Saturday morning at the Highlands Coffee

I have tried my best to think of a more catchy title for the post or a title that may capture how silly it was for a weirdo like me to make some networking but there was no more attractive title happening to come across my mind. And as what I write hereafter is what happened to me this morning at the Highlands Coffee so I decided to make it simple by taking this title.

This Saturday should be another day I spent most of my time in the coffee shops. You may remember the story about the lost youths I wrote in my previous post. This time, however, I am not among the lost youths. In the previous post of mine, you may picture a coffee shop as a place where the lost youth can be found. But I forget to note that it is not always the case. Coffee shops are also among the most convenient places where young people network with each other, share their own stories or tell about their plans, etc.

I have to admit that I am not so good at networking. Making new friends or verbally discussing with the strange ones is something that I am not so good at. Actually, I think I was quite natural in giving an introduction and kicking off the conversation, however, maintaining the conversation has been the toughest part to me so far. Sometimes, it is just a part of my habit when I may be so enthusiastic to kick off the conversation and cheer up the atmosphere at the first half of the conversation while keep silent and listen to the others at the second half. The actual reason is not my crumbling interest in the conversation but my preference to listen, to observe and sometimes generate some ideas for my next blog posts with the conversations as a nice source of inspiration somehow.

I have one today. I mean a networking event today. To be more exact, it is a close meeting with an alumnus from Fletcher. For your information, Fletcher is among the choicest institutions that offer courses in international relations or diplomacy. Diplomacy or international relations is an interesting one, sometimes, I wish I could have some insights into these related topics; however, the degree of my interest is not ones in international relations but Master of International business.  So far as I know, the program is a new one offered by Fletcher since 2008 and it is somehow a hybrid one between business and international relations. Its current Dean used to be an admiral in the US Navy and Tufts itself is the oldest institution in the US that provide degrees in international affairs, accordingly, it comes to me as no surprise when its business program also places great emphasis on educating its students on how to locate business knowledge in the context of international affairs. I remember my father told me something about geopolitics and economy as a subject in Foreign Trade University when I enrolled into the university years ago. I have not had any chance to learn about the similar stuff during my time at university. Perhaps my university took such subject out of our curriculum along with other diplomatic-related subjects years ago before I started my time at university. And as I have an uncommon interest in a variety of topics, including but not limited to, economics, business, international relations, or social studies, its curriculum stimulates these interests in me. The school may not be common among ones applying for business schools but it seems to me that its candidates should be the selective ones for its tough questions beyond measure that test your own contextual intelligence on various topics in relation to international affairs. I wonder if ones admitted to the school and even ones graduating from these graduate programs can answer these questions at ease. I suppose that I would be more than happy should I comprehend the questions or have any ideas about them. I have tried to read The Economist or Project Syndicate to get some ideas but I lost my way in these things and every time I found myself paying too much attention to the wording or the use of language rather than the content itself. Even when I formed an idea after reading, it is not easy for me to form my own opinions towards all the events for my lack of basic knowledge and in-depth insights in such field. Should there be any course that provides knowledge in relation to international affairs in a systematic way as what CFA does to financial industries, I may consider registering for one.  I recall the philosophy course I took on Coursera last year and I have not finished it, which was such a shame to me. But I may try to find one in relation to international affairs on Coursera and hope it will work this time.

The post has gone astray a little bit but it may give some explanation to how I knew about Fletcher. While it is not an unfamiliar name for ones with background international relations, it is almost unknown to ones coming from business schools at undergraduate level like me. When I happened to receive an email from the admission office of Fletcher about an networking event with its alumnus, I thought of giving myself a try, especially as I have told before, networking is not a piece of cake to me. The alumnus I met today was named Phuc. She is about eight years senior to me, coming from Ben Tre, graduating from Institute of International Relations (now known as Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam) in 2005, having some years of experience in Ministry of Foreign Affairs before winning a scholarship granted by Singapore Government to pursue Master in Public Management in Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. After spending one year in Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (actually six months in Lee Kuan Yew and another six months in Harvard Kenedy School), she continued to secure a place in Fletcher for Master of Arts in International Affairs through her entitlement to Fulbright scholarship. Such a stellar profile, huh? And I told myself not to be blown off by all such achievements before having a direct conversation and forming a more objective judgment on a new person. There were two other people also joining the coffee chat with me. The first one also graduated from Institute of International Relations and has had about nearly 7 years of experience and the second one is still a student in a French university. The first one is an active one in the conversation for her considerable working experience and her current occupation as a marketing and PR-related one. The second one is a typical type of students studying in the Europe (a more specific term for such type has not occured to me yet) whose family must be rich that could accommodate for their studying abroad since they were still at high schools. As far as I am concerned, she was totally ignorant about … everything, making some unnecessary questions, having trouble with her communication and lacking lots of common knowledge in comparison with students from local universities. However, I prefer not rambling about them here. Coming back to the alumnus, she secured a good opinion of mine on the scholars coming from the Southern part of Vietnam. The scholars may sound weird but I mean ones studying hard at schools and thriving at their careers or someone having a very good schooling. You may refer to the one I mentioned in my post “Serendipity or an ordinary story about an unconventionally inspiring dot” a year ago. She was enthusiastic to share about her own learning experience in Fletcher, the unique points of the program as well as her fighting with Fulbright for a slot in Fletcher. The conversation was chiefly made between Phuc and the first one, named Quynh for her common background in International Relations. I, however, did not mind about not having much chance to say but felt that it was so nice to gain some ideas out of my own expertise and mingle with ones not share the same background with me. And they suddenly made me recall some friends I know that studied in Institute of International Relations like my mentor in IDG Ventures Vietnam, a candidate in BeePro and two friends of mine in YVS. It is nice to realize the gentle manner commonly shared among them or kind of diplomatic character running in their veins. I thought it as “genteel” before (you may have a check the disapproving meaning of the word on Oxford Dictionary) but I made some amendments to my own opinion on ones studying in the institution that shared the same Chua Lang Street with Foreign Trade University upon more chances of socializing with them.

Of course, as I have told more than a hundred times, it is not always the case and everything should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, I always try to form my own opinion on everything not only on the form but also on the substance. And two-hour meeting may be not long enough to have a right judgment on a person but it does leave good impression of mine on ones with background in International Relations and  make me interested more in the school even when the list of questions that challenge the contextual intelligence made me the most miserably ignorant. I have to say good bye early to the meeting and I always found myself a silly one every time when I try to say goodbye in a similar networking event. I wish I could make them form a good opinion on students from Foreign Trade University after meeting with me someday as the way I secure a good opinion on students coming from Institution of International Relations. Maybe such thing has not come to me yet and I need more practice to not behave as a weirdo next time.

By the way, you might want to check the list of questions I have mentioned above here and have some fun:

http://fletcher.tufts.edu/MIB/Ten-Questions

A Highlands Coffee Shop  - But it is not the one that I stayed today. Source: Internet
A Highlands Coffee Shop – But it is not the one that I stayed today.
Source: Internet

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