OID: Tell us about yourself: what program are you in, what are you studying, and what made you choose this field for your Master’s?
Brian Kraft: My name is Brian Kraft and I will soon begin my second year of an MA in Asian Studies (AS) with a regional concentration in Southeast Asia and a professional focus on International Development. I chose to apply for the Asian Studies program while living on a remote Indonesian island two days journey from Jakarta serving out a Fulbright ETA grant. The internet access there was horrible and I sat many hours in a sweaty internet café in town surrounded by kids shooting each other online while loading HTML versions of university websites. Four months later I was accepted, and I called GW to say that a deposit would be sent as soon as the internet on my island came back on. Since entering grad school, I was elected President of the Elliott School Graduate Student Forum (GSF). We host fun events such as the Spring Fling and Thursday Nights Out (TNOs) for Elliott School graduate students. Check us out here and here.
OID: How is AS different than the IDS program, in your opinion? Most of our previous students highlighted here are in the other program–what made you decide to go with AS?
Brian Kraft: Which was better, I wondered—studying international development and concentrating in Southeast Asia or studying Southeast Asia and concentrating in International Development? To be honest, I didn’t know the difference but I had a guess that getting into the AS major was easier for me because I could speak Indonesian. How many aspiring Indonesianists could they possibly have at GWU? It was a Machiavellian decision. But the Asian Studies program is so flexible that really I am taking many of the same development classes that I would have taken if I were IDS anyways. The difference really is that I have a lot of required classes focusing on South, and Northeast Asia that I otherwise would not have had if I were IDS focusing on Southeast Asia. These classes have all been beneficial for contextualizing Indonesia in the region. I am very happy with the decision to approach development from the outside.
OID: Where are you this summer and what are you doing? How did you find this position/opportunity?
Brian Kraft: For any of you who have ever tossed an application into the great abyss of USA Jobs, then you know what a miracle it is that I am currently living in Jakarta over the summer interning in the Public Affair section at the U.S. Embassy. I had given up on USA jobs but this opportunity perfectly relevant to the direction I plan to aim my career and because it is unpaid it was one of the few government internships that did not get sequestered. It was frustrating and inefficient but USA Jobs can actually be helpful.
OID How long have you been there? You’ve been to Indonesia before, so how is this time different? (ie do you feel like GWU coursework has shaped how you view things, or helped/hurt you in doing your job?)
Brian Kraft: There are major differences in my Indonesian experience this time around. Firstly, I am living in the massive capital of Jakarta rather than a barely populated remote eastern island. My last paper that I finished before hopping on a flight out of D.C. was loosely about mass violence in Indonesia. I had known that these horrors had occurred, but the depth with which I had studied these killings has given me a different lens with which to view the Indonesian world around me. I often wonder now what these older people around me in Jakarta have seen and directly experienced.
OID: Will this experience change the coursework you take next year, or the types of opportunities you pursue in the future?
Brian Kraft: I plan to focus more on economics classes next semester. This gritty massive city is an economic hotbed. I want to understand the financial engines that drive Jakarta. Economics permeates every realm. Rapid development is an obsession. Corrupters risk everything for it, policy makers think of little else but it. The more I know about basic economics the more valuable I will be to nearly every industry related to Southeast Asia—including of course development.
OID: What has been the most challenging this about your work this summer?
Brian Kraft: The opportunity cost of being away from loved ones back home in DC and Seattle is very real. I miss them very dearly.