Tuesday, 18 September 2012

What are SAIS Bologna students proud of?

Like last year, we asked this year's students to cast their humility aside and tell us what they are most proud of. Here is what they told us.

I was the voice of James Bond, M, a corrupt South American dictator, a Bond girl, several CIA agents and all of the extras for several showings of "Quantum of Solace" in Moscow.

I speak six languages; another one is a work in progress: I am proud that this way I can communicate with my family all over the world, especially with my grandparents.

I have had poetry published in 3 languages.

(The poet, when asked to share some verse, offered this haiku:

silly editors,
why publish my poetry
in three languages?)

Last year, I helped develop the curriculum to launch a Student Budget Consultation in Ontario. This was an online platform that allowed high school students from across the province to learn about and provide direct input into the budgeting process.

I testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission -- created by Congress to monitor and investigate the United States' bilateral trade and economic relations with China -- on a report I wrote while working for a public policy think tank.

Singlehandedly prepared a Thanksgiving meal for eight, overnight.

My fiancee (who joined me in moving to Bologna) and I completed the NYC Triathlon before packing up for SAIS BC.

Tough question, but I'll go with winning gold at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta.

I am mentoring a Nepali boy named Sering Sherpa, the first in his village to pursue a college education. Sering and his family, who herd yaks, were living deep in the Khumbu region of the Himalayas in a one-room dirt house. First I provided funds for the family to rebuild their aging hut and be more physically secure in their son's absence. Then some friends and I arranged for Sering to relocate to Kathmandu and enroll in college, where he is studying environmental science. Sering was my sherpa on a difficult 90-mile trek in Nepal. Now I am his as he climbs from a subsistence livelihood into the modern world.

I am happy with who I am.

Together with German and Romanian delegates, I participated in a 5-day workshop in Germany, funded by the EU Commission, to train Ireland, Hungary, Italy and Croatia on how to lobby ministries to set up a "Youth Delegates to the UN Program" in their countries.

At age 23, I co-authored an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal about a Nigerian sovereign wealth fund. Not a single edit was made to the original text. I'm told that the chances of a WSJ op-ed author being a woman are only one in five.

Shortly before the passing of my friend Joseph in 2009, we thumbed through National Geographic and read a piece about Angkor Wat. We shared a passion for the temples and a respect for the kindness and generosity of the Khmer people. In December 2011 I volunteered with an NGO in Cambodia and had the privilege to visit the well that had been built in Joseph's memory with funds donated by Joseph's sister and which serves the people of Pursat. Cambodia is a detoxification for the soul, and I thank Joseph from the bottom of my heart for inspiring me to take that journey.

I am most proud of having assembled and coached a basketball team of former street children in Mexico City.

I'm proud that I had the courage to go to Brasil right before my graduation, against the advice of my parents and career planners. I found happiness and professional ambition there. The best moment was when I was accepted to SAIS, my Dad said I had made the right choice after all.

I negotiated and operationalized a management agreement worth $2.4 million annually to bring all student life buildings and services under the control of the student union at my undergraduate institution.

I successfully trained and completed a "Tough Mudder" with a team of close female friends. I completed a nine-mile course with almost 30 obstacles, including running through fire, swimming through a tank of ice water and getting electrocuted. If you can believe it, it was a lot of fun and I would do it again.

I climbed Bolivia's Huayna Potosí (6,088 meters) in a snow storm. This was probably the physically most exhausting thing I have done in my life.

My first publication (co-authored with another SAIS alum) was widely read by relevant officials and was cited in several publications of think tanks including the SIPRI yearbook and Chatham House; IAI and FRIDE papers, and books.

Nelson Graves