Stories from Our Community

International Student Starts Student Organization to Provide Professional Development Opportunities to South Asian Students

Shehryar Qaisrani is a Fulbright Scholar from Pakistan, currently in his second year of Masters in International Development Studies program at the Elliott School. With a keen focus on the dynamic relationship between trade and development, he is particularly interested in the transformative role of digital technologies in driving economic progress. During his first year, Shehryar’s project on SME Digital Trade Development in Pakistan earned him the Outstanding Development Project Pitch Award. This recognition highlights his ability to analyze complex issues and propose innovative solutions within the realm of development policy and practice.

Before embarking on his postgraduate studies, Shehryar served as a civil servant at the Ministry of Commerce in Pakistan, gaining firsthand experience in policymaking, economic diplomacy, and negotiations. He proudly represented his country in various international forums, demonstrating his expertise in trade-related matters. Notably, Shehryar played a pivotal role as a core member of the team responsible for negotiating the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between Pakistan and Turkey, demonstrating his prowess in crafting mutually beneficial trade relationships.

What is your favorite course that you have taken during your graduate Program and why was it your favorite?

One course that truly stood out for me was the Rising Market Powers course taught by Dr. Stephen Kaplan. The course delved into the fascinating realm of the political economy at the intersection of global markets and foreign affairs. We explored a wide range of topics, such as the intricate dynamics of policymaking in the context of rising market powers, the role of institutions and ideas in shaping national economic policies, and the implications of financial and commercial interdependence on the world stage. Dr. Kaplan’s teaching style made the learning experience even more enjoyable. He would begin each class with a song that encapsulated the theme of the day, setting a dynamic and engaging atmosphere from the start. His use of jokes and puns throughout the course kept everyone involved and added a touch of humor to the discussions. 10/10 recommend it to anyone interested in international political economy.

A close second would be the Writing for International Affairs Policymakers course taught by Professor Christopher Kojm. It’s a skills course and lives up to its promise. By the end of it, students get a chance to have their work published, ensuring practical application of the acquired writing skills.

What is your favorite thing about living in the Washington, DC area?

My favorite thing about living in the Washington, D.C. area goes beyond the well-known free museums and rich history the city offers. It is the incredible opportunities it provides for those interested in a career in international affairs. The kind of amazing people you end up meeting just because of the location is sometimes under-appreciated. You get access to all the events held by think tanks and International Organizations, which are not only great for learning but also provide an opportunity to network with thought leaders in their fields. D.C. also feels like a truly international city, and creates a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere where it is easy to make friends and establish connections with individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Oh, and D.C. is only a 4-hour bus ride to NYC if you’re ever looking for a weekend getaway.

How has your involvement with student organizations shaped your experience at the Elliott School?

Student organizations have played a great role in shaping my experience at the Elliott School. I am proud to say that my two colleagues and I took the initiative to establish the Elliott School of International Affairs South Asian Board which aims to create a dynamic platform for professional development opportunities for South Asian graduate-level students at the Elliott School. Through this initiative, we not only had the privilege of organizing impactful events that advanced the interests of students focused on the region, but we also forged invaluable connections with other South Asians who are making remarkable strides in their respective fields. And for this, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of my friends Shreya and Faiqa, and express my gratitude to Dr. Sean Roberts and Dr. Christina Fink for their continuous support.

What is a valuable skill that you have learned during your time at the Elliott School and why is it important to you?

With D.C. offering unparalleled networking opportunities, it can be tempting to focus solely on expanding your professional networks. In the pursuit of career advancement, it is easy to get caught up in the rat race of making as many connections as possible. A valuable skill to be kept in mind is to not make everything transactional and go beyond the initial superficial interaction to develop genuine friendships. I remember my friend Josué saying, “make friends, not connections”, and that has resonated with me ever since.