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MaxwellAlum

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  1. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from Ethanf in My IR Grad school horror story   
    Your story sounds quite far-fetched and is not consistent with the experiences of friends with IR degrees, many of whom did not attend prestigious schools or have "flawless" GPAs.  Not saying they all have perfect careers, but as far as I know none are hiding from debt collectors in Latin America hoping for regime change in Venezuela to get a full-time job.
    Were you not eligible for federal loans when you attended grad school?  Fellow GradCafe readers, do not to take out private loans for grad school if you are eligible for federal loans.  With federal loans you have access to income-based repayment, which means if you don't have an income, your payments will be $0.  No need to hide out abroad unless you really want to.
  2. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from Anathema in US News Rankings   
    I think these rankings are useful mainly for identifying programs to apply to that you wouldn't have otherwise thought of.  As an alum of the Maxwell School at Syracuse, I have no illusions that my MPA is somehow seen as more prestigious than a degree from HKS or Princeton - it's definitely not.  But it wouldn't have occurred to me to look into applying if it wasn't for the US News rankings.  
    No employer will care about your school's public affairs program ranking in US News.  They're not going to look up the most recent ranking when deciding who to interview.  Many (particularly private) will care about the brand name of the university, particularly if it's an Ivy.  Other than that, it's really about the network, and the rankings can give you a sense of how well-established a program is.  More established programs are likely to have better networks. 
    My advice is use this list to identify programs to research and apply to the ones that best fit your interests and preferences.
  3. Like
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from MettaSutta in Careers at the UN?   
    I hear you.  The ILO might be one exception (one would hope so given what they do).  Also your university's career office might have information on funding for unpaid internships.
  4. Like
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from MettaSutta in Careers at the UN?   
    Not when I was there 6 years ago.  At that time a lot of people were pushing for them to start paying interns.  There were definitely cases of interns being homeless due to the high cost of living in New York and Geneva.  Not sure if any progress has been made on that.
  5. Like
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from MettaSutta in Careers at the UN?   
    Prestige can help, but who you know matters more.  Probably the best thing to do is to intern at one of the organizations where you want to work.  A word of warning - a lot of UN agencies are increasingly relying on consultant contracts, which basically means you don't get any job security or benefits, and while it can perhaps be a foot in the door, there's really no guarantee.  
    If you pass the YPP exam (doing an internship and studying the history of the UN can help), you're likely to get offered a (non consultant) position in the Secretariat.  The problem there is you don't get a choice of which position (it wouldn't be in any of the specialized agencies/funds you mentioned), and it's basically take it or leave it, or at least it was 6 years ago. 
  6. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from 79ajjohnson in US News Rankings   
    I think these rankings are useful mainly for identifying programs to apply to that you wouldn't have otherwise thought of.  As an alum of the Maxwell School at Syracuse, I have no illusions that my MPA is somehow seen as more prestigious than a degree from HKS or Princeton - it's definitely not.  But it wouldn't have occurred to me to look into applying if it wasn't for the US News rankings.  
    No employer will care about your school's public affairs program ranking in US News.  They're not going to look up the most recent ranking when deciding who to interview.  Many (particularly private) will care about the brand name of the university, particularly if it's an Ivy.  Other than that, it's really about the network, and the rankings can give you a sense of how well-established a program is.  More established programs are likely to have better networks. 
    My advice is use this list to identify programs to research and apply to the ones that best fit your interests and preferences.
  7. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from MPA/MPP Applicant in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    We use income-based repayment plans.  Although I was fortunate to graduate with less than $50k in debt, my spouse has over $100k.  Now that we've been in the workforce for five years, our salaries are each in the $90-$100k ranges.  We pay a combined $1,000 a month on our loans on an income-based plan.  It's a lot to pay (it'd be really nice to have that money freed up), but we're still able to save a lot for retirement and for a down payment in a relatively high cost region.  
    The problem with taking out so much debt for a public policy/IR degree is that return on the investment is hard to pin down.  It's really just a foot in the door, and it's not the only way to get there.  With the right work experience/internship, nobody is going to care where (or often if) you got your masters.  
    Have you considered looking into local or state government jobs?  I live in the DC area, but I work in local government.  There are definitely interesting jobs at the local level, and you are closer to the action in terms of your impact on people.  It could also put you in a better position to get scholarships for a public policy degree in the future.
  8. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from elmo_says in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    We use income-based repayment plans.  Although I was fortunate to graduate with less than $50k in debt, my spouse has over $100k.  Now that we've been in the workforce for five years, our salaries are each in the $90-$100k ranges.  We pay a combined $1,000 a month on our loans on an income-based plan.  It's a lot to pay (it'd be really nice to have that money freed up), but we're still able to save a lot for retirement and for a down payment in a relatively high cost region.  
    The problem with taking out so much debt for a public policy/IR degree is that return on the investment is hard to pin down.  It's really just a foot in the door, and it's not the only way to get there.  With the right work experience/internship, nobody is going to care where (or often if) you got your masters.  
    Have you considered looking into local or state government jobs?  I live in the DC area, but I work in local government.  There are definitely interesting jobs at the local level, and you are closer to the action in terms of your impact on people.  It could also put you in a better position to get scholarships for a public policy degree in the future.
  9. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from irapplicant1776 in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    We use income-based repayment plans.  Although I was fortunate to graduate with less than $50k in debt, my spouse has over $100k.  Now that we've been in the workforce for five years, our salaries are each in the $90-$100k ranges.  We pay a combined $1,000 a month on our loans on an income-based plan.  It's a lot to pay (it'd be really nice to have that money freed up), but we're still able to save a lot for retirement and for a down payment in a relatively high cost region.  
    The problem with taking out so much debt for a public policy/IR degree is that return on the investment is hard to pin down.  It's really just a foot in the door, and it's not the only way to get there.  With the right work experience/internship, nobody is going to care where (or often if) you got your masters.  
    Have you considered looking into local or state government jobs?  I live in the DC area, but I work in local government.  There are definitely interesting jobs at the local level, and you are closer to the action in terms of your impact on people.  It could also put you in a better position to get scholarships for a public policy degree in the future.
  10. Like
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from yzo in US News Rankings   
    I think these rankings are useful mainly for identifying programs to apply to that you wouldn't have otherwise thought of.  As an alum of the Maxwell School at Syracuse, I have no illusions that my MPA is somehow seen as more prestigious than a degree from HKS or Princeton - it's definitely not.  But it wouldn't have occurred to me to look into applying if it wasn't for the US News rankings.  
    No employer will care about your school's public affairs program ranking in US News.  They're not going to look up the most recent ranking when deciding who to interview.  Many (particularly private) will care about the brand name of the university, particularly if it's an Ivy.  Other than that, it's really about the network, and the rankings can give you a sense of how well-established a program is.  More established programs are likely to have better networks. 
    My advice is use this list to identify programs to research and apply to the ones that best fit your interests and preferences.
  11. Like
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from policyapplicant in US News Rankings   
    I think these rankings are useful mainly for identifying programs to apply to that you wouldn't have otherwise thought of.  As an alum of the Maxwell School at Syracuse, I have no illusions that my MPA is somehow seen as more prestigious than a degree from HKS or Princeton - it's definitely not.  But it wouldn't have occurred to me to look into applying if it wasn't for the US News rankings.  
    No employer will care about your school's public affairs program ranking in US News.  They're not going to look up the most recent ranking when deciding who to interview.  Many (particularly private) will care about the brand name of the university, particularly if it's an Ivy.  Other than that, it's really about the network, and the rankings can give you a sense of how well-established a program is.  More established programs are likely to have better networks. 
    My advice is use this list to identify programs to research and apply to the ones that best fit your interests and preferences.
  12. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from yellina122 in Financially Crippling Loans   
    I agree it's not smart to take out six-figure debt for a public policy masters.  A huge reason not to is that you can still get a great job in the field without going to HKS or SIPA.
    That said, to be clear, $100,000 in federal student debt, while definitely not a good idea, does not have to be financially crippling.  Income-based repayment programs make loan payments on this amount of debt reasonably manageable.  You will never have to pay $1,000 a month on a $40,000 salary thanks to these programs (which only apply to FEDERAL loans, and not to private student loans), although you can if you want to.  The problem is that you will likely never be able to pay it off yourself.  You may get forgiveness after 10 or 25 years (depending on which forgiveness programs are still available), but there is no certainty of this.  In the meantime, your balance may grow if you can not cover the interest that accrues every month, and you will be taking hundreds of dollars out of your monthly income to make loan payments, for at least a decade and probably more (Public Service Loan Forgiveness is likely to be eliminated by Congress, at least for future borrowers).
    Some people are able to pay off lots of debt on a modest salary by living frugally.  But if you are in your late 20s already, by the time you graduate it's likely you'll want to start getting serious about saving for retirement and buying a house.  On a public sector salary, it is not possible to do all of these things while also making extra payments on your student loans (and don't forget that accruing interest makes it extremely hard to make a dent on six-figure debt).  So the reality is that you'll likely be making affordable, but significant payments on your loans for a very long time.  If you feel that's worth it to you, it can be done, but for most people the benefits are not worth the costs.
  13. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from mrs12 in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    With the major caveat that any amount of debt is too much if you can get the same result by spending less, I would say that $30k is definitely manageable.  You can pay that off in 10 years with monthly payments under $350.  It's still a significant amount of money to fork over every month, but assuming you're looking at jobs that pay $50k out of grad school, it's reasonably affordable and is not that much higher than what you'd be paying on an income based plan.  And if you're really motivated and don't have a lot of other expenses, it wouldn't be totally impossible to pay it off faster by making larger payments.
    $70k is a lot.  Under a 10-year repayment plan, you're looking at monthly payments of about $800 a month.  That is going to be difficult to afford on $50k in a high cost region.  That's going to get in the way of your financial goals even when your income goes up, unless you're willing to live quite frugally for a long time (I'm talking about roommates and long commutes).  Income-based repayment will probably be the way to go with this amount of debt, so basically you need to be prepared to be paying back your loans for a very long time.  It's not impossible, you won't be destitute (unless Congress eliminates income-based repayment entirely, which is unlikely), but it will impact you for a very long time. 
    My sense is that $50k is the very upper limit for student loan debt in terms of what you can reasonably pay back in 10 years on a public service salary (monthly payments under $600), assuming no forgiveness and assuming good financial health otherwise and no major existing expenses.  $600 is a lot of money to pay per month, but you can potentially get that amount down to $500 by making extra payments when you graduate if you're willing to be extra frugal for a little while.  Income-based repayment might still be desirable at this level, but the interest isn't so much that your balance will balloon during your first few years out of grad school. 
    Higher amounts are not impossible to manage, but they mean committing a good portion of your income to your student loans for a really long time, so you're going to want to make absolutely certain you're spending it on something worthwhile.   
     
  14. Like
    MaxwellAlum reacted to lackey in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    Thank you! This is quite useful. The IO thing shocks me, but my heart's always been with US organizations anyway :).
  15. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from ExponentialDecay in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    Re: PSLF  As someone who is cautiously hoping to receive forgiveness and been submitting my certification forms, I will say it is an awesome deal.  Paying 10% of your income over 10 years is significant (after 5 years of raises my husband and I are paying a combined $1,000 each month, and boy would we love to be able to do other things with that money), but the forgiveness is a massive benefit and fortunately tax free.  Laugh if you like, but my understanding is that there are people who have received forgiveness, just not many because of the intricacies of the repayment plans available in 2007 (if you think I'm being foolish, bear in mind the money I'd otherwise spend paying off my loans faster is going straight into my 401k, which is a much better bet than throwing money into loans that might be forgiven).  If you're starting now, the rules are pretty clear for someone working in government (nonprofits is a bit dicier), and if you pay close attention (don't rely on your servicer, know which repayment plans qualify and make sure you are on one of them), I don't think there's a huge risk of being denied.
    For people considering grad school now, there is a very real possibility the program will be eliminated soon for new borrowers.  That being said, if you start grad school in the fall of 2018, you might still qualify.  The proposed House bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (the PROSPER Act) effectively eliminates the program for people who take out their first loans in July 2019, but if you start borrowing before then, you can keep taking out qualifying loans until 2024. (see https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/student-loan-ranger/articles/2017-12-13/potential-effects-of-prosper-act-on-student-loans )
    There are definitely still risks that they will turn around and eliminate the program for everyone or otherwise change the terms I've described above.  But another major risk is that you'll finish grad school and realize you really want to work in the private sector, or for another non-qualifying organization like the UN, the World Bank or the IMF (surprisingly employment at international organizations does not qualify for PSLF).  That's why I would not recommend going into grad school counting on PSLF - grad school should open up career options, not limit them.
  16. Like
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from lackey in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    Re: PSLF  As someone who is cautiously hoping to receive forgiveness and been submitting my certification forms, I will say it is an awesome deal.  Paying 10% of your income over 10 years is significant (after 5 years of raises my husband and I are paying a combined $1,000 each month, and boy would we love to be able to do other things with that money), but the forgiveness is a massive benefit and fortunately tax free.  Laugh if you like, but my understanding is that there are people who have received forgiveness, just not many because of the intricacies of the repayment plans available in 2007 (if you think I'm being foolish, bear in mind the money I'd otherwise spend paying off my loans faster is going straight into my 401k, which is a much better bet than throwing money into loans that might be forgiven).  If you're starting now, the rules are pretty clear for someone working in government (nonprofits is a bit dicier), and if you pay close attention (don't rely on your servicer, know which repayment plans qualify and make sure you are on one of them), I don't think there's a huge risk of being denied.
    For people considering grad school now, there is a very real possibility the program will be eliminated soon for new borrowers.  That being said, if you start grad school in the fall of 2018, you might still qualify.  The proposed House bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (the PROSPER Act) effectively eliminates the program for people who take out their first loans in July 2019, but if you start borrowing before then, you can keep taking out qualifying loans until 2024. (see https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/student-loan-ranger/articles/2017-12-13/potential-effects-of-prosper-act-on-student-loans )
    There are definitely still risks that they will turn around and eliminate the program for everyone or otherwise change the terms I've described above.  But another major risk is that you'll finish grad school and realize you really want to work in the private sector, or for another non-qualifying organization like the UN, the World Bank or the IMF (surprisingly employment at international organizations does not qualify for PSLF).  That's why I would not recommend going into grad school counting on PSLF - grad school should open up career options, not limit them.
  17. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from Poli92 in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    Over a decade ago when I was in high school looking at colleges, most of my peers were planning on taking out loans to be able to afford elite private universities.  My parents strongly discouraged that, and I ended up graduating debt free from undergrad (I chose a school that offered me significant scholarship money over a slightly higher ranked school that offered me basically nothing).  I'm so glad that I did that, especially since I ended up studying English literature and was never super motivated to seek out high powered private sector jobs.  I did take out some loans for grad school, but they are pretty manageable.
    Student loans are not the worst type of debt, but it is still real debt.  $100k in loans, at current interest rates, will accrue $500-$580 in interest every single month.  That's what you have to pay before you even start to make a dent in the balance.  And then factor in you'll also want to be saving for retirement, saving for a home, and at some point graduating from living with roommates.  
    Income-based repayment plans are awesome and I think they would be the way to go in this situation, but you need to be aware that you'll likely be paying back your loans for 25 years (Public Service Loan Forgiveness might be a possibility, but Congress is likely to get rid of it soon, and many IR jobs don't qualify anyway).  That's basically committing to setting aside 10-15% of your income (over poverty level) for the majority of your working life towards your student loans.  
    And yes, that is for an investment towards your future.  But IR degrees are pretty generalist - you're not going there to get specific skills or a certification that is absolutely required to get a job in the field.  There isn't any rule that says you HAVE to get an IR masters to get a job in the field.  So an alternative is to think carefully about what you want to do in IR (nonprofit?  State Department?  International finance?) and map out all possible ways to achieve your career goals.  If taking out $100k in loans for a generalist IR degree is still the best way, then go for it.  But it may be that a more specific degree (finance?), applying to the Foreign Service, taking the UN exam, or signing up for the Peace Corps are more cost effective ways to achieve your goals.
  18. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from Damis in 100k debt for IR Masters worth it?   
    Over a decade ago when I was in high school looking at colleges, most of my peers were planning on taking out loans to be able to afford elite private universities.  My parents strongly discouraged that, and I ended up graduating debt free from undergrad (I chose a school that offered me significant scholarship money over a slightly higher ranked school that offered me basically nothing).  I'm so glad that I did that, especially since I ended up studying English literature and was never super motivated to seek out high powered private sector jobs.  I did take out some loans for grad school, but they are pretty manageable.
    Student loans are not the worst type of debt, but it is still real debt.  $100k in loans, at current interest rates, will accrue $500-$580 in interest every single month.  That's what you have to pay before you even start to make a dent in the balance.  And then factor in you'll also want to be saving for retirement, saving for a home, and at some point graduating from living with roommates.  
    Income-based repayment plans are awesome and I think they would be the way to go in this situation, but you need to be aware that you'll likely be paying back your loans for 25 years (Public Service Loan Forgiveness might be a possibility, but Congress is likely to get rid of it soon, and many IR jobs don't qualify anyway).  That's basically committing to setting aside 10-15% of your income (over poverty level) for the majority of your working life towards your student loans.  
    And yes, that is for an investment towards your future.  But IR degrees are pretty generalist - you're not going there to get specific skills or a certification that is absolutely required to get a job in the field.  There isn't any rule that says you HAVE to get an IR masters to get a job in the field.  So an alternative is to think carefully about what you want to do in IR (nonprofit?  State Department?  International finance?) and map out all possible ways to achieve your career goals.  If taking out $100k in loans for a generalist IR degree is still the best way, then go for it.  But it may be that a more specific degree (finance?), applying to the Foreign Service, taking the UN exam, or signing up for the Peace Corps are more cost effective ways to achieve your goals.
  19. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum reacted to elmo_says in My IR Grad school horror story   
    Hmm.
    I'm clearly not a cheerleader for these programs, but OP's testimony seems...improbably extreme. I know plenty of people who are unhappy with / bitter about their IR grad school experiences, but none of them are dodging loans in South America. It's more like...they have unfulfilling office jobs in DC and are stressed about finances because they are going to be on income-based repayment plans until their 50s.   Some people I know definitely struggled to find full-time jobs -- I know multiple people who took internships after graduation just to avoid a hole on their resumes. But all eventually found something. Whether it was worth the 100k piece of paper is another question. 
  20. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum reacted to devpolicy in My IR Grad school horror story   
    Anonymity is a crazy thing. I'm sorry that happened to you, but without substantial context, your story just seems a little far fetched. 
    If you went to one of the top private schools in the Northeast and a top 3 IR school, landing a private sector gig or even a position at a non-profit is not that incredibly difficult. Is getting a job in the conduct and formulation of foreign policy itself extremely hard, yeah. But being forced to go to Latin America to dodge debt is quite something. 
    I have no dog in this fight--I'm not applying to the IR Masters programs, but it's a bit annoying to see stories like this written ad nauseum on this board. There's certainly some response bias for those who post their stories, so keep that in mind while reading everything you see here. 
    All who are applying--keep your eyes wide open. If you want to be successful and get a good job in D.C. (or Geneva or wherever) after your degree, that process has to start while you're in undergrad or before you go to grad school. Make those connections early, they'll be invaluable later on. 
  21. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from yellina122 in My IR Grad school horror story   
    Your story sounds quite far-fetched and is not consistent with the experiences of friends with IR degrees, many of whom did not attend prestigious schools or have "flawless" GPAs.  Not saying they all have perfect careers, but as far as I know none are hiding from debt collectors in Latin America hoping for regime change in Venezuela to get a full-time job.
    Were you not eligible for federal loans when you attended grad school?  Fellow GradCafe readers, do not to take out private loans for grad school if you are eligible for federal loans.  With federal loans you have access to income-based repayment, which means if you don't have an income, your payments will be $0.  No need to hide out abroad unless you really want to.
  22. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from devpolicy in My IR Grad school horror story   
    Your story sounds quite far-fetched and is not consistent with the experiences of friends with IR degrees, many of whom did not attend prestigious schools or have "flawless" GPAs.  Not saying they all have perfect careers, but as far as I know none are hiding from debt collectors in Latin America hoping for regime change in Venezuela to get a full-time job.
    Were you not eligible for federal loans when you attended grad school?  Fellow GradCafe readers, do not to take out private loans for grad school if you are eligible for federal loans.  With federal loans you have access to income-based repayment, which means if you don't have an income, your payments will be $0.  No need to hide out abroad unless you really want to.
  23. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from Policy.Planner.NYC in Let's Talk Debt   
    I agree with most of what you said in your post, kb6.  I don't think taking on six-figure debt for an MPP is a smart idea.  However, for the sake of those folks with six-figure debt, I will say I personally know several people in this situation who are definitely not living with roommates in their mid-30s or racking up credit card debt.  They are on income-based repayment plans, which allows them a lot of flexibility in terms of saving, career choices, etc.  Yes, they run the risk of making payments for 25 years/forever, but that basically means they are 10% poorer than they would be without the debt (current income-based plans allow you to pay a maximum of 10% of your income above poverty level).  Not the best outcome, especially for a degree that you could get for much less money at a different school or with aid, but hardly the nightmare situation that some describe. 
    Folks, if you are racking up credit card debt because of your federal student loans you need to get on an income-based repayment plan immediately.  It makes zero sense to pay 15% to 20% interest on a credit card to pay down loans with a 7% rate.
  24. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum reacted to LifeOnMars in Let's Talk Debt   
    For what its worth, I chose to go to Berkeley over HKS/Fletcher/other more expensive schools largely because of the money, and I don't regret it at all.  
    This all may be premature given that I'm only 1 semester in, but I really doubt I'm going to be thinking, "Man, I wish I was in more debt" when I graduate.    I think it's more likely that I'll be thinking "Good thing I don't have to get a really high paying job to pay off all these fucking loans; I think I'll go work at XYZ place where I think the work will be really interesting and fulfilling" or even "Why don't I take a few months off to travel/work on some other project that may yield career benefits down the road, since I don't have to worry that much about money?"  And anyway, it's definitely still possible for me to get a job at the UN or some other brand-name international organization if I want to go that route (or the federal gov't or world bank or whatever toots your snoot).
    Choosing schools was a difficult decision and caused me a lot of stress at the time (money, but also pressure from family, location, personal connections, etc), but now that it's all over, I'm glad I went for the cheaper, almost-as-prestigious option.  HKS sounds fancy but really costs A LOT more.  Fletcher was more well-suited to my international interests, but also cost a lot more.  Berkeley also looks pretty damn good on a resume, and there's a ton of international stuff going on outside of the policy school that I've been able to plug into.  I figure that I'll have to work a bit harder while in school to make international connections, but that's definitely worth the difference in tuition costs.  
    Also: What could you do with the money you won't be using to pay off your loans?  Saving tens of thousands of dollars and avoiding extra pressure/less freedom during some of the prime years of your youth is worth a lot.  It's worth more to me than being able to say I went to HKS or whatever, and unless you have your sights set on fairly specific types of positions, the outcomes are not so different among most top schools.  Your job prospects will depend a lot on what you do (internships, extracurricular projects, etc), not only on what school you went to.
    That being said, I am not as "ambitious" as a lot of people with regard to my career goals.  In fact, I hate even thinking about the term "career goals," and would rather have an interesting and varied life than a fancy consulting job or whatever.  Your willingness to take on loans should depend partly on how much the degree will help you get to where you want to go, of course... But there are many routes to the same destination, and if you don't really know where you're going, it's foolish to spend too much getting there.
    Just one more perspective....
  25. Like
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from Nico Corr in Which should come first; the career/work experience or the graduate degree?   
    International relations is a very broad field.  What kinds of jobs/employers are you looking to work for?  In my experience, the people who are successful in this general field, and particularly within international development, have experience living and working abroad.  That's why a lot of people recommend Peace Corps.
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