Who you are today is the result of all the decisions you have made in the past. Similar to the domino effect, the principle is based on the idea that one event paves the way for the next one. Metaphorically, life consists of the connectedness of links that ultimately form solid chains in different areas. For a chain formation, one link is needed to hold its successive. It is quite intriguing to fully comprehend the strength of a metal chain composed of simple interconnectedness. Nonetheless, there was a period of life in which I was not aware of such a principle. Consequently, in my constant strives to grow bigger professionally, I felt frequent frustration. Whenever I look back at all events that have brought me to where I am today, I become more and more convinced that life is a chain of events, and although all areas in life have their particular relevance, I dedicate this writing piece to the chain of self-realisation.
One thing leads to the other!
Many events trigger major turning points, switching the directions in life. This was particularly evident when I moved to Geneva, after six years dreaming about conducting my Masters’ studies abroad,ever since I graduated from my Bachelors’ degree programme in Bolivia. I had ultimately given up on that dream due to the financial implications of studying abroad. But still, I decided to move to Geneva from my home country without a clear or specific purpose. Nevertheless, my main goal was to find new opportunities for professional growth. Getting used to life in Switzerland during the first months, I felt an intuitive need to prepare for something that would change my life. I welcomed that transition phase into the unknown, and joined intensive French lessons before finding a traineeship job in the human rights field at a civil society organisation based in Geneva, whose work revolves around the UN Human Rights Council mechanism.
During my time there, besides gaining knowledge and expertise on issues that were of my particular interest, I met very interesting colleagues.
One of the trainees working there came from the Kingdom of Jordan. She was a student at a local private university. I had never heard of that university before. After some time, she left her traineeship post at the organization. Right after she left, the Executive Director transferred me to the computer that was previously assigned to her. Her Facebook profile was visible on that computer. Before I even started focusing on my own business, something caught my attention on her profile. She had marked her Masters’ degree education programme, with the name of her university. A very attractive name: The Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations.
Having worked in advertising departments for universities in the past, I found that name very impactful. After a sequence of clicks on that computer, I was redirected to the university’s website. It was a very strategic website. Suddenly, I was once again lured by the idea of conducting my Masters’ studies abroad. The sequence of links continued and I set an appointment with the Admissions’ officer; a very nice lady from the Philippines. The university had an Executive Masters’ programme that, although still required a significant investment, was more affordable than other programmes and highly practical for someone who was working during the week. I applied for financial aid in exchange for working hours at the university, which I still see as a very pleasurable and knowledgeable experience. I recurred to a student loan for the necessary financial means. I sent my application, eventually received the acceptance letter, et voila! There I was, already enrolled at the 2017 intake of the EMIR programme: Executive Master in International Relations.
Enrolled at my Executive Master’s programme
At that peculiar moment, the sole fact of finally being enrolled in such a Masters’programme was enough to feel completely satisfied. By then, I had gone through tens of applications to several different Scholarships, with the aim to study my Masters’degree in the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Spain. I had gone through several rejections to full-scholarships and even got to feel like there was a type of imaginary stonewall hampering my dreams of conducting my Masters’degree. But the frustration stonewalls started to vanish when I found the opportunity to study in the most diplomatic neighbourhood: in Geneva.
For some of my classmates in the EMIR programme, being enrolled and studying in Geneva was seemingly not such “a big deal” as it was for me. Some of my classmates were very high-ranked diplomats, representatives of their respective governments: An Ambassador and a Parliamentarian from Afghanistan, an Ambassador from Moldova, a Counsellor from Costa Rica, and so on and so forth. I was sharing the class with such high-ranked people but had the aegis of no government at all. What I did have, however, was a backpack filled with gratitude, a pending student loan and my willingness to learn and make the most of my Masters programme. As a matter of fact, I did. I dedicated more hours to my studies than to any other activity during the duration of my programme. After finishing my human rights traineeship, I spent most of my days at the library of the United Nations Office in Geneva: researching, writing scholarly papers, planning my thesis, and reading class materials. I even memorised all academic guidelines for writing academic pieces, absorbing my academic programme and taking the greatest possible advantage for a whole year. A couple of months later, thanks to the network I established during my dissertation research process, I was lucky enough to land my first formal job on international relations in the city of Geneva.
I still find it difficult to explain how happy I felt during my graduation day in the summer of 2018. Graduation day symbolised the opportunity of having shared a classroom with a multicultural and diverse group of interesting diplomats, but most importantly: amazing individuals.
It symbolised the opportunity of having acquired knowledge about the work of international organisations in Geneva.
It symbolised an accomplishment as such, and for me it symbolised a major overcoming of obstacles; the demolition of my imaginary stonewall. With the culmination of my EMIR programme, a new interconnecting link was added to my chain of self-realisation.
I am aware that I will probably continue to stumble upon similar experiences and new stonewalls, before achieving new goals. Fortunately, I realised that even if new obstacles emerge, I know it is possible to turn difficulties into opportunities. Accordingly, should my path bump into a stonewall again, my EMIR experience shall remind me that no limitation will be significant enough to prevent me from continuing to build my personal chain of accomplished dreams and self-realisation.
By Jennifer D. Tapia Boada
(Jennifer is currently based in Geneva and works for a diplomatic mission to the United Nations Office.)
13 September 2020, Geneva.