Currently viewing the tag: "Student Stories"
It’s always a pleasure for me to get to know students through their writing for the Admissions Blog, and in that spirit, I’m delighted to introduce four new bloggers for this year. Joining Adi, Mariya, and Pulkit are Akshobh, Gary, Kaitlyn, and Prianka. Like many of our past bloggers, Akshobh and Kaitlyn are students in the MALD program. They’ll be writing throughout their two-year experience at Fletcher. Prianka is the blog’s first LLM writer! She’ll be at Fletcher for only one year, but she’ll provide a welcome glimpse into LLM life. And Gary is a new student in the PhD program, and the first who will write consistently about his experience. Students can enter the PhD program after completing the MALD or MIB, or they can apply after completing a master’s degree at another university. Gary took the latter route. We know he’ll be on campus for two years, and I hope he’ll be able to make time for the Admissions Blog throughout both years, but we’ll figure it out as we go.
All of the blog’s writers are volunteers who applied for the opportunity. Many of our interactions consist of me reminding them over and over to submit a post, followed by them reminding me to publish what they’ve given me. (They have the better excuse, but I do struggle sometimes to be systematic in my posting.) They’ve been given assignments and deadlines, but within that structure, I want them to tell the story that best reflects their experience. Flexibility to build around a core structure is a key aspect of many dimensions of the Fletcher experience.
The first of the posts from our new bloggers will appear tomorrow. While you’re waiting, feel free to peruse past writing. The Table of Contents I provided earlier this semester will help you figure out who’s who.
Tagged with: Student Stories
As promised, today’s post comes from second-year MIB student, Adi, who provides the final summer update from our continuing Student Stories bloggers. Adi’s internship gave him a chance to test a new field, as he continues the career shift process he started in his first Fletcher semester.
At one point during my first year at Fletcher, someone told me that, in the end, everything was going to be o.k. Everyone will do something during the summer break, be it an internship, research, writing, or catching up with old friends and family for two or three months. As much as I wanted to believe that, I couldn’t help but get a little nervous when it was a couple of weeks after the last final of the spring semester, summer had officially started, and there was still no official offer letter for a summer internship. I even flew back home to Indonesia, not knowing whether I was going to intern at all during the next few months, or just plain relax (or maybe start writing my capstone).
Then the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived. I was offered a spot in the Global Consumer Summer Associate batch at Citigroup’s Jakarta office. While extremely relieved, I also came to realize that now the hard work would start. This would be my first exposure to working at a global corporation, first time at a financial institution, in an industry far away from my previous professional background. I was put on the Commercial Lending team. My role was to support the business analysis and marketing staff in the division. My main deliverable was an official guide for new employees of Citi Commercial Bank (CCB). This meant that I had to learn how CCB operates, understand the complete business process down to the individual roles of each person on the team, and package all this information into a guidebook that would be easily digestible to a newcomer.
Throughout my time at Citi, there were many new learnings for me. What was very noticeable from the onset was the fast pace of the work. Prior to Fletcher, my experience was in the non-profit and public sectors. Life at a private corporation like Citi was definitely different, in that on any day you could suddenly receive a million (figuratively) new tasks to be completed within the next couple of days (if not by the end of that business day). Second, people were not lying when they said that working at a bank means you have to get good at Excel fast. I learned more spreadsheet shortcuts and functions in the first week at Citi than I did in one year at Fletcher (or even my three years of work prior to grad school, for that matter). Finally, I realized how vast the finance world is. The Commercial Lending work that I had been doing during the summer was just a minuscule percentage of the whole operation that Citi does as an organization. I really enjoyed learning about other functions within the bank, including corporate development, investment banking, and risk management.
In the end, it was a fruitful summer. The skills and knowledge I learned from all three of Professor Jacque’s classes that I took in my first year, Professor Schena’s investment class, and Professor Trachtman’s fiscal and financial law class all came in very handy at different points of my internship. To anyone pivoting to finance, or simply needing a refresher on the topic, I found the Wall Street Prep workshop both in the fall and spring semesters to be very useful during my time at Citi, and I highly recommend it. Now that I have entered my second year at Fletcher, I have more context on how things click in the financial services industry. I still am very much interested in exploring career opportunities in other parts of the industry, specifically asset management. Hopefully, I will be able to build on my experience this past summer, and successfully navigate this exciting industry.
I’ve recently published posts by Student Stories writers Pulkit and Mariya. Coming up next week is a summer update from Adi. For those readers who are new to the blog, I should take a step back and point you toward the stories of all our past writers. Each of these folks volunteered to write several posts during their two years at Fletcher. I try to leave it to the student writers to choose their topics so that they reflect their own experience, but a little structure has developed over time, this year even including deadlines.
To make it easy to access each writer’s posts, here’s your Blogger Table of Contents.
This year’s returning writers are:
Adi, second-year MIB student
Mariya, second-year MALD student
Pulkit, second-year MALD student
Previous year’s writers were:
Adnan: F17, MALD
McKenzie, F17, MIB
Tatsuo: F17, MALD
Aditi: F16, MALD
Alex: F16, MIB
Ali: F16, MIB, who originally applied through Fletcher’s Map Your Future pathway to admission
Diane, F15, MALD
Liam, F15, MALD
Mark, F15, MIB
Mirza, F14, MALD
Roxanne, F14, MALD, who has also written occasionally as a PhD student
Scott, F14, MIB
Maliheh, F13, MALD
Plus, when I first launched Student Stories, I also included a first-year graduate, Manjula, F12, whose experience inspired me to ask students to write about their time at Fletcher, and which then led to the posts from First-Year Alumni. I hope you’ll enjoy scrolling through and reading about all the writers’ Fletcher stories.
I’ll be introducing four (!) new bloggers in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Tagged with: Student Stories
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.
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.
I’m going to close out this blog week with the post that wraps up Tatsuo’s Fletcher experience. It’s hard to believe that I met Tatsuo almost exactly two years ago, and he’s already back in his job with the ministry in Japan that sponsored his studies. As much as any student I’ve known, Tatsuo made the most of his two years away from the workplace. He traveled widely in the U.S. and beyond, pursued an exchange semester in Paris, had an internship last summer (relatively uncommon among students who will return to their pre-Fletcher workplace), and while on campus, built community with fellow students interested in Japanese culture and food. In today’s post, he describes his return to work at the ministry.
Two months ago, I graduated from Fletcher and came back to Japan. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am readjusting quickly to Japanese life and work. I miss my days in the school on the hill, but I already feel like they passed years ago.
I’ve settled in Kasumigaseki, the district that is home to almost all Japanese central government agencies, and I am serving as the Deputy Director of the Transport Planning Division in the Public Transport Department of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).
In Japan, maybe like some other countries, the name of the government district — “Kasumigaseki” — is sometimes used as a word to symbolize “conservative,” “sectionalism,” or “stubbornness.” However, we, the people in Kasumigaseki, are now facing the tide of many and great social and economic trends.
My new position is one of the difficult but interesting positions through which the government is facing change and challenges. Due to Japan’s aging population and the end of high economic growth, Japanese cities and towns, especially in rural regions, are struggling with economic and social stagnation. In these areas, public transportation faces decreasing demand. Many local bus companies will be bankrupted. Japanese Railway and other railway companies abolished many “unprofitable” routes that are still critical for the local society and economy. A decade ago, some free-market-oriented policies that eased or abolished governmental regulations to control transport companies accelerated the trend.
My task is to revitalize regional economies and societies such as these to reconstruct the transport networks. Many bus routes and railways were built in the age of high economic growth. Most of these networks are inefficient for current demand, while the companies have heavily subsidized them and lost the capability to adjust to social/economic change. Moreover, there are many innovations on the horizon to bring a new future to public transport, such as automated driving.
This work needs very broad cross-sector approaches and communication. I am working with many colleagues beyond a single department, ministry, or regional government. I work with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and many businesses to tackle regional transport projects. This complex approach is needed because we have to connect multiple transport modes, many industries, various technologies, and diverse thoughts.
The position has another unique dimension. It is very close to “ground-level.” MLIT is generally field-site oriented: there are tens of thousands of engineers and technocrats, in many branches all over the country, with a big influence on politicians and local governments through the huge infrastructure budget. However, even in MLIT, such detailed field work that I am tackling is really rare. For example, I have to check local governments’ transport network plans. I am sometimes thinking about the location of a bus stop or route because of these very detailed transport network plans.
Although I am enjoying my new responsibilities (while struggling with terrible Japanese working conditions…) some colleagues or friends have said it’s unfortunate that this position is too domestically-focused for a person who just returned from studying in a foreign country. They said that such a “global” person as me should be appointed to some kind of international work, for example international treaty negotiation, promoting infrastructure exports, or diplomatic postings to foreign countries.
However, in Timor-Leste, Kazakhstan, and many other places I visited throughout the world, I realized a truth. To be a “global” person, we need to have “local” expertise.
I enjoyed working in Timor-Leste, not because my English was fluent or I had completed a year of studies, but because my transport/infrastructure expertise was very rare and important for the country.
Imagine if I had no expertise in Japanese industries, infrastructure technologies, or at least the culture and the society. If I had one of those “international” positions, what should I negotiate for? What should I promote to export? How could I represent Japan?
Before Fletcher, I was a man who simply adored the image provoked by the words “global” or “international.” But Fletcher taught me many dimensions of global politics, international business, and the lives of people in the world that I didn’t know. I didn’t learn only on the Fletcher campus, but everywhere in the world that Fletcher opened up for me, such as Timor-Leste, Paris, Israel, and Central Asia.
My new position will give me very deep and special experiences and knowledge about regional public transport. Many places in the world have interest in the questions: How can we build a transport network in areas without good economic/social conditions? How can the public sector and private sector cooperate to manage transport infrastructure while maintaining market competition and people’s welfare? Therefore I think that while this new position seems to be very “local” at first glance, it can strengthen my “global” career.
So now I am working in Kasumigaseki with big Fletcher pride. If you visit Japan, please let me know, so we can talk about the hill in Medford. 🙂
And, if you do visit, I also strongly recommend that you stay not only in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka. Please go to our beautiful regions — using public transportation!
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!
This week I’m going to wrap up the end-of-year updates from our Student Stories writers. We’ve already heard from Mariya and Pulkit’s report will appear later this week. Today we’ll hear from Adi, who is back in Indonesia for the summer.
Just like that, I finished my first year of graduate school. In a typical two-year graduate program, the most common question at the end of the spring semester is, “What’s your plan for the summer?”, which is really saying “Do you have an internship or not?” Of course, there are people who are not doing an internship this summer. They might be using the time to do research, work on their Capstone Project, travel, or relax before the start of another intense academic year. But my sense is that when my classmates asked me the question, what they really wanted to know was what internship offers I had or hadn’t received.
I know I found myself asking that same question to others with the same intention in mind. As I carried out my search, there were many reasons why I asked. Getting inspiration on where else I could apply or tips on how my classmates successfully secured those internship offers, or simply to calm my nerves that someone else out there also hadn’t yet solidified their summer plans.
I remember that, at the beginning of the year, many of the second-year students assured the first years that we should not worry — by the end of the spring semester, everyone would have solidified their summer plans. They told us that some students will receive an offer earlier than others, but this is not due to their qualifications. It is simply a reflection of the different timelines of hiring companies, and the wide variety of interests of Fletcher students. Investment banks and management consulting companies finish their hiring in the fall or early spring. Many multinationals and international agencies do not start accepting applications until midway through the spring semester. Other companies simply accept internship applications throughout the year until they hit their quota.
Nonetheless, we first years couldn’t help but stress out a little about getting an internship, so we tried to start as early as possible. Right from the beginning of the fall semester, I approached quite possibly every single resource that I thought could connect me with an internship opportunity, starting with the obvious, the Office of Career Services (OCS). I met with Elana Givens, the OCS director, to talk about my interests and start planning out my internship search strategy. I attended many coaching sessions led by OCS staff throughout my first year. I approached Dorothy Orszulak, Director of Corporate Relations for the Institute for Business in the Global Context, to ask what exactly hiring managers in the private sector are looking for in internship candidates. I met with Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti and Kristen Zecchi to find out how previous MIB students leveraged their degree to identify internship opportunities. Professors were also fantastic resources. It is through my discussions with Professor Jacque and Professor Schena that I found many ideas on organizations and people to reach out to. And then, of course, there was the structured Professional Development Program curriculum to help me with my résumé and cover letter, making informational interview requests, and acing interviews.
After laying the groundwork with these resources, I started expanding my network. My first thought was the second-year students. Through casual conversations, I managed to figure out who interned where in the previous summer. Then, I followed up on the conversations with an email asking if they would be willing to chat over coffee about their experience, both the internship search and the responsibilities of the position. It was fascinating to hear their stories. One student interned at a venture capital start-up in Seattle that did not have an official internship pipeline. He simply cold-emailed the company, explaining his background and his interest in working for them over the summer, and luckily that is where he ended up. Another student leveraged multiple contacts to reach a very busy director of a tech start-up in Kenya, who then replied “I just received two separate emails referring you to my company. Let’s talk.” These are only two of the many interesting stories I heard by talking to second-year students.
I had started the fall semester looking to pursue an internship at a management consulting company. From the onset, I had heard warnings that even getting an interview would be extremely hard for non-MBA candidates. I reached out to every single person I could who was even remotely connected to the consulting industry. I worked together with my classmates to practice case interviews. I attended workshops and webinars about the consulting industry. During winter break, I received invitations for first-round interviews with Bain and BCG. In the end, I didn’t make it over the final hurdle at either organization, but I am thankful to have gone through the experience. I definitely think that I wouldn’t have had that opportunity had I not reached beyond the companies’ online application portals.
In the end, it all worked out. The advice from second-year students at the beginning of the fall semester turned out to be true. We all ended up with a satisfying summer plan and my first-year MIB cohort has embarked on our respective summer journeys. It may not have been what we thought we would be doing when we started planning, but some of us ended up with something better. As for me personally, I ended up joining Citibank’s Commercial Banking team for the summer and I’m definitely enjoying the challenge.
What a journey it has been! I’m already looking forward to regrouping with my classmates for our second year.
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!
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