Tag Archives: international

Summer Series: Luther Flagstad ’18 Serves as Political/Economic Intern at U.S. Embassy Kazakhstan

By: Luther Flagstad

This summer I had the opportunity to experience what life is like for Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) in the U.S. State Department living and working in Astana, Kazakhstan. On an eight-week assignment as the Political/Economic Sections’ Summer Intern, I briefed officers on attended meetings, contributed to reports back to Washington, and honed diplomatic communication and editing skills. But the biggest takeaway was simply the chance to “test-drive” a career I have been actively pursuing for seven years.

I first took the Foreign Service Officer Test (the first step in applying to be an FSO) in 2010 and failed decisively. My feedback was to get more international experience by considering something like the Peace Corps. So after a lengthy application process, I left for the Kyrgyz Republic seeking to gain new skills as a Peace Corps Volunteer in May of 2012. Four years working in grassroots development in the Kyrgyz Republic helped land me in the 2018 cohort of Fordham’s IPED Program with a Public Service Assistantship, and there I was able to extend my research, writing, and analytic skills further. In the fall semester, with substantial support from IPED professors and Fordham staff, I was fortunate enough to successfully apply for an internship position with the State Department.

Having secured a secret-level clearance with two days to spare (a process worthy of its own blog post) I was on a plane for Astana—the capital of Kazakhstan. I know that my regional experience and interests helped land the internship—that and the fact that there aren’t droves of students lining up to go to Central Asia. Yet, despite its remoteness, Kazakhstan is one of the most exciting and dynamic places to work and will continue to be so over the next thirty years.

Suddenly separated from its former fellow Soviet Republics in 1991, Kazakhstan struggled through the 1990s after an enormous economic contraction. But newly discovered oil and gas deposits on the Caspian Sea in the late 1990s afforded Kazakhstan massive subsequent growth, tripling its GDP per capita in purchasing power parity since 2000. The government is assiduously pursuing policies to bring Kazakhstan into the top thirty economies in the world by 2050. While this process won’t be perfectly smooth—Kazakhstan has yet to experience a transition of presidential power, and its liberal economic regime sometimes moves in fits—the country is emerging with many successes to its credit as well. Kazakhstan beat out Thailand for a two-year, non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for its 2017-2018 tenure, is host this summer to the World’s Fair’s EXPO 2017 on the theme “Future Energy,” and is currently hosting continuing rounds of talks in Astana on Syrian settlement.

Today, due to the U.S.’s own political upheavals, maybe you are among the many university students who once dreamed of a career in public service but are now reconsidering their options.  I would like to encourage you, however, as long as you have this dream, to keep these passions alive and to nurture them, whether through community activism, a job in local government, or any work that serves others. Fortunately for American citizens, U.S. government is bigger than one person—it always has been—and foreign and domestic policies are written, communicated, and implemented by thousands of individuals striving for the rights for all to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Policy is not something that exists on its own but is forwarded by the aggregate decisions of many. The U.S. government needs individuals of strong character who will edge the needle through consistent, daily commitment and service.

To be honest, I personally have not yet settled on how I will contribute and have opted to try out a number of different sectors as an IPED student. This is where IPED has a huge advantage; because of the schedule, content of coursework, incredible support of the program’s director and staff, access to professors, small cohort size, and comradery and encouragement from classmates, students can get the hands-on experience necessary to jump into a career upon graduation. I have interned with the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Department of State, assisted a professor with a research project, and coordinated the IPED Lecture Series—all in my first year! Over this next year I will continue to make use of these opportunities, seeking an internship with The Economist Intelligence Unit and a Boren Fellowship for Russian language study. With IPED, these outside fellowships, internships, and experiences are not just encouraged, but are actively supported and are consistently realized by IPED students every year.

If you desire to pursue an internship in the U.S. government, please reach out to me or any of the other IPED students doing government work this summer. And, if you’re interested in private sector consulting, internships with the United Nations, NGO work, or language study, there are IPED students ready to answer your questions on those areas as well.

Best of luck in your summer endeavors!

 

 

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Summer Series: Alex Zakrzewski ’18 Earns Language Immersion Studies Award to Study Arabic

A bit of respite at the fifteen hundred year old Mar Saba monastery nestled in the Judean desert.

The Fordham University International Political Economy and Development (IPED) program has graciously provided me with funding to further my studies in Arabic language via the Language Immersion Studies Awards (LISA). Having already been acquainted with the fundamentals of the Arabic language between my studies at Fordham as an undergraduate and my study abroad experience in Jordan, I was thrilled to take this opportunity to enhance my linguistic ability in pursuit of professional proficiency. I firmly believe that there is no better way to truly master a language than immersion, forcing yourself to converse in your non-native tongue on a daily basis. In a few weeks, here I have made enormous leaps and bounds in my language ability.

A scenic view of the plains of Northern Israel from the El-Muhraqa Monastery in the heights of Mount Carmel.

I have chosen to do my immersion in two different locations, the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the Druze village of Daliyat El Karmel. For my first month of intensive language learning, I studied at Bethlehem University, spending most of the day in the classroom during week and utilizing my lessons extensively on weekend excursions to nearby cities in the Palestinian Territories. Bethlehem University is a renowned institution with a strong Arabic language department under the auspices of Dr. Moin Halloun, a specialist in Palestinian Arabic.  For my second month of language immersion, I embedded myself within a Druze village on Mount Carmel. Living here for a month has provided me with a unique insight into Druze society and familiarized me with the dialectal idiosyncrasies of the Syrian Arabic which is spoken here. Living in a host family setting here where Arabic is exclusively spoken ensures that my learning continues outside the classroom. In-country language learning is particularly important for Arabic as it is a language with regional dialects that differ substantially from the formal Modern Standard Arabic used in professional settings and the media. Consequently, students outside the Arab world can spend years studying a language in their home countries only to find their Arabic nearly useless for conversational purposes on the ground. There are major differences in letter pronunciation, vocabulary, verbs, sentence structure, and grammar that one cannot adjust to without immersion. Immersion has allowed me to hone my speaking and listening skills in practical settings and for realistic purposes.

The campus of Bethlehem University, a former De La Salle Christian Brother’s school turned first West Bank university at the behest of John Paul II’s recognition of the need for higher education in the Palestinian Territories.

Focusing on practical skills such as language learning has become increasingly more important in a world where the global migration level, and consequently cross-cultural contact, is at its highest in decades. The IPED program’s holistic approach to educating development professionals empowers them to handle complex challenges with pragmatic solutions. A key component of these solutions involves communication and linguistic competency. I strongly encourage future IPED students to take on the task, albeit tremendously challenging, of learning another language for professional purposes. Doing so will undoubtedly compliment the other practical skills that the IPED program stands to offer.

 

 

 

 

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Summer Series: Jessica Way and the U.S. Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security

The U.S. Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security is an annual program dedicated to understanding and analyzing the conceptual challenges of world hunger. It is an initiative funded by USAID in order to bring together and build up future leaders in the area of global food security. This year, the program took place the first two weeks of June on Purdue University’s Campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Jessica Way (‘18) attended along with a cohort of 39 other Borlaug Summer Institute Fellows. The cohort consisted of interdisciplinary PhD and graduate students, with representatives from a diverse range of academic fields; including food scientists, anthropologists, plant breeders, economists, and others. Each participant brought a unique area of expertise to the area of global food security, and all share a passion for finding creative solutions to feeding the world’s hungry in a sustainable way.

 

During the intensive summit fellows heard from a diverse and talented pool of speakers; including faculty, practitioners, and policy makers. The presentations addressed the biggest challenges associated with global food security, and their possible solutions. Sessions were supplemented by practicums and field trips, where fellows learned about the cutting edge technologies being developed and engaged to address the world’s largest problems.

The most influential part of the program was the opportunity for collaboration among an outstanding group of individuals who all share the same drive to end global hunger. The problems are daunting. Earth’s resources are constantly more constrained, and global population is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050.  Climate change and political turmoil provide additional obstacles. Yet, it is encouraging to know that these challenges are taken seriously by a talented group of young “hunger fighters.” One Borlaug Fellow in the conference shared an African proverb that quickly became a Summer Institute Mantra; “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” After spending two weeks with the U.S. Borlaug Summer Institute Fellows of 2018, Jessica has no doubt that together the Borlaug Summer Institute Fellows will go far in fighting hunger and promoting global food security.

If you are interested in learning more about the Borlaug Summer Institute visit the website: http://www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/food/borlaugfellows/summer-institute/ Applications are due in February.

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Prestigious Awards: Robyn J Emory-Murray on the Critical Language Scholarship in Xi’an

Robyn Emory-Murray IPED ’18

Robyn Emory-Murray (IPED ’18) is a recipient of the 2017 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for Mandarin in Xi’an, China. CLS is an eight-week intensive language and cultural immersion program targeted toward students of critical languages as defined by the U.S. Department of State. This fully-funded government program offers students the opportunity to live among the cultures whose languages they are studying while fully integrating themselves into the language itself.

Datong Furong Park lights at night

Robyn with the Terracotta Warriors 兵马俑

Robyn received the award with the help of the Office of Prestigious Fellowships, who assisted her with the lengthy application process. When asked about the application process, she said, “The Office of Prestigious Fellows was invaluable. They helped me frame my thoughts, answers, and attributes in a way that really spoke to the program and its goals.” The application was due in the Fall, and awards were announced in March of the next year.

Robyn at the Kongtong Shan (崆峒山) Bridge to Heaven

Robyn’s goals are to continue to pursue Mandarin in the hopes of using it as she pursues a career in economic and international security studies, specifically centered on the Sino-American relationship.

The reward for the night hike, sunrise from East Peak of Hua Shan

Robyn had the following advice for those interested in the program: “Go all in. There is a pretty intense language pledge and those that stick to it really see amazing results. At the same time, though, don’t stress yourself out. You will have a lot more success if you take care of yourself and remember that learning a new language should also be fun!”

The lights during the Hua Shan (华山) night hike

Robyn on the famous Hua Shan Plank Walk

Robyn is a full-time student in the IPED program and a recipient of the Public Service Assistantship.

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