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Student Snapshot: Ramya Prabhakar in Jordan
July 24th, 2019 | SIT Study Abroad
From: Roswell, Georgia
SIT program: Spring 2018 Jordan: Geopolitics, International Relations, and the Future of the Middle East
Home Institution: Johns Hopkins 2019
Major: International Studies
What drew you to International Studies as a major?
I had done Model UN in high school and was interested in international affairs. When I got into Hopkins I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do, so I switched majors … but eventually found my way back to international studies.
But I don’t see myself going the traditional path; I don’t want to be a Foreign Service officer or an officer at the UN. I love to write, and I want to be on the communications side of things. I want to help shape the message rather than policy. I did a couple internships in speech writing and I really fell in love with it. That’s what I’m doing now, and I’m also thinking about journalism and editing.
Coming from Hopkins — the world’s first research university — I was excited to be able to do international field research and put my research training to use.
Why did you choose SIT Jordan for your study abroad program?
I was drawn to Jordan because I was interested in the Middle East. I had started taking Arabic in my first semester, so by the time I went to Jordan I was intermediate to advanced, so this program made sense. I had taken some classes in international politics and this seemed like a good fit. I also was specifically drawn to SIT’s program because of the ISP component. Coming from Hopkins — the world’s first research university — I was excited to be able to do international field research and put my research training to use.
[My ISP] helped me build contacts that came in handy when I returned to Jordan the following year to do fieldwork for my thesis.
What was the focus of your research project?
I did an ISP focused on educational access for Syrian refugees in Amman. I interviewed policy influencers like UN officials and NGO workers to compare whether the problems that they saw with education access were the same as how the refugees saw the problems. This helped me build contacts that came in handy when I returned to Jordan the following year to do fieldwork for my thesis.
You’re in the enviable position of having a job right after out of college. This fall you’ll be going to the American University in Cairo (AUC), where you’ll be working in the Office of the President. Can you tell me more about that job?
The job is part of a fellowship program called the Presidential Associates Program. I found this program when I was in Jordan. At that point I had done a speech-writing internship in New York at the Bloomberg Foundation and was starting a big internship in DC with West Wing Writers, a contract speech-writing firm founded by former Clinton and Obama speechwriters.
At AUC, the Office of the President was looking for someone who could write — whether that was speeches, executive correspondence, or copy editing. I was worried when I didn’t hear back, but then in April they interviewed me and they ended up hiring me. The program also includes 120 hours of Arabic tutoring, so I’m hoping to build my proficiency in Modern Standard (Fusha) as well as Egyptian dialect. And of course, I am very much looking forward to exploring Cairo, Egypt, and the rest of the Middle East!
That’s a very impressive position. Congratulations! Do you know what your career goals are for, say, 10 years from now?
I don’t know. I’ll take it as it comes. I really want to keep speech writing, and if a job opens in the US, especially with the 2020 election, I’d want to come back to the States. I’m interested in possibly hopping on a campaign, or maybe trying for a job at the State Department. I eventually want to be a White House speech writer, but lots of stars have to align for that position—so we’ll see.