Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oh Wow, I'm a Student

You may wonder - what does Bryan do with his days in Italy? Does he eat lasagna and travel all the time?

The reason I'm here is because I'm an international relations masters student. I've always been very interested in international affairs and taking classes that are all relevant to my interests is amazing. My courses this semester:

Political Analysis and Strategy in United Nations Intervention
This is my favorite class this semester. It's taught by Richard Wilcox, an outgoing, thoughtful and experienced technocrat at the UN World Food Programme. The guy has spent some serious field time in the Balkans and Iraq doing some very impressive stuff. The point of the class is to give us tools to do political analysis and I've been learning a lot. The reading for the class is also fascinating. The syllabus is 25 pages and intense, but it really gives you a great idea of the awesomeness that this class is.

Strategy and Policy
My concentration is Strategic Studies and this is the core class for the concentration. This is the kind of class you would take a war college. We're learning Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and Mahan. Very cool to get an idea of how war actually works.

International Trade Theory
Everyone at SAIS also has to (gets to) specialize in International Economics as well, and I decided to get a lot of mine in early. International Trade Theory covers the microeconomic principles behind the international system of trade and how it creates economic winners and losers.

International Monetary Theory
An extension of macroeconomic theory, this class has mostly been focusing on the ebbs and flow of goods, services and assets and how they control exchange rates and interest rates. It's cooler than it sounds, I promise. It might actually be the most interesting econ class I've ever taken.

Theories of International Relations
Another requirement for my Strategic Studies concentration, Theories of IR covers all the main theories on the international system, from Realism to Liberalism to Constructivism. I took a very similar class as an undergrad at Stanford, so I'm just auditing this class to study for a waiver exam. This is one is a little more laid back for me. The professor is an avowed structural realist and managed to get Kenneth Waltz in to talk to all of us at the beginning of the year!

I'm taking a Spanish class, with the goal of being more conversational in the language by the end of the year. We're focusing on pretty intense grammatical stuff (the difference between hubo vivido and habria vivido) as well as lots of speaking. I'm hoping to pull in an internship this summer that immerses me in Spanish, or at least forces me to use the language often.

Most days I am either reading, studying or working on group projects for these classes. The life of a student and I love it!