Journey to IEDP series: Throughout October, the IEDP admissions blog will publish a series of posts on our cohort’s distinct experiences that brought us to IEDP. Many of you reading this blog probably have myriad of questions: “should I go to graduate school?” “if so, which program should I apply to?” “how would my experience fit in IEDP?” “why would I want to be in IEDP” are probably only SOME of the questions boiling in your minds. This blog post series will show how some of our cohort mates have explored those very questions and came to our conclusions.
Why Grad School?
It was during my time at Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College that I became confident international education development (IED from hereafter) is the field I’d like to work in to make the world a better place for more people. As a fellow, I facilitated class discussions employing primary sources in which students learn to identify where to look for the information they need and how to interpret the information with context in mind. From these classroom experiences, I thought it would be great if more people around the world can learn to identify informational sources, analyze the reliability of those sources and understand the information with the awareness of assumptions and biases. I thought that might be a small step to making this world a better place.
Now that I had a more concrete idea of how I want to make the world a better place, I wanted to better prepare myself to do that. Though I had a handful of education-related experiences in various settings, I never took courses in education studies in undergrad. I wanted to go to a graduate school in education to make up for that and learn both theories and practices in IED. Yes, I could’ve just jumped right into a position abroad and start my career in IED with hands-on experience but I felt too clueless as to where to start. I preferred that I first interact with classmates and faculty members who have hands-on experience in the field and then jump into one myself. It would cost more money but I thought it’s a worthy investment – the last thing I wanted to do was to arrive in a foreign country, clueless of what I’m doing and how I’m supposed to do it. That’s how I decided to apply to a graduate school.
Research strategy was a combination of many things: Google, graduate school fair at the college I worked for and reaching out to people. One of the perks of working at a college library was that I had an access to resources that are available for college students. At the graduate school fair, I roamed around, talked to admissions officers of various programs that I might tangentially be interested and asked lots of questions! I casted a really wide net at this point as I did not only approach education programs but also social services, international development, etc. It was actually at this graduate school fair that I first learned about Penn GSE. Penn GSE admissions representative at the fair left an exceptional impression, as I found him to be one the most approachable people to talk to and seemed passionate.
Based on the information I gathered at the fair, I researched online and found a handful more programs that I might be interested in. I created a Google sheet to organize the information about the program and began searching websites to see if any of the programs had put out contact information of current students who are willing to talk to prospective students. This part – talking to current students – had been by far the most helpful part of the search process. From these informational interviews, I learned that some of the schools that I was really interested in have more academic focus than practices. Of course, I wanted to learn about theories and ideas but I wanted a program that helps me translate those into actual skill sets that I will need in the field. I was able to eliminate some of the schools at the top of my list that way. In retrospect, a great money and time saving movement it was!
There were a few other schools out there that emphasized the mastery of both theories and practice, but why specifically IEDP? First of all, there were some schools that were just outright unresponsive to my request to talk to current students. Regardless of how great they look on their websites, I never quite bought into their programs. Current students from some other schools tried a little too hard to “sell” their programs and I didn’t quite feel like I’m getting to know the programs well enough. Then, there were handful current students with whom I was able to have quality conversations about their programs, including IEDP! The IEDP student that I had talked to back then was actually the admissions blogger of that year (how crazy… right?) I really appreciated her candid responses and after our conversation, I was really able to grasp a clear idea of what the program is like. I liked how I would be able to work with international organizations as a part of the course work at IEDP. I also really liked that many of the students and faculty members are aware of the dark history of development. It also sounded like that everyone at IEDP was very helpful and dedicated to help you make the most out of the program. That’s how it came through.
My journey to IEDP might appear rather unconventional: I didn’t work in a foreign country other than the U.S. nor did I have experience in international organizations before. With background in library, one might wonder how to make a connection with IED. I would say there really is no set path – it really is up to your interpretation and what YOU make out of your experiences. And at times, that happens in a rather impromptu manner. Hopefully, the upcoming series posts in the following weeks will better illuminate that point with the journeys of a few other students in our cohort!