Japanese students and IGSers compare notes

Here’s a shot from the October 8th visit of about a dozen students from Chou University in Tokyo, Japan.  This pictures shows me two things: getting a crowd of students from different countries together is a lot of fun and, much to my surprise, a selfie stick is actually useful!


The students are this year’s members of the Takeishi seminar, a class that comes to Boston every year to speak — usually hilariously — about some aspect of Japanese life.  Every year IGS and the Japanese program collaborate to welcome the students, so do look out for this in years to come if you’re interested in Japan.







Why Are Right-Wing Parties Winning Votes Abroad?

By Juliette Martin and Chandler Rosenberger

The IGS Conversations series is back!

Last Tuesday, four students with recent experience abroad came together to discuss a common theme in the unique countries of their specialty: the rise of extreme right-wing nationalism.

The event featured Viktoria Bedo on Jobbik in Hungary, Nick Kodama on Abe’s Japan, Jill Martin on India’s Narenda Modi, and Michael Pizziferri on France’s National Front — four different nationalisms across greatly differing cultures.

Kodama, Martin, Pizziferri, and Bedo.
Kodama, Martin, Pizziferri, and Bedo.

In Hungary, Viktoria explained, the Jobbik party has crafted a language of victimization that revises history in a way that is appealing to Hungarians, often to the detriment of other groups within the country, including Jews and Romanies. They also reject the EU, blaming the West, whom Hungary has often felt excluded from, for modern woes.

Michael, it turned out, had seen something similar during his semester in France.  There the National Front glorifies French-ness by speaking to a history of victimization (in this case, France’s lost colonial power and recent economic woes) and by blaming and excluding minority groups. The Front is also deeply anti-EU, though,ironically, the party now holds a great deal of France’s seats in the EU parliament.

Nationalism in Asia seemed more mainstream and less disgrunted.  Returning from Japan, Nick described the social issues that had brought Shinzo Abe to power.  Japan, Nick noted, is nervous: it faces an aging population, falling birthrates, and the decline of an electronics industry that had earned Japan’s wealth after World War II.

In Japan, Nick noted, nationalism was not rising: it had never really left. But Japan’s nationalist movements, Nick stressed, are mostly reserved and pragmatic — a far cry from the extremism of the movements in Hungary and France.

Finally, Jill Martin spoke on Prime Minister Modi in India, who is supported—like the Jobbik party—primarily by the youth. In this case, the National Congress Party took a stand against the rampant corruption in India for their rise. They also promise to create jobs for regions suffering from high unemployment.

Jill recalled one young Indian man who voted for Modi, and, when asked why he supported him given Modi’s now well-publicized miss-handling of the 2002 Gujarat riots. His answer was that Modi promised a better future.

Despite her friend’s optimism, Jill worried about the overt Hindu character of Modi’s political party, the BJP.  India, she noted is a deeply religious country of many faiths that has thrived under secular governments.  The BJP, Jill worried, might upset India’s delicate balance between belief and tolerance.

Conversation then turned to the many forms nationalism can take, especially the striking difference between optimistic patriotism and darker visions.

Thanks to Viki, Michael, Nick, and Jill — and the audience — for a great conversation! And look forward to seeing you all for more as the year unfolds.

And the winners are…everyone who came and heard Rohan?

Tuesday’s “Meet the Majors/Welcome Back, Seniors” was a lot of fun: great to have the Class of 2015 back on campus, telling stories and sharing tips on getting the most out of IGS. And how great to see so many first-years and sophomores interested in the major!

IGS3My thanks to everyone who spoke, but especially to Rohan Narayanan for his spoken-word poem about his time in Ghana: what a gripping, frenetic trip down memory lane…or maybe memory highway?

Speaking of recording one’s time abroad…we have some winners for the photo and blog competitions! The UDRs picked the best pics.  They were:

Ally Eller’s powerful shot at the gates of Auschwitz:

eller5As Ally writes:

“As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, this generation needs to be able to tell their stories, and part of that is facing the horror they went through. To me, this picture shows that, though 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, we aren’t gone, we’re thriving, and remembering this piece of our history so nothing so horrible happens again.”

If you want to read more about Ally’s trip, check out her blog post: this entry also made her a co-winner of the blogging prize for the night!

And it turns out that Rohan’s a talented photographer as well as poet: here’s one of his shots from Ghana.  As Rohan writes:

“The picture was taken right by Cape Coast Castle in the Central Region. The castle, which was used a slavers castle, is a historical site. This is a fishing village right outside the Castle. I remember being somewhat shocked by all the husrn10smalltle and bustle. It was early morning and I hadn’t yet grown accustomed to all the bargaining and commotion involved with Ghanaian trading and public life. I was so drawn in by all the colors and the incredible diversity of age and focus of each person.”

Our last winner was Joe Crook’s gorgeous shot of a beach in Vietnam.  As Joe writes:

“This picture was shot on Cham Island (Cu Lao Cham), which is located off the coast of Hoi An in central Vietnam. The small bowl-like objects scattered about are actually a style of traditional Vietnamese fishing boats known as Thung Chai. Local fishermen usecrook5small them to transfer between larger boats and land, carry supplies, and to cast and catch fishing nets…If you look closely, you can see none of them are tied up or locked down, which speaks to the Vietnamese sense of trust and community.”

Finally, the other co-winner in the blogging category was Mia Katan, currently abroad in Uganda on an SIT program in conflict resolution.  Mia’s been traveling around the region and filing sharply observed posts wherever she goes.

Looking forward to seeing more of you all as the year unfolds!

Top Five Tips for Finding a Job…from IGS alums who did!

by Juliette Martin

Last Thursday (September 18th) the IGS department hosted an alumni panel, bringing in three successful IGS grads to talk about their experiences navigating the job market and applying the skills learned in the IGS major to their jobs. The panelists (Yuli Almozlino, Nafiz Ahmed, and Scott Evans) each brought a unique perspective and shared some fantastic advice, including these top five tips:

5) Be interested and interesting: Actually be interested in the companies you apply to! Do your research in advanced and get curious about what they do and how your particular skills could be put towards their goals. Use your research think in advanced about how you’re going to present yourself so as to interest a particular employer, tailoring the way you talk about your experiences appropriately.

4) Remember, your classes count for something: You’ve learned more from your classes than just what you were tested on. Think of a small class like a project team, and your professor as your boss—that will help prepare you for the kind of teamwork that many jobs will require.

3) Don’t make an exception of yourself: In college, an extension is usually just an email away. However, when you’re working with bosses and clients, those deadlines are harder. Plan your time appropriately and deliver on your commitments in order to be a valuable employee.

2) Interviewers won’t remember facts, they’ll remember stories: After the fact, an interviewer may not actually remember much about you—but if you tell interesting stories, they might remember those. Instead of just presenting your achievements, actually talk about them. Tell a wild story about something you saw while abroad that taught you a valuable lesson, or something you did with a club that establishes your leadership ability.

1) And finally, use what IGS has taught you: The ability think analytical and critically, and to approach problem from many perspectives. The IGS major is extremely interdisciplinary, which gives IGS graduate students something other majors may not have. An IGS grad may have taken class in politics, anthropology, economics, sociology, and particular regional studies, granting the ability to look at a problem from many perspectives and present well-round solutions.

Plus, bonus tip: All of this goes hand in hand with networking! Your resume has a better chance of actually getting looked at if somebody already in the company hands it over to HR on your behalf.

Sino-Serendipity, or the Adventures in China of an IGS alum

Jake Labandby Jake Laband

Editor’s Note: Jake Laband was one of the most accomplished members of the IGS Class of 2012: cofounder of the journal Wander, fluent in Chinese, author of the one of the year’s finest honors theses, and a fine violinist to boot.  Here’s a recent account of how he surfed from job to job in Beijing after graduating — from scavenger hunts to bike tours to billion-dollar international trade — and how he’s ended up with a great fit. 

I hope job-seekers in the Class of 2014 get some inspiration from Jake’s tales…

I remember at the 2012 IGS commencement ceremony, Prof. Rosenberger said something along the lines of “you guys have no idea where this degree, or life, will take you.” I’d say that’s held true so far.

After graduation in May, I headed home without a job offer in hand. Eventually I decided to take the leap and bought a one-way ticket to Beijing. Having spent time there during my time at Brandeis, I figured I knew enough people that I could find some way to pay rent.

After a number of job interviews ranging from promising to skeezy to downright weird, I settled on a small cultural exchange center called The Hutong.  I’ve been able to witness and participate in some incredibly interesting entrepreneurial adventures. When I joined The Hutong, we had only 8 full time employees (including myself). In the past year and a half, we’ve grown to over 30 full time employees, along with a solid group of freelancers and other groupies who help out with projects.

My job has been developing experiential travel programs for international schools and multinational companies based in Asia. The company runs a variety of culinary events, as well as scavenger hunts that take participants to different neighborhoods in Beijing. It’s been great to grow the business, and I managed a small team of up to ten people to plan and execute these events.

The largest department of the company, however, is our Educational department, which runs experiential curricula around China for a number of International Schools based in Asia. During the third and fourth quarters of this year, we took over 1,400 students to nearly a dozen locations around China. I was lucky enough to return to Xishuangbanna (the area in southwestern China where most of my thesis research was based) and lead a series of bicycle trips throughout small villages and tea mountains. Riding bikes, I’ve found, is the perfect way to see and get to understand an area of the world. Speaking the language helps, too.

I’ve also become fairly involved with the expat Jewish community here in Beijing, and do a fair bit of community organization and event planning for them. Not only does it help pay the rent, but it’s also a great opportunity to meet diplomats and businesspeople working on fascinating projects across Asia.

The jobs I’ve taken over the past couple years have been completely unlike anything I imagined I’d be doing when I was a senior at Brandeis, though I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the acumen I have for entrepreneurialism.

Recently, however, I’ve transitioned into something more like what I imagined I would be doing after graduation. I’ve begun a position at US-China Business Council, a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides advisory and advocacy services for its roughly 220 American companies that do business with China. I’m charged mainly with conducting policy research and analysis of Chinese government regulations that affect US Business interests in China, as well as organizing roundtable events with business executives and government officials. Even though I’m just starting out, I’ve already met with officials from both the Chinese and American government, as well as executives from some of the world’s largest companies.

I’m still learning, of course, but I’d say Brandeis, and IGS, prepared me well. The research I did while abroad, my thesis projects, my ability to combine a wide range of resources, and any other number of skills I’d say are in part attributable to classes I took at Brandeis, and landed me a job that I feel would usually go to someone with a grad-school degree and much much more professional experience. I’m not the only one, either. There are a number of Brandeis grads here in Beijing, China, and greater Asia who are doing amazing things right out of undergraduate.

Immigration, Jobs, and Welfare: How Do The U.S. and Europe differ?

Should wealthy countries give recent immigrants welfare or jobs?

Europe and the United States have long had almost exactly opposing policies on work and welfare for immigrants.  The United States has let immigrants work but tried to deny them welfare benefits; IngressbildeEuropeans, on the other hand, have distributed benefits but kept jobs for their native populations.

Even within Europe, Scandinavian countries have been unusually generous with benefits.  But is this model now under strain?  Have Europe’s generous benefits led to a backlash against immigration, even to mass attacks of neo-Nazis such as the 2011 killings in Norway?

In its last cosponsored event of the spring semester, IGS welcomes the perfect person to discuss these issues: Grete Brochmann, chair of the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo and former chair of the Norwegian Welfare and Migration Committee.

“Immigration and Integration in the Nordic Countries”
A talk by Grete Brochmann
Friday, April 25
2 pm
Mandel Center Reading Room (3rd floor)

Still undecided about FA 2104 Courses? Your UDRs recommend…

POL 160a- The War on Global Terrorism: “I took a Muslims in the West with Prof. Klausen and I absolutely loved it. She is an expert on her field and took this semester off to continue her research on Jihad in Europe. In order to get the most out of the class, definitely do the readings and participate in class discussions. I’m planning on taking this class myself as well.”

POL 164a- Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East: “If you’re interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or just learning more about the issue, this is a great class to take. Prof. Feldman and the two other professors involved with the class have an interesting and diverse background on conflicts in the Middle East. “
ANTH 139b- Language, Ethnicity, and Nationalism: “I was definitely nervous when I took my first anthropology class at Brandeis as part of the IGS major, but it was a great experience! I loved learning about something entirely new and the anthropology department offers some great courses.”
AAAS 158a Theories of Development and Under-development with Professor Wellington Nyangoni. “This course exposes you a wide array of development theories and history of their implementation without being too heavy on the economics side. Also, Professor Nyangoni is an expert in this and backs up classroom readings with real world examples from his own life.”
HIST 144b The Cold War in East Asia with Steven Pieragastini. “A special one time offering about modern Asia history from one of our best graduate students. This class uses propaganda in all forms and primary source documents from the end of WWII to talk about how the great power struggle of the 20th century played out in an area of the world not often talked about in this context.”
POL 174b Seminar: Problems of National Security with Professor Robert Art. “This course explores some of the challenges faced by countries attempting to ensure security in the age on globalization. It looks in conventional and non-conventional methods of attack (and this year, as a little bird tells me, will include a special look at security in the age of big data and cyber-attacks). This course will look at issues of weapons proliferation and US power abroad, post-Cold War and is taught by one of the best national security experts in the country.”
Also, please note that IGS is helping to relaunch two critical classes.  Please consider taking:
REL 107a, “Introduction to World Religions,” to be taught by Kristen Lucken.  An essential class for anyone who pretends to know the world.  Do you want to be the one person at a cocktail party at the Thai embassy who has no idea what Buddhism teaches?  I didn’t think so. 

We’re also bringing back POL 153a, “The New Europe,” a critical class on the European Union.  From rebuffing Putin to recovering from the slump, the EU is back on the world’s center stage.  For those of you returning from Europe this would be an especially fine point of re-entry.  Any other recommendations?  Comment below or on the Facebook page.  And happy hunting!

What’s ahead for the European Union?

The European Union has had a great six decades: peace, prosperity, and ever-greater expansion.  But after the financial crisis of 2008, can it sustain its “social welfare” model for the decades to come?  Can it ensure the continent’s security at a time when the U.S. is retrenching and Russia is flexing its muscles?

What did you take away from the conversation on the EU’s future?

Crimea and Beyond: Russia and Its Neighbors

Several perspectives — from political realism to an em1464605_10102150611060000_1110773902_nbrace of Ukrainian nationalism.  Is it folly for Europe and the U.S. to raise Ukraine’s hopes?  If we don’t commit to the country’s sovereignty, are betraying our principles?
I was pleased to see so many of you at the panel and hope you’ll share your own thoughts below.  And — it should go without saying — please disagree with any panelist you please, including me.  You can’t get to “truth unto its innermost parts” without honest debate.