Meet Sichao, an International Relations Online student in Florida who is applying his experience in the program to his goal of joining the U.S. Foreign Service.
Current Location: Jacksonville, Florida
What is your field of study and what line of work are you in?
My degree program is the Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) with a concentration in U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security. I am currently working in the medical device industry.
Why did you choose International Relations Online?
I chose International Relations Online to pursue my master’s degree because I wanted to initiate a career change after working four years in the private sector to become a member of the United States Foreign Service. I wanted to capture the work experience in business while pursuing a rigorous yet flexible MA program that is top notch. American University’s School of International Service became an obvious solution to address this need.
How do you see yourself making a difference in the world?
I see myself making a positive difference in the world by contributing to the peace and stability of the increasingly turbulent world that we live in so that young entrepreneurs of my generation and future generations may have a stable environment in which they can realize and fulfill their own dreams.
How is the School of International Service (SIS) making a difference in your world?
SIS is preparing me for a career change to become a member of the U.S. Foreign Service through opportunities to engage with professionals and scholars in the field of international relations. Many of my professors came from the policy world before academia, and they shared with me real-world insights into how the policymaking process comes into play, helped me navigate bureaucracies, and provided me with skills such as writing op-eds, making budgets, making decisions based on multiple and often competing priorities. The connection and emphasis on how theory and policy are both at work and of vital importance to everyday decision-making is what I took away from SIS.
What makes the School of International Service special?
I think SIS has a good balance of theory and practice. There is a very strong support system, both on-campus and online. While rigorous in nature, the program builds a certain amount of flexibility for working professionals like me to take full advantage of study abroad trips, on-campus immersions, and advising by a renowned expert for my master Substantial Research Paper. SIS and the International Relations Online program took a genuine interest in me, were extremely interested in my background and experiences, and made my experience here the best it can be.
What does the word “service” mean to you?
Service for me means dedicating a portion of your life to devote to doing work of national importance but also to many of the great initiatives in the private and nonprofit sectors. It means making the most of your time in advancing the initiatives that will better the lives of people around the world. In that process, you will inspire many others and develop those that come after you who must then shoulder this important work.
What world issue or current event is of interest to you?
I am interested in the area of commercial diplomacy—the intersection between international business and international relations. The private sector has most of the resources available to tackle some of the toughest challenges of our time. How to best utilize these resources and navigate the politics in a complex global arena is where international relations come in. Therefore, commercial diplomacy will lead the way in shaping how businesses and state actors will work together to shape the 21st century.
Who is your professional role model?
For diplomacy, Otto von Bismarck and Henry Kissinger are two of my favorite statesmen. These two individuals were brilliant strategists that shaped the world of their time and made significant contributions to advance their state interests. I strive not to be just a good diplomat but an exceptional one to leave my own legacy.
What is your favorite class?
My favorite class was Global Governance. The class was co-taught by David Bosco, who specialized in the United Nations, and Kim Moloney, who specialized in the World Bank. The class stimulated my interest in the three big theories of international relations—realism, liberalism, and constructivism—while helping me to realize the shortfalls of international organizations.
How has the program helped you to achieve your career goals? What is your next step?
The International Relations Online program has accelerated my pace to join the Foreign Service. In fact, I am currently in the process of applying to join the Foreign Service.
About the Immersion
What was it like to finally connect with your classmates face to face?
A lot of them were so much more into their craft than I had realized in our online sessions, where much of the time was spent on coursework and little on personal interactions. The immersion provided such opportunity to connect and really get to know my classmates in person.
What was your site visit like?
The site visit was well organized and very structured in a format that was a good blend of getting to know the consulting field while understanding the amount of work required to advance in the career.
Meet More International Relations Online Students
See how other International Relations Online students are using their education to make a difference for their careers and in communities around the world.