Studying International Relations in Washington, DC

Jukka Välimaa

ASLA-Fulbright Graduate Grant 2010-2011
Fulbright Center Renewal Grant 2011-2012

International Relations
Georgetown University

 

What an amazing feeling it was to hear that I had got the Fulbright scholarship. I was now one step closer to my goal of completing a Master’s degree in International Relations at one of the top American programs. But a lot still remained to be done, from sending graduate school applications to taking the required GRE aptitude test. Luckily Fulbright scholars are supported in the process by the dedicated staff of Fulbright Center Finland and an international support organization, IIE, which makes the process easier. Finally with the help of an additional scholarship from the Thanks to Scandinavia organization, I was ready to accept an offer to complete a Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) degree at the Georgetown University.

Georgetown had been my number one choice from the very beginning, so I was happy to be admitted to the program. The MSFS program is world renown for providing a policy oriented degree aiming at building the necessary skill set to succeed in a career in diplomacy, international development and business. This had been my goal for studying in the United States, and Georgetown proved to be a perfect choice on the way towards my chosen career path.

At the MSFS, students benefit from the professors’ vast experience in international policy making, providing them a hands-on view to the world of international affairs. The MSFS staff included such top practitioners as the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and during classes I learned how to put theory into practice as a policy maker. Studying in Washington, DC provided a great opportunity to learn how the international affairs industry operates, and for making valuable professional contacts. Among them, participating in the local Fulbright association’s events introduced me to fellow Fulbright students from other universities, and brought many new friends. My program also provided excellent support for completing internships alongside studying. During my two years at Georgetown I worked first at the United Nations Secretariat, and during the summer I traveled to West Africa to work for the Government of Liberia.

But maybe the biggest advantage of the MSFS program was its diverse and extremely bright cohort of fellow students. Finishing the two year program required hard work and working towards a common goal together with like-minded students created friendships that will last for a lifetime. Classroom discussions were always filled with passionate discussion, and I left every class feeling a bit wiser. The discussions also provided an opportunity to promote the Fulbright vision of sharing experiences and ideas from one’s own home country. In a classroom full of future diplomats, everyone was interested in hearing a Finnish or European perspective on different topics, which was perfect preparation for representing my country abroad.

That preparation was useful, as I had always had an interest for a career in diplomacy after completing my degree. After celebrating graduation with my fellow classmates, I stayed in Washington, DC for a year to work as a Consultant at the World Bank. In fall 2013 I will return to Finland to start my career in Finland’s diplomatic service. Thanks to my experience as a Fulbrighter at Georgetown University, I feel equipped to succeed as a diplomat. And I can’t wait to see my fellow MSFS and Fulbright friends as practitioners in the field! Because based on my experience, you can meet them in any corner of the world.