About a year ago when I was trying to decide which Graduate School to go to, I spent a lot of time online trying to find blogs and the like that talked about each school. I hope that this blog can help if anyone is trying to decide about which schools they want to go to, or if they should go back to school at all. I have just finished my first year at Fletcher, and it seems like it was a long year, but in some senses it is hard to believe it is already over. It has been at times frustrating and amazing.
I have taken a total of nine classes at Fletcher- 7 full length classes and 2 half semester modules. The seven full lengths classes I took were Statistics, Role of Force in International Politics, the International Legal Order, Politics of the Korean Peninsula, Underground and Informal Economics, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism, and U.S.- East Asia relations since 1945. The two half classes were U.S.-Europe Relations since 1989 and the Arts of Communication. I love learning, but am glad to be done with this year, as are most of my classmates. That is not saying anything against my classes or professors, but finals and papers at the end of the year can be exhausting.
Of these classes, I think my favorites were the Role of Force, Politics on the Korean Peninsula, and the International Legal Order. All the other ones were good, but didn’t stand out as much as these three. One thing that I learned this year was that it is better to take classes that have been offered a long time than new classes. New classes often have interesting themes, but the professors are not organized and haven’t figured out how to teach them effectively yet. Another thing I learned was that, at least for me, having most of your classes on the same day, back to back, is not a good idea. Last semester I had three classes in a row on Wednesdays, and for the first half of the semester only had classes on two days. My Wednesdays were very long, and it was had to stay focused the entire time. Also, it meant that I had much less time between classes, or was at school much less, than the first semester which meant I ended up seeing other students less often. At Fletcher, the social experience is important, so I didn’t do quite as well the second semester. Lastly, I learned that it is important to choose classes that have different evaluation systems. It isn’t a great idea to take classes that all have a major paper at the end, or all have a major final at the end and no paper.
What happens in class is very important, but what happens outside of it is equally important. Fletcher has so many events available for hearing speakers or for social activities that it is hard to keep up with them all. On Thursdays there is social hour, where a club sponsors free food, and there is a cash bar. There are also amazing speakers, some of the best speakers I heard included the President of Estonia and our Dean, the former Supreme Commander of Nato. A great program was the lunch series put on by the International Security Program, great food and great speakers, but unfortunately the available spots were quickly gone. Two of the best weekends I had this past year were also part of the Fletcher experience. The first one was the Ski Trip, where most Fletcher Students went up to Maine for a weekend of skiing, snowboarding and a big party. The second one was a trip to the U.S. Army War College and Gettysburg. We had a special tour of Gettysburg with an expert from the War College, very insightful and throughout he challenged us to think about the implications for current strategy.
Overall it was a good year. The only times that I wish I had chosen a different school, UC San Diego to be specific, was during the incredibly long and cold winter in MA. I had this thought several times walking to school in the snow, but now that it is warm again, I am very happy with my choice. If you are considering graduate school and have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section.