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Hello, Since a lot of you appear knowledgeable about government jobs and the educational opportunities in Washington D.C, I am hoping you can help me with my graduate school dilemma. I am in my late 20s and I am looking to pivot into a career field involving regional expertise of Russia and Eastern Europe. I'd like to work in the IC (particularly DIA) in the future, but I'm open to other public service positions that would allow me to use my language skills and regional understanding. I will provide some background about myself to further explain my situation: I am an immigrant from Eastern Europe (though a U.S citizen for some time now) who attended Yale for undergrad. I studied psychology and chemistry, though I have some poor grades from math classes and engineering due to some unfortunate circumstances and general lack of direction. I won't waste your time making excuses for myself. I took some language courses during undergrad, including Russian, and dabbled ever so slightly with regional studies at the end of my degree. I would have majored in Eastern European studies or something similar had I discovered this earlier. After graduation I took some time off and then started to work in various random jobs to gain experience. Unfortunately, doing something completely unrelated to my major after graduation (even from a prestigious school) proved to be impossible. I did some unpaid internships where I could; lived, traveled and interned in the region for a few years. The more time that passed after graduation the more difficult it has become to get my foot in the door. Applying to jobs on USAJOBS proved unfruitful (not sure if that's just me or if that's a universal experience for entry level positions). I figured going back to school for a master's degree, building on my language skills and doing internships would be the best way to find opportunities. My priorities, in terms of employment, is to do something I am interested in and find meaningful. I strongly believe that making enough money to live comfortably is plenty, and beyond that I really value the nature of the work rather than salary. My parents also taught me to avoid debt, which I've done successfully so far, and I really want to avoid that at all costs going forward. As such, I'm very hesitant to take out huge loans to afford graduate school especially considering the living costs in most urban areas. I applied this cycle to a variety of regional programs. I have been admitted to the European and Eurasian Studies Master of Arts at GW's Elliott (no funding), and at AU SIS Comparative & Regional Studies (about 50% scholarship). Still waiting to hear back from a few other programs, and have been rejected from Harvard already. I did my undergrad at a prestigious school, and for me the glitter and idealization of elite universities has worn off. Not because they aren't great, but because I don't think the name gets you everywhere nor matters too much outside of academia / finance / consulting. Correct me if I'm mistaken and it matters a lot for government / IR jobs. My questions are: How is the AU program for my goals? Does anyone have experience with it? Should I take AU's offer? Through part time work and internships it would be financially feasible to not come out with significant debt. Should I consider reapplying to regional programs outside of D.C and add-on programs that have FLAS funding, and try again next year? It's possible I have more luck with additional experience, and get more funding at a different institution. How important is it being in D.C for securing a government position? How important is the "brand name" of the institution? I know that master's degrees aren't generally funded, at least not fully, and I am grateful to have gotten a fairly generous offer from AU. I don't know enough about D.C life to evaluate how it is perceived by employers, I just tried to cast a wide net when applying because of my strange background. I also wonder if I should continue to build on my profile and try again next year, and cast an even wider net, to get more funding of get into a more prestigious program. In truth, I feel old. I've spoken to people applying to these kinds of programs and they're often right out of undergrad, and I still feel behind them in accomplishments. I kick myself for not having a sense of direction in undergrad and squandering an ivy league education, but I know I can't fix the past and I also can't spend the next decade(s) crying about it. So, I am trying to figure out the best way to move forward and I would greatly appreciate any advice from this community. Thank you so much in advance!!!
Well, till now I have received two letters of acceptance from Duke and Georgetown (no funding, but I hope to get a scholarship from my local government) to sudy a Masters Program in Political Science. So, what do you suggest? I am a bit worried about studying in Duke, because it is located in Durham, North Carolina, and I have heard that there is racism in that part of the US (I am from South America).