Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Atishay, What Was Your First Day At SAIS Like?

Program/Class: MA 2017
Concentration: Energy, Resources and Environment
Hometown: New Delhi, India

What was the first day at SAIS like for you?
Sitting 7500 miles away in New Delhi, I had mentally rehearsed the first day at SAIS a thousand times. It was even better. It started with a community activity in a nearby neighborhood. It was a great way to familiarize myself with the nation’s capital. which is when I met some incredible fellow SAISers and got to know Washington DC better.

What were you doing prior to SAIS, and what prompted you to apply?
I was working with the world’s largest humanitarian organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross, where I worked in disaster and conflict affected areas. During my mission to the Philippines during Typhoon Haiyan, I saw what devastation extreme weather and climate change can bring. I wanted to work on issues that would reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change, in other words, make communities climate-resilient. Coming from a qualitative and humanitarian background, I needed the complementary quantitative skills that would help me understand how can resources be mustered to make this happen. I tracked the trajectory of successful development professionals working in this area and all roads led to SAIS. Another reason was Dr. Kent Calder of the East Asia Studies. I had read one of his books in 2003 that ended up shaping my career in International Affairs. To my absolute delight, it turned out that Dr. Calder was teaching at SAIS. Even before the school started, I went to meet him and pay my regards.

How did you react when you received your offer of admission?
SAIS was my dream school. I had received offers from other schools but was really nervous about SAIS. More than me, my wife was more anxious, as she had worked with me day and night on the application process for almost a year. It was around 1:30 am when I read the words “Congratulations…”, I re-read the email at least 10 times, and scrutinized each word, even checked the authenticity of it, to make sure it had finally happened. Everything fell into place. It was a big step closer to my goal, of coming to Washington DC, getting the skills at SAIS and coming out with a community of brilliant individuals, faculty and tools to address the problems that started it all.

What is your favorite SAIS memory so far?
Memories are in the making. What will remain edged is walking into the most crowded place in DC on a Sunday afternoon. No it is not a brunch place. It is our SAIS library. Some of my best friends at SAIS started off as library-buddies. On a more serious note, it has been listening to the CEO of Sony Entertainment on the Sony hacks. It was an amazing mix of entertainment, economics and geopolitics – the last thing you would expect from Hollywood and so what you would expect from a school like SAIS.

How do you think you’ve matured since beginning at SAIS?
SAIS has widened my range immensely in terms of the phenomenal backgrounds, experience and cultures of students, the interaction between economics and almost every possible issue of global significance, and the skills to decipher some of these challenges. This is what I came to SAIS for. I had an understanding of the problems but was lacking the tools to approach their solutions. And it has just been one year.