OID: Hi, Jelena! Thanks for talking to OID today. Let’s start off with some information about yourself: where are you from, what makes you passionate about development, and why did you decide to on the Global Communication M.A. with a concentration in development instead of the IDS program?
Jelena Ćorić: People tell me I have a rather interesting background. I was born in Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but my parents and I left in 1992, shortly after the civil war broke out in the Former Yugoslavia. Of all places, we moved to Zimbabwe, arriving with nothing but one suitcase and the clothes on our backs. Our home and most of our belongings were destroyed. Fortunately, we adapted to and grew to love our adopted homeland. I have a special attachment to Zimbabwe and the Sub-Saharan region in general. I have a lot of hope for Africa’s future, and everyday I try to correct people’s stereotypes of the continent. For the past six years or so, I’ve been living, working, and studying in the US. I guess I’m a good example of a third culture kid. Basically, it would have surprised everyone who knew me if I didn’t go into something related to international affairs.
I chose my program (Global Communications) because I am primarily interested in strategic communication and the media, but the great thing about this field is that you can marry it to any other interest you may have, which, in my case, is international development. Communications plays an important role in development, whether you’re promoting your organization to a global audience, or creating a media campaign to spread awareness about good health practices. I’m not entirely sure what I’d like to do, but I’m really enjoying exploring different possibilities.
I also believe that the relationship between development and communications is one worth exploring because media can be harnessed for positive change. For example, I’m sure everyone is well aware of the various uses of ICTs and social media in developing countries. Zimbabwe held presidential elections on July 31st, and people were sharing live, up-to-the-minute updates about the polls on Twitter and other social media. As someone from the diaspora, I was glad that timely information and people’s opinions were so readily accessible. Online social networks are important tools in countries like Zimbabwe, since much of the media is under state control.
OID: Where are you this summer and how did you get this position?
Jelena Ćorić: I was looking for media and communications internships at non-profits and NGOs, and I ended up accepting two positions. I divide my time between Save the Children in DC and ISEP (International Student Exchange Programs) in Arlington. I was inspired by Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report, so I applied for an internship via their website. As for the other position, a friend and classmate, Hilary Hartley, works at ISEP and she told me about the opening there. It’s been a very productive summer!
OID: How did you decide to stay in DC? Are you happy that you did? What do you think you’ll gain from this experience?
Jelena Ćorić: I simply wanted to gain work experience in DC, and a summer with no classes was ideal for throwing myself into working full-time. As I already explained, my personal background is pretty international, so I wanted to enhance my professional experiences here in the US. Although I’ve felt a little homesick and missed my family and friends in Zimbabwe, I’m really glad that I decided to stay because I get to compare how things function at two organizations with different work environments. (A large, international non-profit like Save versus a much smaller one like ISEP). I also don’t have a huge amount of professional experience, so this summer has been valuable and eye-opening for me. In terms of specific skills and knowledge, I’ve learned about (among other things) creating marketing content, managing media relations, and using social media in a professional setting. Plus I’m building up my writing portfolio, which is always useful.
OID: The first years are about to start grad school. What do you wish someone had told you when you started grad school?
- Don’t second-guess yourself! Whether you’re fresh out of undergrad or you’re coming in with years of work experience, graduate school is a tough adjustment for everyone. If you’re genuinely putting in the effort, you will reap the results, and of course, it gets much easier after the first semester.
- People may be sick of hearing this one, but it’s so true: manage your time efficiently, especially because grad school just flies by. And managing your schedule isn’t just about keeping up with school work, it also helps you make time for a valuable internship or job, networking events and chill out time with friends.
- Try to make it to the Graduate Student Forum’s weekly happy hour! We host an event called “Thursday Night Out” (TNO) during the semester and it’s a great opportunity to meet your fellow students and unwind.
OID: Any class recommendations or favorite study spots that you want to share with the group?
Jelena Ćorić: It’s tough to recommend a specific class since I’m sure the OID blog readers have a wide variety of interests. However, I will say that taking Quantitative Analysis was a great experience for me. It was out of my comfort zone, but I gained a valuable new skill. Not only did we learn to use SPSS, I have also become more comfortable working with numbers. Unless you already have a mathematical background, this class would benefit almost anyone. As for study spots, when the library is overrun with undergrads, (Editor’s note: during finals, this is all the time.) I like to retreat to the Elliott School. I find that the 6th floor is usually pretty quiet.