Summer Reflections 2010 – Post #4

John Hughes just graduated from SIPA and during his second year of study worked in our office.  He is spending the next two months in the office to assist with projects and help fill in for a staff member on maternity leave.  John is set up for a job in Washington, D.C. and will be moving there in August (our second largest alumni network in the world is in D.C if you were interested).

I asked John to reflect a bit on his experience as a SIPA student and contribute to the blog over the summer.  This is his fourth entry.

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I, like many of you I’m sure, have been avidly following the first round of the World Cup over the last couple of weeks.  I’m ecstatic that the U.S. managed to make it through to the next round, and look forward to watching the match against Ghana on Saturday.

I know people often use the cliché of the World Cup as a symbol of international unity that brings people together in a shared experience.  Though this vision is sometimes overhyped, I think it holds true in many ways.  The World Cup, unfortunately, is only a month long once every four years.  Here at SIPA, however, we similarly bring people together from all over the world in a shared experience every day.  Admittedly, this too may be a cliché about international affairs schools, but after having spent two years at SIPA (and doing quite a bit of research on our rival schools before deciding to come here) I can honestly say that the multicultural, shared experience is an absolute positive for the program and one that truly sets SIPA apart.

When I go to watch the US/Ghana game tomorrow I’ll do it with the perspective of having quite a few friends from SIPA from Ghana and having had extensive conversations with some of them about what the country is truly like.  Though this won’t necessarily change how I watch the game, it certainly adds a perspective that I would not have had if I had not come to SIPA.  And this is just one example.  SIPA has students from over 70 countries each year with backgrounds and interests as varied as you can imagine.  Every student brings something else to the school, each enriching classroom discussions, group work and general social situations in his or her own way.

In a school of International and Public Affairs I wouldn’t want it any other way.  This is not a place where Americans discuss world “problems” from an American perspective.  Though we Americans certainly have opinions and voice them regularly, these opinions are joined by those from South Korea, Argentina, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Tanzania and China to name a few.

Similarly, when events happen around the world it is likely that somebody from the country in question will be present to give a valuable perspective.  A discussion on financial reforms in “emerging markets” takes on a whole new perspective when more than half the class comes from such places and many will likely help shape the very reforms being discussed in the future.  Similarly, when the topic of security along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border comes up it is invaluable to have classmates from both countries chime in.

Many international affairs schools tout the diversity of their student body.  However, I am certain that very few come close to having students from as many countries as SIPA, or can boast that international students make up half the student body.  Though the academics at SIPA are certainly top-notch, I found that the truly international student body was what really made the experience great for me.