Today we’ll meet Sapna, who coins a term for her unique circumstances I quite like. Sapna isn’t alone in having had the course of her studies disrupted by the pandemic, but we’re at least happy that it means we get to have her in our student community a bit longer:
Hi, I am Sapna, a MALD “super-second year” (we haven’t yet found a good word to describe a MALD student in their 5th semester, all suggestions welcome). Due to the pandemic, some of us who joined in September 2019 took a leave of absence or reduced course load, so “super-second year” basically means I get to experience Fletcher life for a semester longer than usual. I am not complaining! Why did I become a blogger so late in my career, you ask? Well, there are so many fascinating things to do here at Fletcher, it is hard to do everything. But now the time finally feels right to exercise my writing muscles. And I want to have the maximum fun in my last semester – what is more fun than blogging?
As I sit under dim red lights, sipping café au lait at the Tufts student-run café “The Sink,” I ponder over the last two years at Fletcher. Some parts went by so slowly while others just whizzed past! After a year of taking Zoom classes from India, it feels good to be back in Medford – attending classes in the beautiful Fletcher building, strolling through Tufts President’s Lawn, reconnecting with old friends and professors, meeting the new 2023 cohort. I had lived in Medford from September 2019 to March 2020. Then, as universities temporarily went online during the pandemic, I took classes from Dallas, Washington D.C., Princeton and Mumbai, but nothing beats being back in person in Medford-Somerville. There is a lot to share about my two years here but those are stories for another day. Today, I will tell you about how I got here.
My journey to Fletcher was long and winding. I studied chemistry in undergrad but felt my calling was elsewhere. In the limiting academic environment back home, where science graduates were either pressured to level up to an MSc or pursue a business degree, I was shocked to discover that there are degrees in IR – that someone would hand me a degree for doing something I love! With limited options home, I requested a few prospectuses from colleges in various countries, but The Fletcher School quickly became one of my two dream schools. Reading through the Fletcher prospectus became my guilty secret, something that I hid even from my family because I thought I would never get accepted to study here, or have the resources to come here if I did. So, I waited a few years…
After studying and teaching the natural sciences for a few years, I joined a travel writing firm to write about cultural sites around the world. Even if I couldn’t travel the world, I could write about places, and learn more about other cultures. I also volunteered as an editor for the UN and as a teacher and curriculum designer for two NGOs, and enjoyed the experiences. I especially liked interacting with students as it took me back to my school days. Getting thank you notes with cute drawings from the children at the end of my stint was heartwarming. I also enjoyed editing UN briefs because I got a glimpse into multiple issues the UN was solving: from strengthening democracy and the free press to debates on universal basic income, in places as far afield as Nepal and Samoa. To prepare myself academically, I pursued a Graduate Diploma in Social Sciences through the University of London to get basic grounding in economics, math and statistics. It was also my first exposure to formal academic thinking in international development and politics.
I did varied things but then I have always been very interdisciplinary, right from my school days. In fact, that is what attracted me to Fletcher. In retrospect, no other IR school would fit me as well because none offer so much freedom to discover and chart one’s own path. At Fletcher, I have been able to dabble in economics, politics, history, linguistics, law, business, South Asian studies – you name it! But most importantly, by letting me experiment, Fletcher has allowed me to really understand my strengths and weaknesses in different fields, and focus on what I am best at. It was at Fletcher that I discovered my love for statistics and data!
It took me 8 years from when I first held the Fletcher prospectus in my hands, but I arrived!
That’s all my cup of coffee will allow me to write. The glorious Boston fall weather beckons me right now. After Mumbai’s hot summer, this cold feels wonderful. Until next time…