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I’ve always had the ambition to be a diplomat so, I’m always looking for ways to increase my understanding and knowledge of International Relations, be it through reading, keeping up-to-date with the news and current affairs or discussion with my lecturers.

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With that in mind, when I read that there was to be Summer School held by the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, I decided to apply. I kept my fingers crossed; and when I received my acceptance letter, I was overjoyed!

There were 20 students in my class; all from different backgrounds. Some, like me, were at University, others were still in high school, while some were already working in the International Relations field- a diverse mix indeed! There was a lot to learn from each other, and our lunchtimes (an hour long, fortunately for us!) were spent in getting to know each other, learning as much as we could.

Our class was split into two groups, to facilitate learning, and encourage discussion. Every day, we had two lectures each, followed by a field trip- and this is where Geneva really came into its own. Since we were located right in the middle of the diplomatic community, we simply walked down from school to the various international organisations- a rare treat, indeed!

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Even more notable, perhaps, was the fact that each of the organisations took the time to have someone guide us, showing us around, as well as telling us about the history, importance, and their daily work. To have such a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the working of the UN, the ICRC, the ITU, and the WTO was truly an amazing experience, and one I’m not likely to forget.

Now, for our lectures! The very first one we had was not really a lecture per se, but an introduction to the course, given by the school’s Dean, Prof Athar Sultan-Khan, who has himself served the UN for almost four decades. Seeing that I would never even have had the opportunity to meet him, let alone hear him speak, in the ordinary course of events; this was a huge privilege for me... He welcomed us to the programme, as well as encouraging us on for our dream; and told us a little about the state of diplomacy and diplomatic relations today.

One of the things he said which really stayed with me, is that in today’s world, diplomacy itself is seen less and less often. The whole idea of this art is to solve disagreements, or even misunderstandings, through peaceful dialogue; yet all too often, today we will see leaders turning to war, sanctions, etc.- something that is potentially very dangerous, and which we should be aware of.

The other teachers, too, were people who were the crème de la crème, so to speak: they had extensive experience in the international relations field, often having served in organisations such as embassies, the ICRC, and the WTO. As a result, they were not only great teachers, but they brought the material to life. We often had eager, sometimes heated debates in class, discussing topics such as who was to blame in international disputes, and what should be done to resolve them. We found out the types of wars (such as proxy wars), as well as the origins of some particularly convoluted ones, and also what had been done so far on an international level, regarding them, and what else could be done.  

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Not only were the classes interesting, engaging, and challenging; but the campus was astoundingly beautiful as well. We had huge trees all over it- the kind you associate with ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’, as well as a lovely view of the Lake Geneva. Moreover, one of the buildings on our campus had once been the Italian Embassy, and it was said that Josephine Bonapartè herself had once stayed there- a fascinating story indeed, whether true or not!

All-in-all, it was a truly wonderful experience, with a lot to learn, see and do; and some amazing friendships to take home.... I’m really glad I went, and would certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in this field- it was a lovely way to get a glimpse into what life in the diplomatic sector is like, which means that now, when I say “I want to be a diplomat”, I not only have an idea in my head, but also an understanding of what it means.  

This blog post was written by Apurva Lakhanpal, a second year BSc Economics student.