OID: Hi, Farrah! Thank you for so much for talking to OID today. Please start out by telling us a something about yourself: where are you from, what makes you passionate about development, and why did you decide to pursue a Master’s in International Development at GWU?
Farrah Ahamad: Well I’m from the twin island state of Trinidad and Tobago and I did received my undergraduate degree in Business from Boston University, concentrating in International Management. Being from the developing world, I really wanted to study International Development to try to learn more about how I can improve the lives of the people of Trinidad and the Caribbean region.
I chose GWU for a number of reasons. No one can deny that the location of the campus is ideal to gain the most exposure during my time in grad school. Conventions, discussions, conferences and international speakers are the norm in DC and the insight that you can gain from attending these events is invaluable (not to mention the chances for networking!) I also loved the flexibility of the programs, and the way students can tailor their classes to pursue the more specific or broad concentrations that they want. Also, the chance to learn from and work with professors, academics and practitioners from the field allow students in this program an inside look into the world of international development and what they can expect when they graduate and begin working. I believe that students get the most all-round experience from GWU and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
OID: What is your area of concentration and how did you come to find that? Any particular classes that you’ve taken that relate to your concentration that you highly recommend, or that helped you realize where your passion lay?
Farrah Ahamad: I have chosen to concentrate in Civil Society and Private Sector Development. I chose this because I am very passionate about the power of the people, but I also understand the realistic need to include the resources of the public sector to create a mutually beneficial relationship for the private, public and civic sectors. I believe this belief came out of all of my experiences, including my time living in the developed world, my time studying business and the private sector, and my time studying abroad in London, England and working in Parliament. It all came together after some research, and realizing that International Development was a field that brought them all together in a way that would help me help my country and the rest of the developing world.
OID: Where are you this/these summer and how did you get this position?
Farrah Ahamad: This summer, I am interning at Population Services International (PSI). I got this position after applying through their website and doing three rounds of interviews. PSI is a public health firm that focuses on social marketing and franchising to create sustainable change in the developing world. I am learning a lot about how partnerships with the private sector, as well as involvement on the local community can create sustainable change that benefits the people who need it most.
OID: It seems like a lot of the IDS students are abroad this summer. Obviously we are all jealous of them, so staying in DC must have been a tough choice! How did you make that decision and how do you feel that your work experience will help you once you graduate?
Farrah Ahamad: Personally, while I believe that field work will do nothing but enhance the grad school experience and give insight to what it takes to work in development, I feel that my time would better be spent in the space between field workers and those in charge. I know that this is where my skills would be most needed back in the Caribbean and since that is my ultimate goal, working in this space rather than going abroad will give me more of the kind of experience I will need to be successful in the arena I want to eventually work in.
OID: The first years are about the start their first year of grad school. What do you wish someone had told you when you started grad school? What do you wish you had done differently or better?
Farrah Ahamad: Don’t freak out! You don’t have to have it all figured out in your first semester. EVERYONE changes their plan of study at least once, so relax, get the broadest range of experiences that you can so that you can eventually make a decision that fits you best. Go to as many events that you can, even those that you don’t think you are very interested in. You may be surprised what you learn and what your path is supposed to be. (Editor’s note: check out the OID calendar for some great upcoming events.)
OID: Any class recommendations or favorite study spots that you want to share with the group?
Farrah Ahamad: Many people may not agree with this, but Gelman Library was always a fav of mine. (Editor’s note: it has been newly remodeled!) Everyone knew they could find me on the third floor in the weeks leading up to finals. There are always lots of people in there which gives you a bit of motivation that you aren’t alone during finals…and the Starbucks’ 24/7 supply of coffee doesn’t hurt either.