Interview with Alexandria Anderson International Affairs, Spring 2016

What was your background prior to Graduate Professional Studies?
I graduated from Spelman College in 2012 with a BA in International Studies and a concentration in Cultural Studies. I was introduced to Cultural Anthropology in the latter half of my undergraduate career and knew that I needed to pursue that track in graduate school. After undergrad, I lived and worked in Guangzhou, China, for two and half years as an ESL Educator at a private language school.

Why did you choose to participate in Graduate Professional Studies?
My international studies degree was incredibly interdisciplinary and lacked focus. I found that it was hard to market to employers after graduation. After my experience abroad, I was looking for an opportunity to gain relevant work experience, while earning credits in Anthropology. I was also looking for my niche--a role that aligned with my interests in cultural studies and international development work. GPS also seemed like the best way to re-integrate into DC and build my professional and academic networks.

Where did you intern? What were some daily tasks at your internship? Favorite part?
I interned at Meridian International Center, a non-profit public diplomacy center that specializes in implementing federal-funded and private professional exchange programs. These programs are tailored to the needs of the participants and to fulfill U.S. foreign policy goals and initiatives to strengthen our relationships abroad. At Meridian, I had the opportunity to provide logistical support for a number of reams on different short-term exchange programs. I thoroughly enjoyed contributing to program editorial campaigns and accompanying the visitors on cultural tours, workshops, receptions, and conferences.

Did you know what your career/academic path looked like before you joined the program?
Before the program, I was unsure of what I wanted to do in International Affairs. I was looking for a way to marry my academic passions and my skills, to find a professional path. It was my internship at Meridian that allowed me to realize my interests in international and exchange programming. My GPS classes also validated those skills and allowed me to see the bigger picture. I understood how the work I was doing at Meridian fit into the strategies and solutions proposed in International Relations.

What was your #1 takeaway from the Program? What would you tell others considering GPS?
My greatest takeaway is that the study of International Relations is the best way to address the world's greatest social, environmental, and political challenges that plague the international community. The faculty, seminars, site visits, and guest speakers from my time in GPS, continue to inform my outlook and the work I set out to do in International Affairs.

What did you do after completing your GPS semester?
Since completing the program, I've enrolled in the Public Anthropology Certificate Program at American University starting this fall. I also started working at AU as the Summer Study Program Manager with their AU/gMEO partnership, a Chinese educational exchange program, and as a Program Assistant in the School of Professional & Extended Studies. I'm going to school and earning more experience in educational program logistics.

Did your time with GPS directly affect your professional success?
After GPS, I can say that I am equipped with the skills to balance both my career and school. I'm assured that I can succeed in the field and accomplish all that I plan. I also know that the relationships I've built during the semester, will continue to serve me throughout the years.