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Yes, you’ve heard that the interests and experiences of Fletcher’s student body are diverse. (We love that about us, and even within the Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy program, often call ourselves Peace MALDs, War MALDs, Business/Money MALDs, or Skills MALDs to highlight our various specialties.) But you won’t truly appreciate our eclecticism until you hear about the places we go during the summer. From volunteering for refugees in Greece and doing development work in Ghana to interning at NATO’s office in Italy and the State Department in DC, my classmates were scattered across the globe between mid-May and end-August. Though my own internship took me only 200 miles from Boston, it gave me an around-the-world, Fletcher-like experience.
UNICEF’s Headquarters in New York is where I interned for two months this summer. I worked in the New Talent Unit of the Division of Human Resources where I assisted the New and Emerging Talent Initiative team as they prepared to launch their recruitment campaign in August. Now in its ninth year, NETI is UNICEF’s professional development program that offers opportunities in various functional areas at duty stations around the world. I helped the NETI team with outreach and with developing a communication strategy. This included drafting and monitoring targeted ad campaigns for NETI job openings on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Ads, which I particularly enjoyed. My job also included writing content for and managing NETI’s internal website and social media pages, and preparing documents for performance reviews of current NETI candidates.
A lot of what I did was linked to my prior work experience in journalism and to my International Information and Communication Field of Study at Fletcher, so my internship allowed me to further develop my skills and add a new perspective. I also benefited tremendously from working closely with a small team as it gave me greater responsibility and the opportunity to be fully engaged while I gained insight on human resources, UNICEF, and the UN at large. Being at Headquarters provides interns considerable access to networking opportunities with UN staff, and to a fairly diverse set of events. I was lucky to be able to attend the first-ever townhall meeting with the candidates running for Secretary General of the UN; the World Humanitarian Day event which included moving speeches by a Syrian refugee family and by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie; and a concert by the Oscar winning composer A.R. Rahman on India’s Independence Day, a pass that I got minutes before the show.
When my friends asked me about my internship, I’d tell them it was like being back at Fletcher. My colleagues were all from different countries and the work environment was very congenial. Furthermore, I was surrounded by equally diverse fellow interns who were wonderful to hang out with. Sounds familiar, no? And Fletcher is indeed everywhere. I connected with a number of alumni working at the UN who were very generous with their time and advice. Additionally, about a dozen of my classmates were interning in New York, too — at UN agencies and elsewhere — and a bunch of 2016 grads had also moved to the city to start or look for jobs. We met up often to explore everything that New York has to offer, and it was always great fun! Overall, my summer was a rewarding experience, both professionally and personally, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way
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.
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.
The last post written by our first-year student bloggers comes from Adnan, who is in the MALD program. As he’ll explain, Adnan and I met at the earliest stages of his graduate school search and it has been a pleasure to keep up with him for more than a year. He was also the very first new student I ran into on the first day of Orientation in August. We were both walking up to Fletcher, and it seemed like an especially fitting start to the new academic year. Naturally, I reached out to him when I was thinking about whom to ask to do some blogging over the next two years. Here’s his story.
Three months in, I’m happy to report that Fletcher is everything I’d imagined it to be, and so much more. My journey began last fall while I was visiting my alma mater, the University of Toronto, and happened to attend the APSIA fair they were hosting. At the time, I was working in Lahore as an associate editor at Newsweek Pakistan, where I had started off as a staff reporter in 2011. I had also been admitted to an international affairs program at another graduate school that spring, but deferred the offer because I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right choice for me. Meeting representatives of various schools at the fair was a great way to get a sense of what else was out there, but the Fletcher booth is where I ended up spending most of my time. I had an engaging conversation with Jessica about whether I’d be a good fit, and it motivated me to make a trip down to Medford.
Visiting campus convinced me that Fletcher was where I wanted to be. I signed up for an interview and a coffee-chat with a student, met with a faculty member, attended a talk, and stayed overnight with a student who heard about me through the mighty Social List. Each activity offered a different perspective on life at Fletcher, and I was able to get answers to all my questions. The diversity of its curriculum, and the freedom to tailor a program to suit my interests were an important part of Fletcher’s appeal, as was its prestigious reputation. What drew me most to the school, however, were Fletcher’s extraordinarily amicable people. Everybody I interacted with seemed genuinely interested in helping, and as I can attest now, it wasn’t just about making a visitor feel welcome, but is very much a part of Fletcher’s culture. I’m lucky to have gotten in, and glad I chose well.
With my background in journalism, I knew that International Information and Communication would be one of my concentrations. This semester, I’m taking International Communication, the required course for that field. Of the many topics covered in class, it’s been fascinating to study the changing context in which global media operates. I am also taking both parts of Social Networks in Organizations, which work toward the field too. Additionally, I am fulfilling my breadth requirements for one ILO course with International Legal Order, and for a required DHP class with Global Political Economy. The second field of study I’m interested in is Strategic Management and International Consultancy. Though this is technically a field for the MIB degree, the flexibility of Fletcher’s programs allows MALD students like me to petition to complete it. To get my foot in the door, I joined the student-run service, 180 Degrees Consulting, and am leading a project to help a nongovernmental organization develop a communication strategy.
While classes are rigorous and demanding, they are one among many sources of learning at Fletcher. Coursework is complemented by daily events that range from conferences and panel discussions, to workshops and film-screenings, often leaving us spoiled for choice. Another great resource is Fletcher’s diverse student body, just casually hanging out with whom can be educational. Through clubs, students arrange organized activities and events too, my favorite of which so far have been the culture nights. I danced in a Bollywood performance at Asia Night, learned Salsa for Fiesta Latina, and am already excited about Africana, Americana, and Mediterranean nights next semester. With everything that goes on, and limited time at hand, coping with the fear of missing out can be a Fletcher student’s biggest challenge. As I learn to prioritize to ensure I make the most of my time here, I look forward to sharing my Fletcher experience with you.
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