Maria Stepanova Reflects on Her Semester at The Fletcher School

I sincerely believe that an opportunity to be exposed to an international environment with proven academic excellence and a strong, diverse community will definitely enrich your experience in terms of acquiring extensive knowledge and personal capabilities. I was thrilled to win a scholarship at the Higher School of Economics, a leading university in Russia, to spend an exchange semester at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

While Fletcher is regarded as one of the world’s foremost graduate schools of international relations, the crafted curriculum of the Master of International Business degree fits perfectly with the international business program at HSE. If you wish to pursue an interest in other fields of study, such as security studies or law, it is easy to enroll in them using the SIS and Canvas systems. It is important to mention that the curriculum can be customized in other ways. The Fletcher School provides cross-registration options for students to supplement their education at  partner universities,  Tufts and Harvard universities. Personally, I was delighted to cross-register for the Harvard Business School MBA course “Competing Globally” and to attend a course on “Behavioral Science of Negotiations” as an invited guest of the Harvard Kennedy School. From one side, it allowed me to compare notable professors’ different styles for presenting cases and frameworks, and for appraising students’ performance. From the other side, the different courses and settings helped me to improve my social skills and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the global business context. The freedom to design one’s own semester program – which aims to satisfy knowledge gaps and ambitions – brings personality to the formal educational process and develops one’s sense of responsibility for both their current choices and future life-study balance.

The second insight that I want to emphasize is the value in being surrounded by both partners-in-crime with similar values and opposite thinkers. My “Arts of Communication” class greatlycontributed to my public speaking skills and helped me to develop a more persuasive way to articulate my ideas. An idea should be articulated precisely in front of others in order for it to become a trigger for creating change. At the same time, when you discuss a case in a large class, you identify how many various opinions and proposed action plans there can be. The international exposure and background of Fletcher and Harvard students isenormously diverse. Switching from the tendency to always speak up to a position of observation helped me to understand the variety of different views and their underlying root causes. Improving my active listening skills also accelerated my understanding of the English language: I am not a native speaker but working to understand people on a deeper level in turn enhanced my English.

Finally, an obvious and powerful argument for any exchange program is that it encourages inclusion in the community of bright and interesting people all over the world. In our fast-paced world full of technological innovations and not always predictable political events, networking skills are crucial. Cultivating a wide circle of contacts from the best universities in the United States, spread across multiple career paths, is to one’s advantage. I am thankful to The Fletcher School and partner universities for building my professional network.

Skills and knowledge are only useful when practiced. Prior to pursuing my MIB degree at HSE, I worked in HR support at an international consulting firm. At present, I have transferred to an HR advisory practice, which provides organizational design consultancy for international and Russian clients, and have requested to continue my workfull-time after my arrival in Moscow. In this role, I will be able to directly leverage the experience and network I gained while at Fletcher.

All in all, exchange means sharing with others what you have already obtained. Following this thought, after graduation, we all will be continuing to exchange with each other through sustainable support and hospitality on the global scale.

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