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Like Tatsuo’s post from last week, this one, from Adnan, has been awaiting action from me for a little while. But at the same time as Adnan describes wrapping up his own first year, his focus in the post is to offer suggestions for incoming students, and I decided to hold it until closer to the arrival of the newest members of our community. With that said, I’ll let Adnan take us back two months to Commencement at the end of May.
One of the great things about sticking around in Somerville after finals ended was getting to attend Commencement weekend. It was wonderful to celebrate with members of the Class of 2016, many of whom I’m not just good friends with, but had also learned to rely on for all sorts of advice as I navigated my way through my first year. Saying goodbye is never fun, and thinking about how quickly time had flown bummed me out a little. Listening to Commencement speeches by Dean Stavridis, Arianna Huffington, Fletcher alumna Susan Livingston, Professor Schaffner and the graduates themselves, however, was quite uplifting. It reminded me of everything that makes Fletcher amazing, and left me feeling grateful that I have one whole year to go. Officially “half a master of law and diplomacy” now, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far, and hope it helps new students make the most of your limited time here.
First, prepare to be swamped. Between readings, assignments, papers, extra-curricular activities, events, part-time jobs, and trying to build a social life, you’ll wonder how to juggle time. It’ll often feel overwhelming, sometimes even unmanageable. And you know what will make it worse? Stressing about it. The sooner you learn to take it easy, the happier and more productive you’ll be. That does not mean sitting back and letting Fletcher pass you by. Rather, remind yourself that you’ve got what it takes, and you’re not here only to do as much as you can, but also to have fun while doing it.
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do in preparation for Fletcher — and life — is to know yourself. You’ll have a dizzying number of options. Picking what’s best for you will require having a clear idea of your interests and goals, one you should revisit and refresh frequently. Furthermore, the more clarity you have about what you want, the easier it will be for your professors and peers to guide you. For every class you enroll in, think about what you’ll take from it and how it will help you reach your goal. Be strategic about complementing fields of study with the right extra curricular activities. Think about the professional and personal narrative you are building. Have a roadmap — a sense of your bigger picture — and know that what works for someone else may not be the best for you. Every Fletcher student is unique. That being said, it’s equally important to be flexible and open to trying new things. If you’ve discovered a new interest, which you probably will, dare to pursue it. It’s all about finding the right balance, and that’s always easier said than done.
When you get caught up with Fletcher life, you may not always remember all the resources available to you, but it’s important to use them! One that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is Fletcher’s alumni network. Fletcher graduates are doing great things, and as a student, you have access to them. Look up alums working in areas you wish to join and reach out to them. In my experience, they’re always happy to provide guidance and help. Don’t miss the chance to meet them during the New York and Washington DC career trips, and other alumni networking events. Also, visit the Office of Career Services frequently. Make an appointment to review your resume, or practice your interview skills. The OCS also arranges events and workshops that you want to keep an eye out for. And don’t forget that you have the option to cross-register at Harvard and can also access classes at MIT. Use this opportunity to experience what they have to offer and tap into their networks.
Lastly, always stay on top of your game. Manage your time well, and hustle. Don’t let things pile up, and keep clearing your plate as you go. So take those equivalency exams before classes start, get your second language proficiency requirement out of the way as soon as you can, and go to PDP. Plan ahead to the best of your ability. Try to get a head start on your capstone project so you can use your summer to travel and do field work for it, if necessary. Start applying for summer internships as early as you can. The more effectively you manage your time, the more of it you’ll have to spend with your friends and have fun. And you’ll want a lot of that, because, in my experience, those moments are the ones you’ll cherish the most.
Due to a little disorganization on my part, I’m only now sharing a wrap-up of the spring semester that Tatsuo sent me in June. With apologies for my delay, let’s revisit Tatsuo’s extremely busy semester.
My second semester at Fletcher is over and half of my study in Medford/Somerville has quickly passed. I realize that the phrase “time flies” is true.
Many friends in the MA and LLM programs and second-years in the MALD have left the School. I was a little surprised that few first-year students were at commencement. In my home country, first-years would also attend such an event to say goodbye to students who are leaving. Maybe Americans like more casual opportunities to say goodbye to their friends and they think formal events like commencement are mainly for families. On the other hand, we Japanese (and other East Asians?), think that formal events such as commencement are good opportunities to say farewell to each other. For our families, we like more casual settings.
Looking back, this semester was very fruitful for me.
My first Field of Study is Law and Development; however, I am also interested in another area of international relations, Maritime Affairs. The economic and cultural prosperity of Japan largely depends on the sea surrounding our country. The ministry that I work for is also responsible for the vast area of maritime issues, from the shipping industry to marine leisure to maritime security conflicts.
Unfortunately, Fletcher does not offer a Field of Study in Maritime Studies, even though the school has some highly experienced professors in the area. Fortunately, the School allows students to design their own Field of Study. Thus, I combined some relevant courses and designed my tailor-made Field of Study, “Modern Maritime Issues and American Foreign Policy.”
I took four and half a credits this semester: Global Maritime Affairs, which was the core of my self-designed Field of Study; Science Diplomacy, another course for my Maritime Studies Field; The Foreign Relations of the United States Since 1917, which was the last class for Professor Henrikson; International Investment Law; and Islamic World (0.5 credit). I took the last two courses for my interest in development studies.
For non-native English speakers, especially Japanese students who were accustomed to a more passive style of study in our college and high school education, it’s difficult to join the discussion in large classes (although at Fletcher, “large” means only 20 to 30 students in a class), so I try to take at least one small discussion class each semester. Science Diplomacy, led by Professor Berkman, had only around ten students, and the lectures and discussions were friendly and easy to join. The class focused on issues concerning the Arctic Ocean and the relationship between science and diplomacy.
Fletcher offers a lot of courses dealing with diplomacy or negotiation, but Science Diplomacy was unique for two reasons. First, the course dealt with scientific results and methods to use them in diplomatic negotiations. Most of us at Fletcher are not scientists and do not have science backgrounds. At least in my country of Japan, we (political or legal professionals) tend to think that scientists live in a different world. When I was a college student, I was interested in connecting people and studies in the arts and sciences. I helped to organize a forum on outer space development that gathered many researchers and students with different backgrounds, to improve exchange among them. The perspectives in Science Diplomacy at Fletcher awoke that interest again.
Additionally, Science Diplomacy focused on “common interests” for all the participants. In most diplomacy case studies, we have to define certain interests for each participant in the negotiations, even if these negotiations are not zero-sum games. However, this course provided another perspective on participants’ interests, by introducing the context of science. It was thought provoking for those of us struggling over global issues with many deeply intertwined interests.
Outside of classes, I joined a project led by Harvard Law School’s Law and International Development Society (LIDS). For the project, our team drafted policy guidelines for local stakeholders in Afghanistan seeking to promote community development in resource-rich areas cooperating with local government and mining companies. It was a very interesting practical opportunity to learn how we could use legal skills to tackle issues of international development. Thanks to the instruction and support of CLDP, the U.S. agency that provided the project to LIDS, I learned a lot, from Afghanistan’s unique practices to global issues for mining-community development. On the other hand, I was afraid that our work could deprive Afghan stakeholders of an opportunity to develop legal and policy skills. When I was a young officer of the Japanese Government, I drafted a lot of policy papers and guidelines. I could not complete the work alone because of my inexperience, and I had to draw on support from my boss and colleagues. As a result, over time, I acquired the skills I needed to be effective in my work. With that history in mind, the project was a very thought provoking opportunity for me.
For recreation between studies, I took part in a Fletcher student activity, Fletcher Strategic Simulation Society (FS3), where we mainly enjoyed playing board games. In Japan, most board games are for family parties. especially including small children, and the rules tend to be simple. When I asked my Japanese classmates to join FS3, they worried it would be a little childish. But in the U.S., college students enjoy many board games and the rules can be very complex, requiring strategy to win. This cultural difference is the mirror image of the perspective on manga or anime. Many Americans think that comics and cartoons are not appropriate for intellectual adults. By contrast, in Japan, even old or well-educated people like manga and anime, because many are very literary and include social satire.
I like to play strategic simulation games with Fletcher’s future diplomats, officers, and negotiators. In particular, I was very excited to play “Diplomacy,” which is a classic game dealing with World War I. Players negotiated, allied, and deceived each other, posing as great powers of the era. It took more than four hours to complete a game, but I truly enjoyed playing “Diplomacy” with the people of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Also outside of classes, I tried to organize a Japanese Table. At Fletcher, there are many language and culture tables, and I wanted to make my contribution to the cultural diversity of Fletcher. Additionally, I wanted to find people who are interested in Japanese language and culture, and to increase the number of interested students. One of the reasons is that I work for Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism. I regretted that I could not organize the table too many times. The number of students who participated was not too large — except when we served Japanese cuisines and drinks! On the other hand, I realized that there are a good number of Fletcher students who are learning Japanese, although the Japanese presence in the U.S. has been dramatically decreasing over the past few decades, compared with that of China and other emerging countries. I think one of the reasons that it continues as an interest at Fletcher is that many students are focused on security studies.
We also have Japanese students at the School, and most of us have worked for the government. I think it should be our role to build, strengthen, and deepen the community to benefit both our country and international society, by staying connected to people from other countries who are interested in our culture.
Yes, it’s July, but we’re still catching up with the students who are sharing their stories on the blog. Today, let’s read McKenzie’s summary of the first half of her experience in the MIB program.
Wow – what a year! I can’t believe that this time last year I was telling my former company that I’d be leaving to pursue graduate studies. I had no idea of the types of adventures I was embarking upon when I accepted my offer here. As it is for most of us transitioning out of the work world and back into an academic setting, the fall semester was a bit of an adjustment period for me. I had to calibrate how I would prioritize my time between academics, Fletcher friends, my “pre-Fletcher life,” and family.
It seems Fletcher students are up at all hours pursuing all manner of endeavors — from starting businesses to competing in case competitions; from working one, two, and sometimes three jobs or internships in between classes, to traveling abroad to conduct research as part of a capstone project; or from organizing Fletcher’s famed Culture Nights to planning and participating in many other school traditions. It is tempting to jump in and sign up for all of these things at once. I didn’t go quite that far, but I did spend the fall semester enrolled in five courses, leading an advisory project for the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG), competing as a member of a team in a public equity research challenge, working part-time, researching target firms for my summer internship, and attending the numerous great events that happen at Fletcher. I did this while traveling on weekends for a friend’s bachelorette party and wedding, visiting friends and family back home, attending a career trip in New York, and building new friendships with some of my classmates here at Fletcher. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time winter break rolled around.
At some point after submitting my last final exam on a cold, December morning, I realized that I was running through grad school without fully and completely appreciating the opportunities around me. Over the subsequent weeks, I spent time prioritizing the activities and experiences I wanted to be sure to savor in my two years here and returned to campus in January with a plan to pare down certain commitments to fully value the benefits of others.
As I reflect back on the spring semester, I’m happy to report that I was really satisfied with the new balance I found. Ironically, I was able to feel as though I was doing more by doing less. In January, I took a break from all things academic to go north on the Fletcher ski trip. In February, I went to DC for a two-week intensive training on impact investment and social enterprise management. In March, I began transitioning into my now current role as CEO of FSIG and traveled to India with five close friends from school. In April, I spent more time on the weekends exploring the sights and opportunities offered by Boston. And in May, I survived yet another round of finals, attended the Diplomat’s Ball, and played bubble soccer during “Dis-Orientation” week, which is a collection of activities and events between the end of finals and commencement weekend dedicated to celebrating the end of school for second years.
This leads me to an important aspect of this school that makes it so great, yet can also make it challenging: there is a tremendous diversity of opportunity at Fletcher. The hardest (and most rewarding) task for students is to identify the two to three opportunities that best fit with their career and personal goals. I’ve managed to pare down and focus on those that are most important to me, and it’s been interesting to see my classmates go through a similar process. The most exciting aspect, however, is that even as I have defined the activities I would benefit from or enjoy the most, I have friends at Fletcher whose interests led them to entirely different opportunities. While we’re each invested in our own “flavor” of Fletcher activities, it’s always interesting to learn about the events and happenings of friends studying completely different areas.
With that, my concluding piece of advice for incoming and prospective students is two-fold. First, in addition to the myriad courses that you are undoubtedly considering, know that beyond the classroom are tremendous opportunities to build practical skills and experience in the area of your choice through student activities and clubs. The second is perhaps lost on every generation of ambitious, enthusiastic incoming first years, but to the extent possible, you should prioritize the opportunities most important to you. This is tremendously difficult at Fletcher, but the rewards from focusing on the most essential elements across your classes, activities, jobs, family, and social obligations will make your time at Fletcher that much more special.
I’ll leave you with these thoughts for now. Over the summer, I’m heading to South Africa to work with the portfolio companies of a small firm in Johannesburg, helping them to scale up proven business models and transition from small, unstructured startup teams to more developed, growth-oriented companies. I’ve never been to South Africa, but I am excited to dive in and learn as much as possible about the people and history of one of Africa’s largest economies. For those of you joining us next year, enjoy the summer and we’ll see you in the fall. For the rest of you, thanks for sharing in my experiences here at Fletcher — I look forward to checking back in September!
Recently graduated student bloggers Ali, Alex, and Aditi are wrapping up their stories for the blog. First to report on the conclusion of her Fletcher experience is Ali.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was writing to you with excitement about the end of first year and my summer internship at YUM! Brands. Today, I write with even more enthusiasm about the completion of my degree and my return to that same place.
Fletcher has been a wonderful two years for me. I’ve made new friends and colleagues; gained the knowledge and experience I need to transition to the private sector; accepted a fantastic job in my hometown; and completed a capstone project that took me back to Brussels, where my professional journey began.
It was interesting to end my Fletcher career back in Belgium, thanks to capstone research funding from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context. During my spring break there, terrorist attacks at the airport and local metro station made international news that showed me Belgium is not the same place I lived before. Its quirky citizens and hidden, lively bars have become more exposed to worldly cares. Belgian companies are being acquired by international competitors; family brewers are innovating to stay relevant amongst microbrewers; and ISIS is launching a full assault on the country. Just like the little country I love, I have changed and become more exposed to the world, too. While many students at Fletcher dedicate their lives to careers abroad, I can’t imagine not using my new travels and knowledge to return home and create change from there.
At YUM! Brands, I’ll be working to explore the material impact of extra-financial environmental, social, and governance issues and to improve the company’s performance and transparency around them. I’ll communicate proactively with key stakeholders, like investors, and use their feedback to drive internal change, as well.
Fletcher isn’t just a place for students desiring careers in governments and non-profits abroad. It’s also a great training ground for people looking to transform the world of business right here in America.
See everyone back in Kentucky soon!
Three student bloggers will graduate on Sunday, Alex, Aditi, and Ali. They’ve all been particularly great to work with and I’ll miss them! You can expect to see their words of farewell in the coming weeks, after they have graduated and had a chance to process their experience. For today, we have Alex’s Annotated Curriculum for his two years in the MIB program.
Strategy Consultant, Monitor Deloitte in Washington, DC
General Manager, Valsek Nutritional Foods in Addis Ababa
Fields of Study
International Energy Studies (self-designed Field of Study)
International Finance and Banking
The PPA Crutch: The Implications of Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements in New England (Advisor: Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher)
Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Develop business models and financing mechanisms to bring renewable energy to scale in new markets
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
The Arts of Communication
Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy
Managing Operations in Global Companies: How the World’s Best Companies Operate (Audit)
My first semester was all about laying the groundwork for a meaningful time at Fletcher. The core MIB classes, especially Finance, helped our cohort develop the key business skills necessary to be successful at Fletcher and beyond. Perhaps more importantly, taking a few classes as a group really brought the MIB class together, which has been invaluable both academically and personally. I also greatly enjoyed my elective classes like Communication and Clean Energy Policy, as mentioned in previous posts, and the professors have turned into great mentors over time.
International Business Strategy & Operations
Political Economy & Business of the EU
Engineering, Economics, and Regulation of the Electric Power Sector (at MIT)
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (Audit)
In my second semester, I finished up my MIB requirements and started to delve deeper into my energy concentration. My business classes felt very much like B-School, in terms of the content they covered and the hard skills they built, with one big difference: I was taking them at an international affairs school. As such, my professors and classmates brought an incredible depth and breadth of international experience to bear, and the policy context was always discussed. I also took an enlightening Electric Power Sector class with a bunch of engineers at MIT, which really got me into the nitty-gritty details of how power systems work. Also, Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy sponsored me to go to an energy conference at which I was able to wrangle an internship during the semester at Commonwealth Bay, a wind-energy private equity firm, where I performed market analysis and due diligence on wind projects.
One of my professors introduced me to BlueWave Renewables, a solar-energy developer, where I got an exciting opportunity to apply what I had been learning in my classes and to gain further exposure to the thriving cleantech ecosystem in Boston. As discussed in my previous post, I helped build out a platform for community solar, a new business model designed to bring solar to the three quarters of Americans who cannot own their own solar panels. Thanks to my business and energy classes, I was able to hit the ground running and make an impact in a short period of time.
International Business Transactions
Large Investment and International Project Finance
Petroleum in the Global Economy
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
The Art and Science of Statecraft
The third semester was my first opportunity to truly cast a wide net across the amazing diversity of classes offered at Fletcher. International Business Transactions covered topics such as contract law, which, although it may sound dry, is where “the rubber hits the road” in business; I discovered this when I was starting a business in Ethiopia, and it is one of the reasons I decided to come to Fletcher. Project Finance and Petroleum complemented each other very well, and contributed to my Field of Study requirements. Leadership, which was taught by a great professor on loan from the Harvard Business School, provided a valuable soft-skill counterpoint to more analytical courses I had taken so far. Finally, Statecraft was an interesting foray into the mental models of one of our well-known professors, renowned equally for his colorful analogies and for his direct language. On top of all this, I also worked with the wonderful Fletcher Social Investment Group to lead a team of classmates on a consulting engagement for EverVest, a renewable energy financial analysis software startup.
Energy, Entrepreneurship, and Finance
International Energy Policy
Political Economy and Business Context of Latin America
International Financial Management
Management, Finance, and Regulation of Public Infrastructure in Developing Countries (at Harvard)
My fourth and final semester has been great because the foundation I have built up over the last year and a half has enabled me to engage with the material in a way I could not have done before. My two energy classes are a nice culmination to the thrust of my studies here, and indeed they provide timely input as I wrap up my thesis for the capstone requirement. International Financial Management, affectionately dubbed “Jacques Deux” after the French-American professor who has taught a notorious regimen of finance classes for decades, proved to be as difficult and enlightening as promised. The Infrastructure class at the Harvard Kennedy School has provided another good perspective on the matter, and a chance to meet new like-minded people. Finally, I have supplemented my studies by conducting energy policy research for a Fletcher alumnus at EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar.
I am excited by my prospects post-Fletcher, but know that I will be sad to leave this place. Throughout my two years here, I have had the pleasure to work with supportive professors and a diverse yet cohesive set of classmates. As demonstrated above, Fletcher has also consistently opened doors for me, both at other top-tier schools and at cool companies. I know I will look back fondly on my time here, and now understand more and more why the Fletcher community is so strong.
I’m always amazed and impressed at how Fletcher students organize their lives. They all have a full slate of academic commitments, but they also want to engage with the community in many ways. For student blogger Adnan, the School’s traditional “culture nights” have been a highlight throughout the year.
On an April weekend evening, for the first time in my life, I stuck my face in a pie. It felt funny, but tasted really good. Sadly, there was no time to savor the chunky apple filling because I only had a minute to eat as much of it as I could — without using my hands — as my friends watched and cheered. While struggling to finish, I learned an important lesson: having dinner before entering a pie-eating contest is not the best idea. (In my defense, the barbequed chicken, mac and cheese, and corn bread served earlier were hard to resist.) I lost, but the experience is one I will likely remember fondly for many years to come. A few minutes later, I was all cleaned up and back on stage for my first-ever swing dance performance, which was reminiscent of scenes from the 1978 Hollywood blockbuster, Grease. April is a particularly busy time of the year, so I hardly had time to practice, but a few lessons from my very talented classmates made me performance-worthy. Or so I hope. And thankfully, the motion didn’t trigger my digestive tract into reverse action.
Like the four culture nights before it, Americana Night, the last one for the year, was a huge success. Culture nights have been one of the highlights of my Fletcher experience, and I’m proud to have performed in all but one of them. Performances feature students in dances, songs, fashion shows, poetry recitals, trivia quizzes, and skits that give their classmates a glimpse of the region being honored. And the variety of ethnic food that’s served gets us lined up in a queue that often wraps the entire venue. The year kicked off with Asia Night in October. Given the region’s rich diversity, the evening’s entertainment ranged from Indonesian pop songs to classical Nepalese dance. I participated in a Bollywood dance segment, and it was heartening to see the enthusiasm with which my international friends learned each step. Their bhangra moves would easily put many of my friends back home in Pakistan to shame.
Fiesta Latina in November was my personal favorite because I got to learn salsa. It’s something I had always wanted to do, so I was particularly diligent about practice, and ended up performing better than I had expected.
Mediterranean & European Night in February saw performances ranging from flamenco and belly dance to dabke, hora, and even a chest-hair competition. I sang a French pop song with a group of Francophone friends. People who asked me afterward were surprised to learn that I don’t speak French. At Africana Night in March, it was good to only be a part of the audience for a change and watch my classmates perform dances like batuku and kuduro while enjoying goat curry and injera.
Not only do culture nights celebrate the diversity of our community in a manner that is inclusive and fun, they’re a Fletcher tradition that reflects the school’s spirit like few other events do. On the one hand students take ownership of the cultural traditions they are most familiar with to ensure things are done right; on the other, they sign up to learn whatever they find exciting. Performance leaders generously lend their time to teach and practice with their peers until they’re ready to be on stage. We also lend and borrow ethnic clothing items to help each other build outfits and costumes for performances. In many ways, culture nights embody what Fletcher represents: learning through engaging and sharing, and having a good time doing it.
Less than a month remains before graduation in May. Let’s take a look at the two-year Annotated Curriculum of Aditi, one of our graduating bloggers.
Dasra, Mumbai, India
PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi, India
Fields of Study
Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (self-designed)
Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Technology for development; monitoring and evaluation
- Design and Monitoring for Peacebuilding and Development Programming (0.5 credit)
- Social Networks in Organizations, Part One and Part Two
- Corporate Social Responsibility in the Age of Globalization
- Quantitative Methods (0.5 credit)
- Data Analysis and Statistical Methods
I came to Fletcher with an interest in technology for development and in design, monitoring, and evaluation. I was lucky to start my year off with the Design and Monitoring module, where I not only learned a great deal, but also made some of my closest friends at Fletcher. I also decided to take some basic quantitative classes such as statistics and quantitative methods in order to help me feel more prepared for classes down the road. Social Network Analysis and Corporate Social Responsibility were courses I took to try and explore new areas — although I came to Fletcher with a very clear sense of what I wanted to do, I also wanted to make sure that I tried out some new subjects.
- Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors (0.5 credit)
- Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations (0.5 credit)
- Econometrics (at the Friedman School)
- Introduction to Research Methods
- Financial Inclusion: A Method for Development
After spending winter break with friends in the warmer climes of New Orleans and Austin, I returned early to Fletcher to dive into Evaluation, the second module of the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) course series. My spring semester was focused on specific skills I knew I wanted to gain before the summer and before second year, so that I would have the option to take courses that I found more challenging. I took my econometrics class at the Friedman School in downtown Boston since the Fletcher course was over-subscribed, which turned out to be a great experience. In addition to furthering my knowledge of monitoring and evaluation, I also brushed up on basic research methods and had the chance to learn more about financial inclusion, a topic about which I had heard a lot but never had the chance to formally study. The semester was also made more challenging by the fact that I was working more hours a week at my campus job than I could realistically handle, but in retrospect, I’m glad I took the opportunity to earn a little extra money for my summer internship!
Manos de Madres, Kigali, Rwanda
Since I already wrote about my summer internship, I’ll just say a few quick words about how my academics at Fletcher fit into it. My courses in design, monitoring, and evaluation and financial inclusion really gave me the tools to apply to my work with Manos de Madres — from conducting a Theory of Chance exercise with the team in Kigali, to thinking through how the savings group program could be improved, I found myself falling back on my Fletcher classes time and again. I also spent some time over the summer conducting research for my Capstone Project.
- Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
- Econometric Impact Evaluation for Develoment
- International Economic Policy Analysis
- The Art and Science of Statecraft
I returned to Fletcher early once again, this time to be the teaching assistant for the DME course series. I hadn’t had much of a break or a holiday over the summer, but decided to dive right into my year and challenge myself with my courses. I had taken so many requirements in the previous year in order to build up to taking a certain set of classes, and I was loath to let any of those go — and so I ended up (very happily) over-extending myself and learning more in one semester than I could ever have imagined. By the end of the year, I couldn’t believe my newfound comfort with numbers, or the confidence with which I could read and interpret statistics. Although the course load was incredibly hard, I don’t think I have ever worked harder or been prouder of myself. On the flip side, I didn’t have quite as much fun enjoying all the other wonderful things that Fletcher has to offer, and so I decided that come spring semester, I would focus on a select few things and aim to do them well, while spending time enjoying the full Fletcher experience.
- International Investment Law
- Development Economics: Macroeconomic Perspectives
- Independent study (Capstone)
- Civil Resistance: Global Implications of Nonviolent Struggles for Rights and Accountability (0.5 credit)
- US-European Relations since the fall of the Berlin Wall (0.5 credit)
After a rushed and exciting trip back home to India for a friend’s wedding, I came back early as the teaching assistant for the Evaluation module of the DME series. In true “senioritis” fashion, I realized I had left some of my requirements to the end of my time at Fletcher, and found two of my credits filled by those courses. Given that I wanted to focus on my Capstone, I enrolled in an Independent Study with my advisor, Professor Jenny Aker, and then took two half-credit courses in topics that seemed very interesting to me but that I had little knowledge of. So far, the semester has been a good balance, and I have been careful not to overcommit, to make time for enjoying friends, lectures, and all the other events that Fletcher has to offer.
Of course, I also have to make sure that I find time to apply to jobs and figure out what comes next for me after this wonderful journey — so cross your fingers and hope that my next (and last!) post on this blog as a Fletcher student brings good news!
I have a little something different to offer today. Remember Mirza? He was a MALD student who wrote for the blog in 2013-14 and 2014-2015, and since then he has been alternating work that builds on his Fletcher studies with a continuation of the music career he had pre-Fletcher, with the duo Arms and Sleepers (AAS). Recently, I read something he had posted on his Facebook page and asked if I could share it on the blog. It struck me as bringing together so much of what makes Mirza interesting — his personal history, his directness and honesty, his work as a musician, and the insights he will have developed at Fletcher. I’m glad he agreed to let me share his thoughts. Post-Fletcher careers in the arts are not typical, but those graduates who pursue them are not alone.
As a further introduction, today Mirza noted, “I have performed in Georgia the country and Georgia the U.S. state; Moscow, Idaho and Moscow, Russia; Athens, Georgia and Athens, Greece; (the) Mexico and New Mexico.” He definitely covers a lot of territory. Speaking of which, let me share his upcoming tour schedule. If you live or are traveling in any of these locations, I’m sure Mirza would be happy to see you. He has always welcomed Fletcher alumni, students, and even applicants to his performances in the past.
And with that, I’ll let Mirza share his story.
I’ve been telling this story at my shows on the current tour so I’ll share it here as well, especially as I am in northern Greece at the moment.
Being a musician and doing this for a living, I often feel conflicted about the importance and impact of what I do, compared to what’s happening in the world. I arrived at Amsterdam airport the morning of the Brussels airport bombings, and was traveling to Greece via Brussels airport last week. I am now in northern Greece about to play three shows, practically right next to the refugee camps where people have only one thing on their mind: survival. I’ve been on that side as well. When I left Bosnia with my mother in 1992, we only had survival on our mind, too. We were lucky to escape the war, but we wanted the world to pay attention to our struggles and help us start a new life somewhere else. Almost every country closed its borders to us, and hours (many hours) spent waiting in line at the Norwegian/Swedish/Canadian/etc. embassies resulted in nothing but rejection. We were lucky, once again, to be taken by the U.S. after years of trying.
Today, I am on the other side, doing something I love and something that I helped build myself. I perform music across the world, and even if I am only a small artist, I feel incredibly privileged and lucky that people are willing to pay me to come to their country and play a show. So as I am writing this in Thessaloniki, Greece, I feel weird because I think about some western artist who might have been performing in Croatia at the same time that my mother and I were traveling on ferries and buses with two suitcases looking for a better future. Now that western artist is me.
I keep saying that music is important, because it is. At almost every show I meet someone who tells me how much our music has impacted him/her. In Bristol, UK, a girl was crying after our show because she heard her favorite song live; in Chongqing, China, someone told me our CD was the first she ever purchased outside of China; in Guatemala City, the show organizer told me that our music opened his eyes (ears?) eight years ago to all kinds of new music he never knew about before; in St. Petersburg, Russia, a young girl told me that she has a heart condition and can’t go to loud shows, as per her doctor, but came to my show anyway and felt free for the first time in a long time; a girl in Poznan, Poland recently got sick and ended up in a wheelchair — she told me that my show was an hour during which she could forget about all the overwhelming negativity in her life; in Ukraine in the summer of 2014, I was thanked endlessly for not canceling my tour and for being one of the only artists to play in the eastern part of the country; in 2009, we wrote a song that was the first thing a newborn in Nashville, Tennessee heard; a guy flew on a plane in Russia for the first time just to come to an AAS show; and I continue receiving Facebook messages from young people in Tehran, Iran telling me how much our music has been influential in the city’s underground electronic music scene. These are not ego-boosters, but little stories that are important to me because they involve people’s actual lives, and it is unbelievably humbling to have any amount of impact in someone else’s life.
So I don’t know, I continue feeling conflicted because I’ve been on both sides — I’ve been a refugee who nobody wanted and I’ve been a teenager/adult who needed music to get through difficult times. As I play these shows in northern Greece over the next three nights, I’ll be doing plenty of self-examination and figuring out how to best contribute positively in this messy world, with and without music.
Continuing our return to spring break, along with yesterday’s post by McKenzie, today we’ll read about Tatsuo’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Fletcher offered a trek to this region, but Tatsuo will explain that he ended up joining students from Harvard Kennedy School for their trek.
Over the recent spring break, Fletcher students organized a Fletcher Policy Trek to Israel. I applied for Fletcher’s trek, but I wasn’t accepted because there was a lot of competition for the available places; however, I had another opportunity to join such a trek to Israel, through Harvard Kennedy School. Many events at HKS welcome the participation of Fletcher students. I think that having access to the resources of one of the world’s largest universities is a big advantage of Fletcher.
In line with this, I eventually joined HKS’s Israel trek. It was a little more costly than that of Fletcher because of the size. (HKS’s trek had over 100 students, while Fletcher’s trek is limited to about 50 participants. The funding resources were about equal, which meant I needed to pay more.) But the places we visited were almost the same and I was also pleased to make friends with enjoyable and interesting students from HKS and other Harvard schools.
I knew something about Israel and the neighboring Palestinian territories as a Japanese public officer and a student of international relations. However, through the entire trek, I realized that knowledge from books (or the internet) is just knowledge itself. Everything I saw, everywhere I went, and everyone I met were interesting, thoughtful, and impressive.
In an area of Israel near the Gaza district, we saw concrete-covered bus stops and other shelters to avoid rocket bombing from Gaza. The IDF base at the Gaza border crossing had a very serious atmosphere. On the other hand, in the Golan Heights, the other area fronting a conflict zone, we were surprised by the peaceful scenery. We drove through an old Syrian Army headquarters, trenches, broken battle tanks, and dead villages. We also saw an ISIS controlled town, Quneitra from the top of the hill in the Golan Heights. The Syrian Army and ISIS are still fighting over the area, but UN peacekeeping officers seemed to be relaxed and welcomed us to take a picture with them. There were also many tourists chatting and drinking coffee. The contrast between the peaceful scenery, old military facilities, and the ongoing conflict area was very strange.
The contrast between the Palestinian areas and Israeli occupied villages in the West Bank was also thought-provoking. Over the separation wall/security fence, we faced an undeveloped and struggling community. Almost all buildings placed black plastic tanks to store water on the roofs. The landscape with many steep hills seemed to be hard to cultivate. By contrast, the Israeli villages were well developed, beautiful, and clean. I had already understood that the Israeli people enjoyed well-developed lives, unlike those of the Palestinians. But I was moved by the clear and sad contrast in very close vicinity.
When we walked around the old city of Jerusalem, the guide said we walked on the floor of the Jewish district and on the roof of the Muslim district at the same time.
Israel is very small country. We could see the skyscrapers in Tel Aviv from the hills of the West Bank. However, I was surprised by the power of Israel. I don’t mean the military power. There were modern and developed cities, well-maintained infrastructure, beautiful cultivated fields, and green forests. I heard that most trees in Israel were specially planted, not wild. Compared with other Middle East countries that I have been to, the land of Israel seemed to be an oasis in the desert. I was impressed by the power but I also felt mixed emotions. The oasis did not benefit the surrounding region and people, including the Palestinian people, unlike a natural oasis that can feed anyone who visits there.
While I was moved by such interesting but complex experiences, I also enjoyed the trek by swimming in the Dead Sea, riding camels, and of course, eating and drinking! In particular, the region has a lot of historical sites. Masada, the ancient fortress of Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire was one of the most interesting places for me. I climbed the hill using the ramp that the Roman Army built for attacking thousands of years ago, and from the steep edge, I observed the walls and camps of the great empire.
The entire trek was a very nice opportunity for me. Although I could always visit Israel by myself, on the trek I visited places that would be hard to go to if I went by myself. I met people who are too busy to meet with a typical tourist such as Salam Fayyad, the former prime minister of the Palestine Authority, and Yair Lapid, the former minister of finance of Israel. And I shared the time and my feelings with many interesting Harvard friends.
Now, I am still struggling to catch up on the tasks that I had to skip because HKS’s spring break was one week before that of Fletcher. But the trek was surely worth the hard work. If you will be at Fletcher next spring, I strongly recommend that you join Fletcher’s or HKS’s Israel Trek, or another interesting study trek that might be offered!
This week is April vacation week for Massachusetts school children, and I’m going to use that as my explanation for turning the clock back to the March spring break for Fletcher students. Student bloggers McKenzie and Tatsuo will each describe their travels far from campus. First, McKenzie writes about the trip she planned with friends.
I’m back from a brief blog hiatus these past few months and want to share an update from an amazing spring break trip I took at the end of March. Along with five other Fletcher friends, I traveled to New Delhi, India for what was one of the more action-packed yet wonderful spring breaks I’ve had.
After 22 hours of travel, our crew arrived in hazy New Delhi at roughly 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Unsure of the time and date, we hopped in a car sent by a classmate of ours who grew up in the city and we sped toward her family’s home, where we were greeted with hot showers and a wonderful, homemade breakfast.
Soon we loaded back in a car and headed just outside the south side of Delhi to a garment factory in Faridabad. A classmate on our trip who previously worked at Gap arranged the visit, as the factory was the first in Gap Inc.’s network to launch the PACE (Personal Advancement & Career Achievement) program, designed to empower women working in the factory and and to provide leadership development to enhance their careers and build confidence. After learning about the program’s origins, we met with some of the women who had attended the program and since advanced to line management positions. Then, we got to tour the factory and see the production first-hand. The experience overall was a lot to take in, but it was truly a Fletcher-esque opportunity.
Following the factory visit, we returned to our friend’s home in time to change and head to her cousin’s house to watch what we learned was a very important cricket match. If my understanding is correct, India-Pakistan cricket matches of the type and level we got to watch are not very frequent, which meant the celebration was on par with some of the better Super Bowl parties I’ve heard about back in the States. At around 11:00 p.m. that night, we returned home for some much-needed sleep. And that was just the first day.
Over the next few days, we traveled to Agra and Jaipur to see several famous monuments, treat ourselves to some fabulous Indian food, and browse Jaipur’s famous fabric and other markets. On Wednesday afternoon, we drove back to New Delhi in time for one of the greatest national holidays I’ve had the privilege to experience: Holi.
Holi is a Hindu religious festival that, from what I was told, celebrates the conquering of good over evil and the coming of spring. The night before Holi, many people light a bonfire, which signifies the burning of Holika. Our hosts also tossed wheat chaffs into the fire as a symbol of thanks for the impending harvest.
The next day, we had the opportunity to “play Holi” with our friend’s extended family, which consisted first of a short Hindu ceremony with all the family present. The ceremony ends with some tame additions of colored powder to the foreheads of those present, after which the family moves to an outdoor courtyard and the fun really begins. While you start the day in pristinely clean clothes, you end up covered in pink, blue, green, yellow, red, and orange dye – in your clothes, in your hair, on your face, and in my case even in your contact lenses (one of mine was bright yellow!). Everywhere. I promise, it’s a great time. The most wonderful part of Holi is that truly everyone participates. Young and old, men and women, everyone joins in and plays. The kids of the family even developed a full attack plan complete with code words: they hoped to distract us by shouting “hamburger!” then lure us “with words” to be subsequently doused by water balloons and water guns. I suppose they have a few more years to learn the finer points of diplomacy and international affairs…
The day culminated in what has to be a family-specific tradition: each of us in turn was dunked in a barrel drum of homemade, bright yellow flower dye. Even three weeks after Holi, there were still minor tints of that yellow in my hair. It was a great reminder of a wonderful trip, and is a great example of the many ways that Fletcher students contrive to fill their time with enriching yet adventurous trips during their time away from school.
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