, FIS leaders sought to bring attention to Muslims serving in the armed forces. In partnership with the International Security Studies Program (ISSP), FIS invited to campus MIT Professor of Military Science Captain Nadi Kassim who delivered an engaging luncheon talk titled “Muslim Americans in the Armed Forces: The Story of a 1st Generation Palestinian-American.” This event was highlighted in the Muslim Chaplaincy’s Spring newsletter.
- Another popular event that FIS sponsored this semester was a panel discussion titled “Spooks Islam: Reflection on Intelligence, Counterterrorism and the American Muslim Experience.” In addition to sharing their experiences of working in counterterrorism as black Muslims, Muhammad Fraser-Rahim and Yaya Fanusie engaged students with career advice — and some students even landed summer internships with their organizations!
- In late April, FIS hosted an intimate coffee discussion with one of Fletcher’s distinguished alums, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, F90. Once the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Mr. Chaudhary shared anecdotes of his time at Fletcher and his diplomatic journey and advice for students as we navigate our futures.
Of course, there’s never a shortage of events to attend at Fletcher. But what I love about being a student club leader is the flexibility and discretion afforded to us in creating programming that we feel benefits the community. If there is something you want to see at campus, you can make it happen.
Aside from organizing and attending events, I had the opportunity to participate in some, too. For example, I performed my values speech from the Arts of Communication course at the spring Fletcher Faces of Community, presented my undergraduate research at Tufts’ South Asian Political Action Committee Symposium, and shared my poem titled “The Dream That Is” at the Spring Recital. The semester ended with the annual Diplomats Ball (or “Dip Ball” for short), which was the perfect way to top off the year. I’ve had an incredible time at Fletcher so far, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to enroll here. I’m spending the summer in Taiwan and Thailand — I look forward to writing to you from there!
“This outward spring and garden are a reflection of the inward garden,” writes Rumi, my favorite poet. Jalaluddin Rumi — for those of you who don’t know — was a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. I love his poetry because his metaphors are so powerful, and I constantly find ways that his words relate to my own life experiences.
Spring break was quite rejuvenating. Unfortunately the Fletcher Pakistan Trek did not work out, so instead I went home to Alexandria, VA. I soaked in the sunshine during the annual Washington, DC cherry blossom festival, drank lots of Pakistani chai and Kashmiri kahwa, and ate a ton of my mom’s delicious homemade foods. The nourishment was much needed, as it brought back to life my exhausted soul. My “inward garden” is now full of excitement for the second half of this semester, prayers for my final exams and projects, and well wishes for my peers who are graduating in May.
When I arrived back on campus last Monday, I smiled ear to ear when I noticed — quite literally! — an “inward” tree blossoming near the Ginn Library’s main entrance. This wasn’t just any tree, however. Instead of cherry blossoms or flower buds, strips of pure white, pastel green, and soft peach cotton pieces hung from its branches.
I knew what this was: it was a “Wish Tree.”
Let me back up and tell you a little about how this tree came about. Over winter break, Ginn Library solicited photographs from students, staff, and faculty for their Perspectives Gallery, an exhibit that “highlights world cultures with the hope of promoting understanding and tolerance.” I submitted a few shots from my time in Turkey, and much to my surprise, two of my photographs were selected for the gallery. One of these photos depicted an unusual tree that, when I first saw it, gave me a weird sense of déjà vu, but moments later, took me down memory lane.
The tree reminded me of driving up the curvy, dirt road towards our home in a mountainous village in northwestern Pakistan, when we would always pass by a tree, outside of a cemetery, draped in colorful scraps of cloth. When I would wander the road on my own, this tree served as a familiar landmark that I was close to home. During these excursions, I always wondered why people forgot to pick up their laundry from the tree.
On a visit to Pakistan in summer 2011, I finally asked my father why people tied cloths to this tree and left them there. He explained that the cloths were a physical representation of prayers or wishes that people were asking God, and because trees are sacred creations and symbols of life, people hoped to connect with God through nature. Often the prayer or wish is related to health or fertility, but it could also be a request for help, guidance, repentance, strength, or hope.
When I stumbled upon the “Wish Tree” during my travels in Cappadocia, Turkey last year, I was reminded of my father’s words. But unlike the tree from my childhood, this tree had noticeably more white cloths than colorful strips, and instead of being next to a cemetery, it rested next to a rack of broken pottery. In Islam, white symbolizes purity and peace, and is the color that is worn at funerals. I was captivated by the irony of this scene — the colorful pottery hanging by a dried up riverbed, horses roaming in search of grass or water, deserted caves longing for their inhabitants and worshipers; yet the living tree reaching toward heaven in the clear blue skies, its branches heavy with wishes, dreams, and hopes of people from around the world. I would never have realized at first glance that this abandoned scene was home to such a beautiful spiritual life.
Tying cloths to trees is an ancient tradition that is actually quite common across many cultures around the world. The ritual is practiced by the Irish, Scottish, Thai, Chinese, Tibetans, and even Native Americans, to name a few.
When I shared this story with library staff members Cynthia Rubino and Anulfo Baez, they were inspired to bring the Wish Tree to Fletcher. Thanks to their creativity and efforts, anyone who walks through the Ginn Library can now jot down wishes and hang them on the tree. I invite all visitors to Fletcher this spring to stop by Ginn, grab a black Sharpie and a piece of cloth from the basket, and make a wish. And because you’ll be in the library, here’s a reminder from Rumi: “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
Today I’d like to wrap up the fall semester reports from our first-year Student Stories writers. We’ll hear about Mariya’s semester and, particularly, her experience in the Arts of Communication class.
As I boarded my flight to Washington, DC from Boston Logan International Airport on December 17, I breathed a sigh of relief that my first semester was finally over. But a few moments later, the math major in me realized that a quarter of my entire graduate career was behind me. With this epiphany, I felt both sad and surprised at how quickly time flies. I had been so consumed with my classes, activities, campus lectures, and studying in Ginn Library’s “Hogwarts” room, that how September became December? This I do not remember.
OK, so I know that was kind of corny, but I hope it made for a good sound bite. As I reflect on my classes from the fall semester, Arts of Communication stands out as particularly special, challenging, and rewarding. I must admit, however, that I initially had no intention of taking this course after browsing through Fletcher’s course catalog that brimmed with exciting classes across diverse disciplines, regional studies, and practical skills. I accidentally stumbled upon Arts of Communication during Shopping Day and became intrigued by the syllabus and Professor Mihir Mankad’s pitch. I went back to the ever-stressful task of finalizing my course schedule and scribbled in Wednesday evenings for a full-semester course on how to become an effective communicator.
In Arts of Communication — or AoC for short — we learned by doing. We learned to connect with an audience by practicing logos, pathos, and ethos in our presentations. We recorded ourselves as we learned to face the camera and report from a studio. We practiced job interviews, debated controversial issues, and held press conferences (where I acted as the recently elected Muslim mayor of Chicago). Perhaps most important, we learned through active listening and observing, as well as giving and receiving feedback with humility. We were very fortunate that our class coincided with the U.S. presidential election, which enriched our learning experience. The campaign cycle provided live debates, speeches, and advertisements for us to dissect and analyze.
What made AoC unique among my fall semester courses, however, was the appeal to different emotions and the closeness of the class. I did not expect a graduate course to make me laugh and cry; yet, I found myself chuckling as my peers amused the class with wit, and silently sobbing as they shared personal experiences. Through speeches, debates, videos, and impromptu gigs, AoC continually pushed us out of our comfort zones, yet our common vulnerability and trust in each other bonded us as a community. By the middle of the course, we had become a family that looked after each other and served as a mutual support system.
The course itself was time-consuming and challenging. At the beginning of the semester, Professor Mankad said that becoming a better speaker would require dedication outside of the class. The video assignment, for example, took me hours to complete: in addition to careful coordination of attire, setting, sound and lighting, I edited my clips into a coherent movie. Although I felt frustrated during the process, I am grateful to the patience of my classmate Yutaro, who taught me iMovie software so that I could produce a six-minute Snapchat video. Similarly, the “value speech” was a challenging exercise for me. Modeled on the “This I Believe” project, the purpose of the exercise was to write and share in four minutes a core value that guides our daily lives. I reflected deeply upon my life experiences, went through multiple iterations of speechwriting, and spent days rehearsing my value speech with family, friends, and roommates. I delivered a speech about why one particular conversation with my father made me realize how much I value his support.
Through AoC, we grew as individuals and as a class. We will share the special bond we forged in this course for the rest of our lives, and for that we are truly grateful to Professor Mankad. As, in his past career, he had been a television anchor in India, a consultant for top firms, and a director of a foundation, Professor Mankad brought a depth of experience to the classroom. Moreover, his dedication to all 60 of his students — 30 in the full course, 30 in the module-version of the class — was evident by his accessibility, detailed feedback, and time he spent listening to hundreds of speeches. It is no surprise the course has attracted the highest numbers of cross-registered students at Fletcher. In my conversations with Professor Mankad, he told me that his favorite parts of teaching AoC is getting to know each student’s story, and helping them improve in this important area. To express our gratitude, students organized a flash mob to the tune of a commercial Professor Mankad once performed in, and created a tribute video to surprise him at the semester-end’s celebration.
I am eager to apply the skills I have gained in AoC in all aspects of my life. My first stab of pushing myself as a public speaker was in early December at a forum organized by the Fletcher International Law Students Association, where I presented on the legal aspects of UN Article 2(4), a topic I had become extremely interested in through my International Organizations course.
This semester, I am eager to take a course at Harvard, switch up my extracurricular activities, and participate in the conferences I have been helping to organize. However, I am the most excited about co-leading Fletcher’s first-ever spring break trek to Pakistan (which received over 50 applications!) with my peers Ahmad and Seher. Stay tuned, because my next post will probably be from Islamabad or Lahore, inshallah!
Our final post from a new Student Stories writer comes from Mariya, a recipient of a Pickering Fellowship that helps her fund her education in return for a commitment to join the U.S. Foreign Service.
Greetings from one of my favorite study spaces at The Fletcher School: the ultra-quiet “Hogwarts Room” at Fletcher’s Ginn Library. I am surrounded by neatly stacked books, brightly lit lamps, students hard at work, and former deans looking down at us — either admiring our dedication or secretly laughing. I can never tell.
But what I can tell you is who I am and why I am here. My name is Mariya Ilyas and I am first-year MALD student. I was born in Pakistan, moved to the United States with my family at age eight, and grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, just seven miles south of the nation’s capital. The proximity to Washingtonian politics, exposure to diverse people and cultures, and having a dual identity cemented my interest in international affairs from an early age. I am grateful to the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which will allow me to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a U.S. diplomat and serving my country in a meaningful way.
I am here to share with you my experiences at Fletcher over the next two years. I enjoy blogging because writing for an audience allows me to process and reflect on my experiences, while also growing from them. As I navigate my Fletcher journey, my goal is to not just share the immense opportunities that are available at this school, but to also analyze how those opportunities are contributing to my personal growth and preparing me for my career. I hope that my entries will provide prospective students with another point to consider as they explore graduate school options. I also hope to look back on these posts in 2018 and reflect on my personal and professional development.
I came to Fletcher with a diverse set of experiences. I studied mathematics, sociology, and government at Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts college in the town of Brunswick, Maine. My time at Bowdoin prepared me for many “real world” challenges, including the New England winters — which became particularly handy when I took up a job in Boston after graduation. As a product analyst for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a fortune-100 company, I analyzed insurance data and implemented projects to increase growth and probability in the state of Kentucky. After gaining valuable business and financial skills, I switched gears from the corporate world to the public sector. Last year, I taught English in Antalya, Turkey through the U.S. Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program. This nine-month fellowship allowed me to appreciate a different culture, learn a new language, and get a glimpse of what it is like to live abroad. My extensive travels showed me the rich history of Turkey and the country’s breathtaking beauty, as well as the strength and hospitality of its people. Lastly, my internships at The White House and the U.S. Department of State (Pakistan Desk) exposed me to my future workplace: a complex federal bureaucracy with humble public servants.
This semester, my classes include Role of Force, International Organizations, Petroleum in the Global Economy, Arts of Communication, and a yearlong EPIIC Colloquium, hosted by the Tufts Institute of Global Leadership. Although I plan to concentrate in International Security Studies and Global Maritime Studies, my strategy for graduate coursework is to expose myself to as many different disciplines and topics as possible — Foreign Service Officers are generalists, after all.
Outside the classroom, I am involved in activities that push me out of my comfort zone, challenge my assumptions, and help me develop new skills. I am a member of the Arctic Initiative and the improv group, co-leader of Fletcher Students of Color & Allies, and co-leader of the Fletcher Islamic Society (which I helped re-establish this year). I am also conducting research for the U.S. State Department’s Diplomacy Lab under Professor Eileen Babbitt and helping fundraise for the Arctic and Energy conferences coming up in February 2017. In addition to these ongoing activities, I enjoy participating in opportunities that add to my learning. For example, I was one of 40 students who represented Fletcher at the Arctic Circle Assembly Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland; I played the role of Turkey’s interior minister at this year’s SIMULEX, and I gave a TEDx-style speech about blogging as a way to bridge the academic-policy gap at the Fletcher Idea Exchange. I’ve also signed up for impromptu activities such as participating in cultural nights, hosting a Fletcher Feast, or attending Professor Hess’s annual picnic. This might seem like an overwhelming set of commitments — and at times, it can be — but if there’s one thing I have learned at Fletcher, it is that Fletcher students are exceptionally good at juggling their commitments, and that being a part of 15 things simultaneously is the norm rather than the exception.
I have been at Fletcher for almost three months now, and I could not be happier. I remember my uncle, a retired Pakistani bureaucrat, once told me that the Pakistani Government used to send its entire corps of young foreign service officers to Fletcher because of its reputation and approach to the study of international affairs. I now understand what my uncle meant. In the short time that I have been here, I feel proud to be a part of a vigorous, yet modest, community of scholars dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems through interdisciplinary approaches and an international perspective. It was not just the world-class reputation that drew me to Fletcher, however; I was also attracted to the School’s flexible curriculum (including cross-registration at Harvard), diverse student body (each of my four roommates represents a different country), and the quality of its alumni network. But above all, I chose Fletcher for its caring community.
I would like to share an anecdote to illustrate my last point about the caring community. In April 2015, I was faced with a dilemma: to enroll in graduate school or defer my admission to pursue the Fulbright Scholarship. I called the Fletcher Admissions Office to seek advice, and spoke with Dean of Admissions Laurie Hurley. Much to my surprise, she said, “Graduate school will always be here.” She encouraged me to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Turkey because she believed it was the best move for my professional and personal development. In that moment I realized the Fletcher community was genuinely committed to my success. Looking back now, deferring my admission was one of the best decisions I made, because teaching in Turkey prepared me for a richer educational experience and world perspective — and I have the Fletcher community itself to thank for that.
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