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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.
With today’s post from Pulkit, we’ll have heard about the summer activities for all three of our student bloggers who will be continuing on at Fletcher (and in the blog) in September.
Hello! I hope all the readers of the Fletcher Admissions Blog are enjoying their summer; and if you are an admitted student, I look forward to meeting you soon. It feels nice to be writing and sharing again. The end of the spring semester was very busy — from winding up school with tests and assignments, to moving out of Blakeley Hall into a new apartment and traveling. There is much to share, and I hope my story and experiences at Fletcher will resonate with you one way or another.
Let me begin my telling you about my favorite class this past semester. In comparison, it felt like spring semester went by faster than the fall semester. I took three classes at Fletcher; the fourth was offered jointly by Fletcher, the Tufts Friedman School, and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. International Humanitarian Response was taught by Dr. Stephanie Kayden of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Dr. Daniel Maxwell of Tufts Feinstein International Center. The classes met every Wednesday at Harvard, centrally located in Cambridge. It was one of my favorite classes for many reasons.
First, I had the opportunity to step off the Tufts Medford campus every week, taking the #96 bus from Tufts down to Cambridge. Second, my classmates came from different schools — from Fletcher, Friedman, Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Medical School — making it a real collaborative environment to engage and to study. Third, I took the opportunity to lead my project and assignment group. Managing and collaborating with peers at different locations and liaising with other project groups was a good challenge to have this semester. Fourth, the class had a simulation exercise towards the end of April. The entire class, along with over a hundred volunteers, camped at the Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover to put into practice much of what we learned about humanitarian response during our classes. The simulation had everything — UN Cluster System coordination meetings, minefields, fake militia, armed attacks on the camp, and rationed food and water supply. I made so many mistakes through the three days of the exercise, but overall the experiential component made it a great learning experience. (Here’s a story about a previous year’s exercise.)
Beyond the spring’s exciting classes, I also kept myself busy with extra-curricular activities. Every Saturday, I volunteered with Teach-in CORES, a volunteer collective of Tufts University students, working with the Committee On Refugees from El Salvador, in Somerville, to teach literacy and English as a second language, and prepare the participants for the U.S. citizenship exam. On Thursdays, I would make it a point to go to the open-to-the-public seminars on nuclear policy and nuclear non-proliferation at the Project on Managing the Atom, at Harvard Kennedy School. I also took the opportunity to recite a couple of poems at the student-led Fletcher Open Mic Nights, a wonderful forum to express and share.
After finishing my exams and submissions, I decided to visit my family back in India. Before that, however, moving out of Blakeley Hall was challenging. I had to drag all my belongings into the basement of a house I was going to move into for the next academic year. After bidding good-bye to graduating friends and winding up some important chores, I was excited to fly back to India for a short visit. It was really special to go back home, as I was visiting after ten months. It was surprising to me that I got absorbed into the Indian way of life as soon as I arrived back home. I was eating street food, navigating through the thick Indian traffic, and meeting cousins and friends on the go. It was like I had never left India.
During my time in India, along came an opportunity for the summer, and I grabbed it with both hands. Professor Ian Johnstone offered me a teaching assistant (TA) position for a summer exchange program. Since I had never assisted a professor, there was a steep learning curve for me. For example, as a TA, I led review sessions — which meant I needed to review what I had learned myself during the last semester.
As I write, I am glad to share that I have settled in my new house, and I am enjoying my summer with some time for reading, cooking, swimming, and cycling, meeting friends, and traveling in and around Boston. I hope to share again towards the end of the summer!
I enjoy hearing stories from students about the moment they learned they were admitted to Fletcher. Today, student blogger Pulkit tells us his story.
At Fletcher, time flies by very quickly. I cannot believe that it has been seven months since I moved from India to the United States. I have learned so much during this time — both academically and generally. My interests at Fletcher have shaped up, but they also continue to evolve. I suppose I have become a little wiser and better at managing my time. But this is only my second semester. There is still so much to be learned, so much to be discovered, and so much to be explored.
It has also been a year since my admissions decision came out. I presume some of you might have received yours recently. I know — it is a time of anxiety and anticipation. I vividly remember this time last year. It was a glorious day that changed my life and I would like to share my admissions outcome story with all of you.
I have shared this story with only a few close friends, but it will always be my quintessential Fletcher moment. It was March 11, and all throughout the day, I was nervously checking the Admissions Blog for any updates regarding the admissions process. Through Jessica’s previous posts I had known that Fletcher would announce decisions on the 11th of March. It had been two months since I filed my application, and my nerves were on edge.
That evening, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. Indian Standard Time (IST), as often happens in India, the electricity went off. It was surely going to be an unusual evening for me. In another part of the world that is nine and a half hours behind IST — in the U.S. — admissions decisions still had not been released. With a power back-up, I frantically refreshed my internet browser. In a couple of hours, the power back-up died. At that point I had limited access to the internet, so my frequency of checking for updates gradually declined. The night’s electricity blackout lasted for a good eight hours. At 2:00 a.m., with still no electricity in the neighborhood and no results outcome in sight, I decided to retire for the night. I was at my parents’ house, and they had already gone to sleep.
A half-hour later, as I restlessly tossed and turned in bed, I saw the street light across my room switch on. The electricity was back! I decided to give it another try and check for any updates. I quietly tiptoed into the living room. Without making any noise, I switched on my laptop, opened my inbox, and voilà — there was an email that said there was an update to my admissions application. I quickly logged into my Fletcher application account.
The moment is still very clear in my memory. Call it dramatic, if you may. I opened the link and the first word that I noticed on the letter said, “Congratulations!” Heart pounding, I left my laptop as it was, and without even reading the entire contents of the admissions offer, ran towards my parents’ room. I turned on the lights and loudly woke them up. I hugged them and shared the news. It was such a joyous moment.
From my classes at Fletcher and Harvard, to attending amazing guest lectures and training workshops, to visiting New York and Washington for career trips, to swimming at the Tisch gym, to experiencing and enjoying my first snow storm — a lot has happened since I arrived in August. The coming few weeks in March and April will be even more exciting. I am traveling to Israel on the Fletcher Israel Trek and it will be my first travel to the Middle East. For April, I have five long-form papers and two presentations due for four of my classes.
As the whiteness of this winter turns into yellow and green of the spring, I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. But it all started with the night I learned my admission outcome.
The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs is one of the premier journals of The Fletcher School. It was established in 1975, and the first edition came out in the fall of 1976. It therefore makes sense to celebrate this journal as it completes forty years of publication.
I first learned about The Forum long before I had even thought of applying to Fletcher, as I was skimming through the profiles of one of Fletcher’s eminent alumni from India, Shashi Tharoor, who also happened to be the founding editor of The Forum. So, when I started school in Fall 2016, one of my first actions was to apply to become a member of the editorial team of the journal. I went through the written application process, and an interview to be drafted as a print staff editor.
After joining the team, I learned more about The Forum and its editorial process. The Forum is a student-run journal published twice a year that covers a wide breadth of topics in international affairs. It also has an online platform, on which additional articles and interviews are published. Currently, the team has thirty-four members and is divided among three teams: print, web, and business and external relations. The print staff has four teams of four members, each led by a senior print editor. Teams are responsible for soliciting and editing articles for the print edition. Similarly, the web staff has three teams of four members each and is primarily responsible for managing the online forum. Both of these teams are overseen by the managing print or web editor, respectively. The business and external relations team is responsible for managing subscriptions, advertising and external relations. The editor-in-chief is responsible for overseeing these different functions in total. In the past, The Forum has been led by some exceptional alumni, including former American diplomat Jeffrey D. Feltman and Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award recipient Cornelia Schneider.
The Forum’s editorial process is very rigorous and goes through multiple iterations. The first draft as received from the writer is put through three cycles of edits. The first cycle includes global edits, which refers to editing the article for content, overarching argument and thesis, structure, flow, and logic. The editor will rearrange sentences and paragraphs to ensure the article has a clear, logical, and thoughtful flow. The second cycle includes local edits, which refers to the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. The third cycle involves editing the citations. The Forum follows the Chicago Manual for editing, but over the years has developed its own style, guidelines, and citation rules. Once the three cycles are done by the print staff editors, the senior editor runs another review. The edited piece is then sent back to the writer for approval and changes. This final step can involve a lot of back-and-forth with the author, as sometimes they may have edits or additions of their own that then need to be reviewed.
The fall semester was busy. My team and I were successful in soliciting three article submissions and we edited three additional articles for publishing. As you can imagine, editing articles is not always easy. There will always be one that ends up taking more time than what you initially budgeted. During a busy school week, this can become strenuous.
And this is not the end in the life cycle of an article getting published in The Forum. After the article is finally edited, it is sent to the designer, who designs the article and sends it back to the staff for one final check. The staff then quickly runs through the article to check for any remaining errors, always keenly on the lookout for the missing Oxford comma.
While solicitations and editing is just one aspect of a functional journal, there are numerous other tasks that are looked after by the journal’s management and leadership. These include managing the team, making sure timelines are adhered to, ensuring there is a constant supply of quality articles, and most importantly, managing the budget.
Apart from work, The Forum folks also have fun. At the beginning of the semester the leadership hosted a barbeque for the incoming staff. For Thanksgiving, a potluck dinner was organized. I have learned so much by being a part of this exceptional team. I picked up valuable editing skills, and also learned how to manage my time — balancing academics and my extra-curriculars.
The second post from new Student Stories writers comes from Pulkit, who has taken a multi-step path from an engineering degree to Fletcher.
Hello! My name is Pulkit Aggrwal and I am a first-year MALD student from India. I am excited to share my Fletcher journey with all of you. I am interested in writing for the Admissions Blog because, as I share my story, I will be able to reflect and critically analyze my thoughts during my time at Fletcher. At the same time, I hope these stories will resonate with readers, who themselves are either trying to discover new fields of study or explore uncharted territories, and I hope that it will give them the confidence to try and experiment. I also hope that, at the end of two years of my program, when I read these posts and look back at my journey, I will see how much I have learned, how much I have grown as a person, and how far I have come.
I was brought up in Chandigarh, a city north of New Delhi, a capital of two Indian states, and a city designed by the French architect Le Corbusier. I studied engineering as an undergraduate. Specifically, I studied electronics and electrical communication engineering. After graduating, I worked with McKinsey and Company as an analyst in the high tech and telecommunications industry vertical. I worked for clients across the consumer electronics, telecommunication, software, and IT services value chain.
After McKinsey, I joined a hospital in an administrative capacity, working on business development and strategy. During this time, I tried to enter into the Indian Civil Services as a foreign service officer. In order to make a contribution to my community, I volunteered as a teacher with a children’s not-for-profit organization called Make A Difference. As a teacher, for about four years, I was associated with Ashiana, a shelter home for underprivileged children, where I worked, mentored, and taught children aged six to 18 years. Later, I was selected as a Global Shaper Under 30 — an initiative of the World Economic Forum — where I worked on community issues related to urban mobility, gender empowerment, and community leadership. These experiences shaped my interest in international affairs and development. It is then that I decided to pursue graduate studies, to build an understanding of key international issues and develop a complementary skill set in law and economics.
At Fletcher, I am currently pursuing courses in International Security Studies, International Organizations, Human Security, and Development Economics. These fields are intricately tied to each other. I hope to concentrate on two out of the four Fields of Study and bring in key elements from the other two so as to have a complete perspective. Coming from a physical sciences background, it is huge step for me as I make a transition and pursue studies in social sciences. It is also a steep learning process as I get introduced to new subjects, terminology and their inter-linkages.
To add an international language to my skill set, I am auditing elementary French at the Olin Language Center here at Tufts. Outside of class, I am involved in a few activities and societies at Fletcher. I am a print staff editor for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs and I volunteer with the Admissions Office. I am also working on a land rights project with the Harvard Law and International Development Society.
It has been three months since I moved to Boston and started school, and Fletcher has exceeded all my expectations. More than the curriculum, it is the people I have met and the constructive challenges that I have faced that have made my graduate student life so interesting and enjoyable. I have just embarked on this journey. There is so much happening all the time that I feel like I live a lifetime every day. No day is the same. I enjoy facing these challenges and tackling them one at a time. As I gear up for the final month of my first semester at Fletcher, I look forward to sharing more from my learning and experiences.
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