Tag Archives: travel

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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African Youth Leadership Summit: Carlos Baeta Shares His Experience

Carlos Baeta, IPED Class of 2017

“One of the distinguishing features of the summit, I believe, is the level of engagement and unity that it inspired in all of us.”

Carlos with Summit colleagues

Last month, Carlos Baeta (IPED ’17) attended the African Youth Leadership Summit in Marrakech, Morocco. Through its partnership with the MasterPeace Organization and a competitive screening process, the summit brought together 180 young people from close to 30 African countries in order to engage in workshops and seminars focused on developing entrepreneurship, leadership and African unity and integration. A veteran of other youth leadership conferences, Carlos said that “the different experiences and solutions that my colleagues had developed and actioned-out” was what stood out the most.

This was a unique platform for so many diverse participants with a common goal to come together and engage in actionable discourse. Carlos writes, “I believe one of the greatest services that we could do for ourselves, our countries that we represented and our continent, was to be as engaged and open minded as possible. The potential to learn and grow increases significantly when you have people from different backgrounds and with different skillsets collaborating on finding nuanced solutions to the plethora of challenges and opportunities my continent has.” His coursework and experiences with IPED, he says, have helped him to frame his thoughts in such a way that he could participate with his colleagues in a meaningful and impactful manner.

When asked about a specific experience he wanted to share from the summit, Carlos had this to say: “I have never been to North Africa before or rather embarrassingly enough, interacted with people from countries such as Chad or Sudan for example. I would be remiss if I did not say that this experience is something that will be embedded in me for the rest of my life.”

Carlos and fellow attendees to the Summit

Carlos came to attend the Summit through his personal network, but says that there are a plethora of platforms such as OpportunitiesForAfricans on Facebook as well. “I would suggest signing up to pages and platforms to stay abreast with the best and latest opportunities.”

Carlos is a native of South Africa and grew up in the small town of Vryheid in rural Kwa Zulu Natal. He says, “I have always dreamt about travelling and experiencing different cultures and seeing different cities. Since I have begun my studies at Fordham, I have been fortunate enough to have travelled to four different countries and attend countless different seminars. It has been a dream come true for me and I can’t wait to one day use my cumulative experiences and skills to extend these types of opportunities to other young South Africans back home.”

Contributed by Carlos Baeta

Edited by Robyn Murray

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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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Filed under Community & Culture, IPED Fellowships, Prestigious Awards, Trips

Philippines Study Tour 2017

Fifteen IPED students and one Economics undergraduate traveled to the Philippines over the winter break for IPED’s annual immersion program in project monitoring and evaluation. The program was led by faculty advisors Dr. Henry Schwalbenberg and Dr. Booi Themeli and managed by Ms. Donna Odra.

Katipunan Road outside of Ateneo de Manila University

While in Manila, the students took extensive coursework in project monitoring and evaluation. Additionally, guest lectures on the history, culture, economics and politics of the Philippines provided useful insights.

IPEDers in class at Ateneo de Manila University

In addition to classes, the group was taken to Corregidor Island and Intramuros, two of the historical sites found in the Manila area. The students were also taken to visit the Asian Development Bank to learn about the work that they are doing.

IPED at the Corregidor ruins

Angeli and Donna at Intramuros in front of Fort Santiago

View from the roof of the Asian Development Bank

As a practical application of the coursework, students traveled to Calapan, Pola, and Bulalacao, towns in the province of Oriental Mindoro. The groups evaluated a farmer’s co-op creating organic fertilizer in Calapan, a calamansi juice co-op in Pola, and a seaweed processing association in Bulalscao. The groups were split up into five different teams and set to evaluate different aspects of each projects. Team 1 evaluated the fertilizer production, Team 2 evaluated the calamansi juice co-op’s management and production, while Team 3 evaluated the farming practices of the calamansi itself. The final two teams evaluated the management and production, respectively, of the seaweed association in Bulalacao.

Pola Crew

Bulalacao Crew

Sunrise in Bulalacao

The program concluded with a dinner cruise around Manila Bay.

Manila Bay

Here are a few of the promotional videos that the groups made for their project.

Calapan farmer’s co-op creating Vermitea, an organic fertilizer.

 

Two videos for the MARCCO co-op in Pola creating Calamansi products

The video for the Seaweed processing association in Balatasan, Bulalacao.

 

 

 

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Language Immersion Study Award: David Masagbor – Egypt

I studied Arabic for a period of 6 weeks at the Arab Academy in downtown Cairo. Arab Academy offers courses in both colloquial and classical Arabic. Having lived in Egypt before and having an acceptable grasp of colloquial Arabic, I chose to study the classical form of the language.

David at the Arab Academy

David at the Arab Academy

Arab Academy is an exceptional institution. I will 100 percent recommend it to anyone looking to learn the language. Classes aren’t group sessions. Every student has their own tutor which allows you to learn at your own pace and ask as many questions as you want. My classes typically started between 12pm and ended 3pm. The first hour was spent practicing basic responses to common questions while the other two were spent mastering the alphabets, forming words with them and eventually whole sentences. The teachers were very patient and understanding.

Can’t make it to class for some reason? No problem, Arab academy offers classes online as well. They organize online sessions for students unable to be physically present in class for whatever reason. Students are also given access to their online resources and can self-study at their own pace and complete assignments online as well.

Arab Academy is also very diverse. Students come from just about everywhere…the US, Chile, Europe, everywhere.

Jumping for joy about Arabic!

Jumping for joy about Arabic!

Unfortunately, I did not do much travelling while in Egypt partly because, well, I had been to most places prior to this trip (completed my undergrad degree in Egypt). I did get to reconnect with old friends though and visit places I didn’t get to visit while I was an undergrad such as the Cairo Tower from which you can observe all of downtown Cairo and many parts of the city west and east of the Nile River. I also visited the “Time Square” of Cairo aka “where every Cairo resident avoids” aka “Oldest tourist trap of the Middle East”- The pyramids. It was fun though don’t get me wrong.

David at Giza

David at Giza

Being that it was Ramadan, I was able to share in the breaking of fast (Iftar) with friends after 6pm everyday during the period which made the experience all the more interesting. I thank IPED for giving me this unforgettable opportunity in Cairo!

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