Last month, I began my studies at the SAIS D.C. campus, penning the last lines of my chapter in China, and starting anew in Dupont Circle. After living for 4 years in China and studying a year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, it was delightfully strange to be in D.C. again. It was foreign, familiar and frighteningly exciting all at once. I have to say, over the last month, that feeling has only intensified in the best possible way.
Although I loved living in Nanjing, adjusting to the fast-paced life in D.C. has been an incredibly strange and wonderful feeling. A typical day starts with me working in the HNC admissions office in D.C., where I often have first dibs on the tasty Chinese catering for luncheons and events.
Speaking of events, during any given week, there are at least a dozen talks on campus by the most renowned in their field. Yesterday, for example, I happened to have the pleasure of sitting in a Defense against the Dark Arts talk with former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. What is Defense against the Dark Arts you may ask? It is exactly what it sounds like in all of its Harry Potter-esque goodness. Each week, many of the most renowned and respected in their field come to SAIS to shed light on the politics of networking and pursuing your chosen profession in D.C.
In keeping with the theme, Madeleine Albright shared stories of her time studying at SAIS “sometime between the discovery of fire and invention of the iPad.” (Her words, not mine!) Moreover, she shared the tools in her “national security toolbox”, and reminded us that the “art of diplomacy is in putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.”
Feeling like a future diplomat in the making, I was eager to attend my Principles and Practices of Conflict Management class later that evening, which is one of my favorites. Professor Hopmann uses real world examples to shed light on the challenges and tools involved in conflict management. Yesterday, he analyzed the failure of the peace referendum in Colombia and applied the lessons we had only just read in our textbooks to the case at hand. That’s what I love most about the classes at SAIS. Whatever we learn in classroom can be applied directly to current events. The same can be said of my Political Economy and Microeconomics classes.
If I have time between or after classes, I’ll normally head to the library to curl up on the cozy chairs with a textbook and a few dozen highlighters. The library is always filled with the heads of SAIS students bent studiously over their readings, but a low laugh or mutually assured groan of exhaustion with classmates isn’t hard to come by.
Lately, the weather has been lovely, so I’ll bike ride through Dupont Circle or pass the White House before I head home to prep for my internship at the House of Representatives the next day. I’m a Legislative Affairs intern on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sub-Committee on Asia and Pacific, and it’s been amazing to see firsthand Congress influencing the policies that I’ve spent my entire academic career trying to understand and, ultimately, influence.
Although it has only been a month, I already feel like I’ve learned so much during my time at SAIS. First and foremost is the importance of time management! Secondly, remember to apply every lecture to real world lessons. And, lastly, always dress your best on campus. You never know when you’ll bump into a former Secretary of State, Ambassador or, potentially, your next employer.
Written by Clarise Brown
HNC Certificate/Johns Hopkins SAIS MA 2017