#WeAreElliott: Amanda Earls

#WeAreElliott: Amanda Earls

Amanda Earls, M.A. Asian Studies 2023, #WeAreElliott

Amanda Earls is a second-year Masters candidate in the Asian Studies program at the Elliott School, pursuing a thematic concentration in Japan and a professional concentration in Public Diplomacy and Global Communication. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Linguistics from Binghamton University in 2021 and has formally studied Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and French. She currently works as a Curriculum Developer/Project Assistant for GW’s East Asia National Resource Center (NRC), engaging in K-12 educational outreach and facilitating public events with scholars, activists, and government officials. Amanda has also worked as Project Assistant for the Eurasia Foundation (from Asia)’s grant activities at GW, and as a remote EFL teacher to young students in Asia. She has been selected to participate in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ KAKEHASHI Project and hopes that the pandemic situation will allow her postponed exchange experience to take place this year.

What has been your favorite experience at the Elliott School so far and why?

This is more of a genre of experience than one specific experience, but I’ve really valued all of the opportunities I’ve had to participate in people-to-people exchange at Elliott, especially through working with the NRC. I think it’s important not to lose sight of the actual human beings who are impacted by the policies we discuss in class and at work, so it’s very grounding to get the chance to shake someone’s hand, eat a meal together, or even just chat over Zoom.

One example of this type of event is the Tibet Colloquium that the NRC co-sponsored with the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Research Initiative on Multination States this past April. Our keynote speaker was Sikyong Penpa Tsering, the elected leader of the Central Tibetan Administration- in other words, the equivalent of the President of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. We also welcomed a few other prominent Tibetan leaders and scholars of the region. I learned so much from all of the speakers and panelists, and it was incredibly moving to hear them speak about their personal experiences. Chatting with North Korean defectors and South Koreans working towards reunification at a private dinner for the Korean-American Sharing Movement’s 2022 Washington Leadership Program was similarly moving.

What courses have you found most helpful in your work experiences and how have they been useful?

I’ve taken two public diplomacy courses at the Elliott School: one general seminar, Public Dimplomacy taught by Dr. Patricia Kabra, and International Education and Public Diplomacy taught by Dr. Kyle Long, which focused on the intersection of public diplomacy and international education. These courses have been incredibly useful in my work with the NRC and the Eurasia Foundation (from Asia) grant, as they have given me both the theoretical background and broader context necessary to understand the goals of our funding sources.

Describe the pros and cons of being a full-time or part-time student at the Elliott School.

Being a full-time grad student at Elliott while also working 20-30 hours a week has allowed me to really immerse myself in my studies. Since both of my positions are also at the school, the lines between my career and my studies have become blurred, which I think is a positive thing. This has also allowed me to build meaningful relationships with my professors and colleagues.

On the other hand, it is definitely challenging to take classes full-time while working. Once assignments, classes, work, and housework are all accounted for, it’s difficult to find time to invest in my personal life. I think this is a common challenge for people in all kinds of educational and career paths, though, and I’m still adapting and figuring out what time management strategies work best for me.

What resources or strategies have proven to be the most valuable in helping you reach success at the Elliott School?

Connections with other people have been the most important resource for me in my time at Elliott thus far. Building personal relationships with colleagues, classmates, and professors has helped give me a sense of community in D.C., and that kind of support and understanding makes it a lot easier to deal with the various challenges of being a grad student. Maintaining relationships with friends and family outside of the realm of grad school entirely has been equally valuable. Like I mentioned earlier, I feel very immersed in my studies the majority of the time, so I think it’s important to be able to take a step back and spend time with people outside of my work/school community.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are comparing a graduate program at the Elliott School with other DC grad schools?

There are a lot of great grad schools in D.C., so it’s helpful to really look into the details of each program. Think of things like course offerings, graduation requirements, campus organizations, special events, and, perhaps most importantly, specific faculty. While I received admissions offers from other schools in the area, I could see that I had the most shared research interests with Elliott School faculty members, and my interactions with faculty before I committed made me feel like my personal experience and interests would be valued here. I’m reminded that I made the right choice every time I get to discuss a niche academic interest with my professors or contribute my specific content knowledge to programming for the NRC.

What is the last show or movie that you really enjoyed and why?

I recently watched Everything Everywhere All at Once, and I still don’t think I’ve fully processed it, but I absolutely loved it! I thought it was a beautiful take on how to find meaning and fulfillment in life amongst all the chaos we’re all faced with every day. I also appreciated the commentary on relationships, multiculturalism, and immigration, and how it incorporates humor (and at times, complete absurdity) into such meaningful themes. It was just super well written, filmed, directed, and acted, so I definitely recommend it.

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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.