"These are the houses of cats and dogs. There are no doors or windows so the animals can come and go as they please" is what my father used to tell me when I would ask about the bombed out buildings by our apartment in Beirut, Lebanon. Eighteen years have passed since the last time I tasted the best hot chocolate I have ever had, used sign language when playing with my Lebanese friends and slept in the bath tub of our house during a night of bombings.
Eighteen years ago I embarked on a journey of discovering and learning about the way cultures interact, mingle and clash.
A diplomat's child, every four years I followed my parents to a new country in a new town with new people speaking a new language. I spent the majority of my early years longing for a less unpredictable life, for friends and a country to belong to. Not until my teenage years did I realize how much wealth of knowledge I can derive from my unusual nomadic life. Thus I proceeded into turning the reasons for days of inconsolable crying as a child into the bright guiding lights of my adulthood.
My sensitivity to cultures, easiness with foreign languages and prompt adaptability to various social environments were in fact invaluable assets to be nurtured, treasured and finally taken advantage of.
College in the U.S. proved to be the best suited place for such an undertaking. There I gave in to my fascination with the great mix of different faces and their unique and exotic lives.
The combination of classes such as International Communication and Global Perspectives and the diversity of my environment deepened my interest in the way individuals and societies define themselves through their relationship with others. I particularly enjoyed the topic of Contemporary Fundamentalism which stimulated my natural inclination to "penetrate" cultural norms and analyze the religious and social underpinnings of conflict. Since childhood this acute awareness towards my surroundings is best expressed in writing, an approach, I used all throughout my education. In my sophomore year at Plattsburgh State I was invited to participate in the Phi Kappa Phi Essay Contest carrying the theme "Why is there a need now, as much as ever, for cross-cultural intellectual engagement?" After witnessing the horrible consequences of the Lebanese Civil War and the economic and political instability of post-communist Eastern Europe, I felt that I was qualified to provide a view on the subject. My essay won the first prize.
I played with the thought of pursuing a graduate degree in International Relations long before I had received my Bachelors diploma.
My internship at the Council on Foreign Relations, however, was the decisive factor to turn graduate school dreams into concrete objectives. My daily interaction with writers, policy analysts and international affairs experts, was enriching in both didactic and professional terms. There, I performed extensive research on several major international affairs topics covered in Foreign Affairs and thus significantly sharpened my writing, editing and organizational skills. At the end of my internship I decided to pursue an advanced degree in International Affairs. A year of working experience in the field of international conflict resolution, however, will allow me to be a valuable contribution to any program, not only academically and intellectually but also professionally.
In August 2006 I will be traveling to Kyoto , Japan where five hundred religious leaders will converge as participants in the "Eighth World Assembly on Religion and Peace: Confronting violence and advancing shared security".
True to my commitment and extensive interest in the topics of conflict transformation, peace building and sustainable development, as Program Associate, I am currently greatly involved in the pre-Assembly organizational efforts of Religions for Peace (RfP). This present engagement with RfP has further confirmed my conviction to embark on a professional path in the non-profit field with an emphasis on projects of conflict mitigation in the Middle East. I am particularly interested in exploring the relationship between religious fundamentalism and cultural norms and their implication on global political and economic instability. My career goals, however, require not only a bright mind and a dose of worldliness, but also a strong academic preparation in the subject of conflict resolution.
While I have a gift for analyzing trends and transcending cultural and political barriers, a Master in International Relations from the Yale Center for International and Area Studies (YCIAS) will allow me to acquire the most important skill of all: the problem - solving ability to bring about real results based on solid knowledge and expertise.
At the YCIAS I will be able to take advantage of the flexibility of the program and thus develop a specialized concentration in International Conflict Resolution with an emphasis on the Middle East. By selecting from YCIAS ' broad variety of courses and hence equally balancing the study of theory and practice, I will strengthen my analytical and research skills and subsequently make more informed decisions about my future professional trajectory. Furthermore, through courses in international economics I plan on building solid training in quantitative work to be added to my largely humanitarian background.
When visiting The Yale Center for International and Area Studies in October, 2005 and speaking to several current students, I was left with a feeling of belongingness and the certainty that my multicultural background, intellectual capacity and professional resoluteness render me the kind of graduate student the YCIAS wants to attract.
Eighteen years have elapsed since the first seeds of my interest in conflict resolution were planted in a country where dogs and cats co-existed more peacefully than Muslims and Christians did. The YCIAS possesses the right combination of factors so to allow those seeds to grow and flourish. With great anticipation and enthusiasm I am looking forward to devising ways to eradicate the reasons for international conflict along side my peers at the International Relations Program at Yale.