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Name: Alyssa Meyer
Job: Project Coordinator, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Current City: Almaty, Kazakhstan
School: Michigan State University - Class of 2011
Major: Double major in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy/International Relations
To be quite honest, I always saw myself going straight to grad school after finishing my BA; yet, when I didn't receive any significant funding offers, I really questioned how financially sustainable that choice would be. It was in the midst of a summer language program (which began a few weeks after I graduated) that I came to realize that what I really needed was to spend more time abroad perfecting my language skills, and living amongst the populations I had spent so many years studying.
With my mind made up, I starting taking steps to pursue that goal— First, I applied for a 2012-2013 Fulbright research grant, which (if I win), would provide me the opportunity to spend a year doing research abroad in a country of choice. Second, I went through my rolodex of contacts, looking for all opportunities that could put me abroad once again. Initially, I landed a virtual internship with the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and returned to my previous job at my university's Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies in order to earn an income. I saw this choice as a rather essential one if I was going to make ends met, but it would soon open other doors.
My boss at the university had previous worked at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and thus, put me in touch with their Program on Russia and Eurasia. Lucky for me, they happened to be opening a new center in Almaty, Kazakhsan, and were looking for a project coordinator who would remain in Kazakhstan… The perfect opportunity for me! (In addition, this experience has earned me multiple grad school offers with funding for the upcoming fall.)
I have two pieces of advice— First, think carefully about what kinds of skills you would like to be able to market in your job searches. For me, this was language proficiency, as I have always envisioned myself working in development.
Second, think about what could make you a unique asset to potential employers. For me, my fluency in Uzbek language gives me a unique niche within those specializing in post-Soviet Central Asia. I am the only one on Carnegie's staff that speaks Uzbek, and although I actually work in Russian with Kazakhstan, my Uzbek has allowed me to begin to pick up some Kazakh here (which is also a Turkic language), and guaranteed that nearly every assignment we take on concerning Uzbekistan, is mine.
Idealist.org is a great tool for grad school and job hunting, as is having close relationship with professors, who may be willing to help you network.
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