Senior Profile: Sara M (BC '18)

Name: Sara M

Major & School: Political Science, Barnard College


Post-college plans?

My immediate post-grad plans are still to be decided. Right now, I’m still applying and waiting to hear back from places (and screaming into the void). My short-term goals are to work for a couple of years and go to grad school and end up in some entry-level foreign relations position. My mid-term goals are to end up in the State Department or in some sort of foreign policy position.




Biggest fear about leaving college?

Right now I’m ready to leave Barnard, so there’s not a lot that I’m fearful about. Right now I’m worried about finding a place to live, or a place to physically be, but I feel that it’ll work itself out. I think one thing that I actually am scared about is the things that I want to do with my life in the future. I tend to change my mind a lot and I’m nervous that while right now, I’m really deep into political science, in a couple years I’m going to get bored and change my mind.


What are some things you’ll be happy to leave behind?

Barnard housing! I’ve gotten some second-degree burns this year from radiators. And speaking of, I’m ready to leave ResLife and the Barnard Administration.

I’m also looking forward to a nine-to-five job where I don’t have to work on anything at home. Here there’s always something else to be working on, or something you should be studying for, or a paper you should be writing. I mean, theoretically I’ll eventually find a job that I love where I would be happy to take my work home. But for now, I’m really looking forward to breaking up my time.


What do you most regret?

Well, I’m graduating a year early which is nice. It’s good to be able to get a head start on my career. However, a lot of my closest friends are abroad, and I regret not being able to have the Senior Experience with my friends. Even though it wouldn’t have made sense for me to stay, I still regret not having that classic last year with a lot of the people I care about. I wouldn’t change anything if I could have done it over, though.

I do regret not learning more hard skills! Empirical analysis and things that make me competitive in the job market. I have a lot of skills that are transferable, but they don’t make me competitive. I wish I had learned how to use a software, or other marketable skills, because I feel that what I’ve learned isn’t enough to get those competitive jobs. I also regret leaving early because otherwise I could’ve taken Korean for another year and gained more language skills. But even with these regrets, I don’t know that I would have changed or be able to be changed if I had done everything over again.


What has been your biggest opportunity in college?

This past fall I represented Barnard as a student delegate at the Student Conference on US Affairs at West Point. That was really cool because I got to learn more about my academic and career interests, and I got to meet a lot of really interesting people. I heard the Head of Peacekeeping Efforts at the UN as well as the former US Ambassador to NATO person speak.

One of my friends from Barnard interned at the Korea Society, and at one of their events I was able to see one of my career idols speaking on a short panel and have a conversation with her. That was an incredible experience!

I also took advantage of the opportunity to take graduate classes at Columbia. They weren’t mind-blowing, but I learned a huge volume of material. It was good be able to do that and to understand that grad students aren’t on a high pedestal or unrelatable; they’re working hard at something they love and have had more time to dig into a certain subject than I have. It was nice to have access to those resources.


What do you have left to do?

There are a lot of restaurants that I want to go eat at in the city, although that may or may not happen. I have to finish my capstone and pass all of my classes. I definitely have to find a job. I never went to the greenhouse in Milbank! I’ve always wanted to go up there.

I also want to finish my senior capstone. I want to put all the research together, which is work that I’ve been doing for the last year and a half. In each of my Political Science colloquia, I’ve been working with a specific focus on foreign policy towards North Korean. This last paper feels like an accumulation of all that work. I’ve literally spent every waking moment thinking about US-North Korea relations, which sounds nuts! But I’m really lucky that I figured out what I liked and was able to hone in on really specific things that I’m interested in. I’ve begun to get a better idea of what resources are out there and where to look for them and I’m excited to tie them together into a final paper that touches on the things that I’m interested in.


How did you feel about the Political Science colloquium requirement as opposed to a traditional year-long thesis?

I think the colloquia are great, especially for people who don’t really know what they’re interested in. The colloquiums are generally focused on breadth over depth, and I learned a lot with my first one, but over the next two I had realized what I wanted to do and dove into a single subject. So, once I realized what I wanted to do, a thesis seminar might have been good so that I could dedicate all my time to thinking about something I cared about.  Even though the colloquia are supposed to be separate, I wanted to go in-depth with my topic and so I wrote about North Korean relations for all three of them. I actually think the intro classes for political science got in my way, because I wasn’t really interested in learning about the other topics as much as international relations.


Advice for underclassmen?

If you have time, take hard sciences or analytical classes! Learn how to do empirical reasoning things. Obviously, there are a lot of different ways to approach it, and you don’t want to end up relying solely on quantitative methods, but you want to be able to do them. You can apply those skills to anything. Find things that make you more marketable, even if you don’t necessarily like them, particularly if you’re in political science, or a humanities-focused major.

If you think someone is cool (professor or TA) get to know them! It’s not that weird. The reason I got into international politics because I thought that my Intro to IR professor was super cool and talked with her. It doesn’t hurt to go out of your way and it might significantly help you. It also doesn’t hurt to be appreciative and polite: send people thank-you cards! When you get a recommendation or a reference, you should send them a note of appreciation and acknowledgement. When I go to my advisor’s office, she has one of my thank-you cards up on her bookshelf. It means a lot to people to hear that you’ve helped them.

Make friends with people who are interested in things that are different than your academic field. In my experience, if you’re only friends with people who do exactly what you do, you hear the same things over and over, and you fight about all the intricacies of your major. If you’re friends with people with varied interests, you have a better friendship. For example, one of my closest friends is a Women’s Studies and Urban Studies major and she helps me understand a lot of social issues I might not take the time to think about. On the other hand, you should be friends with people who you can respect academically in your field. Not that I don’t respect the academic accomplishments of my friends in other fields, but I don’t have the capacity to understand what they’re doing. So maybe make friends with people in your field whom you can respect for their work and who you can discuss your academics with.

Overall you should have friends who are good to you and who care about you. You also don’t have to go to every single extreme to show that you care, but the little things count too.

Eat more oranges and clean your water bottle! It’ll make you healthy and feel better. If you’re not having 4-6 oranges a day, what you doing? Also, watch the music video for 24k Magic! I watched that video every single morning for a month to fire myself up. Bruno Mars had the ultimate glow-up! He’s out there living his best life, dancing, and having a good time. I really felt so much better after watching that every morning. Do it and be your best self!