Note from Admissions: The 2021-2022 academic year is an exciting one as we all return to campus. You’ve met Catherine, Catalina, Joey, and Rachel so far and we’re excited to welcome our last awesome PA (program assistant) who will be working with us here in the SIPA Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. Our PAs specifically will be helping you through the application and decision process over the next few months. You can learn more about assistantships and what PAs do here.

Carolina Tamayo was born in Colombia and is a second year MIA candidate concentrating in Economic and Political Development and has a double specialization in Data Analytics & Quantitative Analysis and International Conflict Resolution. Before SIPA, she obtained a degree in International Business from EAFIT University. At EAFIT, she also worked as a research assistant focusing on Latin American integration mechanisms. After completing an internship with the Colombian Mission to the United Nations in New York, she worked at the British Embassy in Colombia for four years, implementing international development projects with Colombian and British partners.

What were you doing before you came to SIPA?
Before coming to SIPA, I was working at the British Embassy in Colombia, as their only member of staff based in Medellin. I supported their economic diplomacy and international trade teams by structuring projects in themes including peace, education, science, and innovation. My role had an important stakeholder management component, as I managed relationships with local public and private stakeholders, connecting them with British partners to develop commercial and development opportunities. In my last year at the Embassy, I set up and implemented the Science and Innovation Network (SIN) arrival in Colombia, assessing priority areas in the country and structuring first-year project initiatives.

What has been the best part of your SIPA experience?
Besides the dear friends that I have made at SIPA, my most rewarding experiences have been completing an internship with the United Nations’ Department of Peace Operations and participating in SIPA trips to the Middle East. While it is true that SIPA is a very diverse community, I think the most important thing that I have gotten from my time at the school have been the deep connections made with my classmates, which has definitely made the experience very special and enjoyable. Likewise, traveling to Israel and Palestine with a group of students was incredible; we got to learn about the realities of each country, challenge our perspectives, and engage with a multitude of local stakeholders. I was very fortunate to travel before the Covid-19 pandemic and encourage everyone to engage in school trips as much as possible.

What kind of work do you hope to do when you graduate?
When I graduate, I would love to help children impacted by conflict. Specifically, I would like to join UNICEF and work on the reintegration of children and youth, or in programs related to early childhood and education. I grew up in Colombia in the decade following Pablo Escobar’s death; I did not realize how different life in Colombia was from places unaffected by conflict. By living through Colombia’s battle with armed groups, and the transformation of my city from being one of the most dangerous to one of the most innovative, I realized that it is possible for society to overcome deep challenges. I want to actively contribute to this progress and I want to focus said contribution on children, as their experiences will shape our future society.

How did you find the core curriculum at SIPA?
I really like the SIPA curriculum because it foments diverse skills that are extremely important to have as a professional, and incredibly valued by employers. Although quantitative classes tend to be “scary” for many students, they are manageable. Most importantly, I felt like I learned truly applicable skills. International affairs is an holistic field, and as such, I enjoyed having multiple perspectives and challenging myself to become a better professional. Whether your interest is in the defense, political, humanitarian – or really, any other field – understanding the economic and statistical environment that surrounds them is key.

How did you obtain your internship?
I obtained my internship through a class called, “Applied Peacebuilding”, taught by Professor Zachary Metz. I highly recommend it! The coursework of this class includes a project or engagement with an external partner alongside an internship in the summer. I was very fortunate to join the class and chose the United Nations’ Department of Peace Operations as a partner. In particular, I interned with the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration team.

What advice do you have for current applicants?
Enjoy every day. There are many opportunities at SIPA and Columbia: classes, academic events, social gatherings, etc. Try to live it to the fullest but also understand your limits and prioritize. It can be overwhelming to choose from such a large offer of activities, so it is important to understand that it is not efficient to try and do it all. Have a balance between enjoyment and rest. On a separate note – do not worry too much about the grades! It truly doesn’t matter if you don’t get straight A’s; what matters are the experiences and your own learning.