For me, ideas tend to spark quickly and then fizzle out. I’m good at taking a thought, expending a limitless amount of energy researching its many iterations, and then dropping the ball on the follow through. Going to school abroad seemed to start out that way.
I made a very calculated choice when I graduated from Georgetown to move miles and miles away from the possibility of a job in foreign affairs. But in my mind I wasn’t moving away from this career path, I was moving toward my family and the church community we felt called to serve. I have no regrets about our time here. As much as I resist, I know life isn’t always about straight lines and perfect a to b, b to c decisions. I could bore you to death enumerating all the experiences that have shown time and time again that this is where we were meant to be. Yet despite my deepest conviction that Ventura wasn’t “for him,” from our earliest conversations, Jeff made clear that our next move “would be for me.” I just wasn’t sure yet where that was.
My goal was to find a research-analysis oriented career, focusing on the Middle East mostly likely in the DC-NOVA vicinity. I quickly discovered a few things about trying to break in the foreign affairs community.
- It is immensely competitive
- Applications are often weeded out based on whether or not you have an active security clearance
- I do not have an active security clearance
- You can get an active security clearance by
- Serving in the US military
- An internship with the US government
Given my inability to handle conflict 4a. was quickly out of the question. So I went with 4b.
I then face palmed. Hard. I had spent 4 years of my life surrounded by security clearance granting government internships, but I had focused instead on the research assistant position I loved. I learned invaluable [PAID] skills there, but missed out on rather helpful opportunity.
So I spent way too much time on usjobs.gov and quickly discovered a few more things, most importantly that the significant majority of the best [PAID] internships required you to be currently enrolled in a degree granting program.
Keep in mind I was thinking about completely uprooting my family for this. Jeff would be taking a great risk with his own career. I wanted to make sure I was setting us up for the greatest chance of success (read: not complete financial suicide). A masters degree, a paid internship, and more time improving my Arabic seemed to be the best place to start. I also love school, really everything about it. I want to improve my knowledge of my field, meet people who would expand my thinking, and contribute to the vast pool of human knowledge. I had always hoped to go back and the recent future seemed like as good of time as any.
I started looking at MA programs in the DC area and then I stopped, had a small panic attack and convinced myself I would never amount to anything.
School costs an exorbitant amount of money.
You think that would have really sunk in the first time around. Our student loan bills should be there to remind me so every 10th, 17th and 27th of the month. But I had massive sticker shock looking at professional IR programs in DC
SO to recap
I wanted a job, the job required security clearance, security clearance required an internship, the internship required me to be a student, and being a student required money.
So I spent even more time on the internet and read everything I could on financing education and was incredibly discouraged.
Until one day I started to read about British higher education. If I’m completely honest, the price is what grabbed me first. Let’s say a US masters costs x, a British MSc costs x/4. I like x/4. As an added bonus programs are traditionally 12 months instead of the US 18 months divided by a 3 month break and all require a dissertation, which I was particularly drawn to.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, how is a British masters degree going to help me get a US government internship. The dissertation I mentioned above is written starting in May and has no residency requirement. I could write my final project from anywhere. Jeff and I would move back to DC that summer and write as I worked.
All the a to b decisions seemed to be falling into place. We had concocted this rather complex path to get us to a particular end goal, but did we really want it be our reality?