In the hopes of saving a little time, and giving Rhone Rambling readers a better idea of what the future hopefully has in store for yours truly, this week's posting is the personal statement I wrote this week for my master's applications. Both programs that I will be applying to, at University College and King's College, are in London- hence the XXXXXXX ambiguity below. This will of course be filled in with the appropriate information for my respective applications. Here goes:
On September 11, 2001, I was supposed to be at the World Trade Center. Ironically, I had planned to go to an information session for the Peace Corps, an American development program, there that evening. Needless to say, the meeting was canceled. Instead, I drove back from Princeton to my hometown in northern New Jersey that afternoon, and spent the evening watching the new Manhattan skyline from a hilltop that overlooks New York City. While standing there I told myself that I wanted to do something, at some point in my life that would help make sure this would never happen again.
That was seven and a half years ago. In the meantime, I’ve pursued a number of dreams, including moving to Europe, writing a book on my family’s history, hiking the length of the USA for charity, trying to set up a business (unsuccessfully) and appearing as a contestant on the USA’s top quiz show (rather more successfully). All this has been lots of fun, and I have no regrets about following this road less traveled.
But now, it is high time for me to settle on a professional path, and counterterrorism is the field in which I wish to concentrate. My previous experience with terrorism and security studies comes primarily from my thesis for my master’s in international relations in Germany which I wrote two years ago. Having previously read comments by scholars such as Graham Allison of Harvard and Robert Gallucci of Georgetown that a nuclear terror attack in the USA was more likely than not in the next ten years, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the threat, and what could be done to stop it.
Nothing that I came across in my research suggested that Allison, Gallucci, and others were exaggerating. Indeed, after having written my thesis, I felt even more aware of a disconnect between the level of the threat posed and what was being done to counter it. My research also impressed upon me that countering terrorism successfully requires action on a broad array of fronts, from military action and police work, to “soft power,” to greater understanding of the threat among voters and policy makers, to contingency planning and beyond. Furthermore, in the course of my research I became more aware of the nature of other types of terrorism and political violence, including secessionist terrorism, biological terrorism, and the threat posed by overreacting or responding to terrorism counterproductively. All of this piqued my interest and showed me that spending my career investigating these issues would be rewarding, both personally and for society at large.
I also realized while writing my thesis and in the subsequent reading I have done on the topic that if I am serious about pursuing a career in the security or counterterrorism fields, I could strongly benefit from a solid academic background in the subject. This would supplement my previous studies in the more general field of international relations. The master’s program in XXXXXXXXXXX at XXXXXXXXX is thus a perfect fit for me, due to the academic strength of the program, the possibility to study in London, and the interaction the program provides with other students and practitioners. Meanwhile, in order to prepare myself for the program, I have contacted a professor at Princeton who recently received a large grant from the US Department of Defense to study the relationship between development aid and terrorism. I suggested to him that I could work as a research assistant on this project for the summer, and he responded that there were “plenty of possibilities” to assist and to come by for an interview when I am in the USA next month.
Thank you for your consideration of my application and I look forward to hopefully beginning studies at XXXXXXXXXXXXX in the fall.