The Fletcher-Utrok Pipeline

Hanneke, a current Fletcher-Friedman dual degree student, recently told us the story of how she learned she had been admitted to Fletcher.  Ten seconds later, we had handed her this writing assignment and a deadline.  Here’s her great story.

When I applied to graduate school two years ago, I was teaching elementary school on a small Pacific atoll named Utrok in the Marshall Islands.  I had spent September through December working on my essays by hand.  (A hammock between two palm trees happens to be just about the most beautiful place you could hope to be, while writing essays about the trajectory of your life.)  I had to feverishly prepare my online applications during a winter break trip to the capital, Majuro, 300 miles away, and I submitted them (which felt more like launching them into outer space) three days before returning to Utrok.

Because there was no phone or internet on Utrok, all of my admissions decisions would be going directly to my field director in Majuro.  For her to communicate those decisions to me, we would have to talk over the radio (the kind truck drivers use), which was the only form of instant communication between Majuro, Utrok, and other outer islands.  The thing is… conversations held over the radio could be heard by anyone tuning in to the same frequency anywhere in the country.  While I didn’t want the rest of the Marshall Islands hearing my admissions decisions at the same time as I did, I really (really) did not want my colleagues to hear them.

I had a general idea when decisions should be released, so my field director and I devised a plan.  We had a weekly group check-in every Wednesday, and if decisions were in, my field director was to discretely communicate a sign that I should get on the radio the following day.  I must have changed that plan at least three times from January to March and eventually ditched it altogether in a fit of nerves the day I thought decisions would be available.  I rushed home from school and announced (via that same radio) that I was ready to hear whatever news she had.  Knowing that Fletcher and Friedman were my top choices, she gave me those two decisions first.  In and in.  Totally elated!  And totally incapable of telling my family back in the U.S.  My field director had to do that, too.  (She was an immensely accommodating human being.)

The plane was working the following week and my acceptance packet made the trip relatively quickly to keep me company for the following two and a half months.  I read it cover to cover, over and over again.  I had only spent about three days in Boston when I was 17, so I had absolutely no orientation to the area.  My host parents and I pored over the campus map: illustrations of campus landmarks, Powderhouse Circle, and the buildings of downtown Boston in the distance.  The three of us sat there pointing — clueless, but excited.

I look back at that application process as somewhat surreal, largely hilarious, and ultimately incredibly special.  It was only when I arrived at Fletcher and began to meet all of the remarkable people around me (who have done and continue to do the most impressive things) that I realized how oddly fitting all of it had been.

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