Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Q&A With Recent Graduate Itt Thirarath (MA'17)

Recently we sat down with Itt Thirarath, a Master of Arts alumnus from Bangkok who, despite having walked across the commencement stage just seven days ago, is already set to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand. During his time at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Itt was at the top of his program academically and served as president of the student-run Thai Club. Itt will begin working in his new position this month.




Where are you from and what brought you to Johns Hopkins SAIS?


I am from Bangkok, Thailand. I came to Johns Hopkins SAIS right after I finished my undergraduate degree at Chulalongkorn University. I chose the school because of its great reputation and its rigorous economics and language program. Another reason is because of the tight-knit group of alumni in Thailand (Johns Hopkins “SAIS Siam”) who kindly hosted a welcome party for the newly admitted students. They told us wonderful stories about their time at the school and their career. Their professional expertise and their strong sense of community certainly factored into my decision to come.

What are your academic and professional interests?


I have always aspired to become a diplomat. As an undergraduate student, I interned at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand in Bangkok and at the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Frankfurt, Germany. When I graduated from Chulalongkorn University, I received a scholarship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand to pursue a degree in Middle East Studies. Hence, I was a dual concentrator, concentrating in Middle East Studies and Southeast Asia Studies (in addition to International Economics, which is required for all MA students). I focused on the relations between the two regions in general and between the Middle East and Thailand in particular. Such linkages include energy markets, food security, the role of Islam, terrorism, and maritime security.

What are some activities you were involved in as a student?


I was the president of the Thai Club during my second year. The Thai Club organizes a wide range of activities such as lecture series, movie night, cooking class, and trivia. I also participated in the Israel Trek during my second year, and it was one of my best experiences at Johns Hopkins SAIS. It was fascinating to learn about the country, its history and its people, to drive an ATV in Golan Heights, to explore a kibbutz next to the Gaza Strip, and to walk down the streets in the historical city of Jerusalem among many other things.

What advice would you give our new incoming students? Any special advice for international students?


My advice would be that they try to find a balance between school and life. While school is certainly very demanding, they should try to spend as much time as they can with their friends. In fact, it is the sense of community and long-lasting friendship that make Johns Hopkins SAIS so great and so special. For some international students, it might take a while to get used to the cultures in the U.S., but once you get used to it, you will find that life in the U.S. can be very enjoyable and that you would be able to call it a home. The environment is also very international and very accommodating to students from diverse backgrounds.

What would people be surprised to know about you?


When I graduated, I was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, which is the oldest honor society for the liberal arts and sciences in the U.S.

What has surprised you the most being a student?


I came to Johns Hopkins SAIS knowing that I would meet some very talented individuals; however, the things that students had done prior to coming to the graduate school never ceased to amaze me. It is both an honor and a privilege to be among such talented peers, and it is even more interesting to see what great things they will be doing for the world in the future!