What Would I Tell My College-Self?

I attended Tufts University from 2013-2017. I took a wide range of classes (listed below), joined some great student groups, and had a lot of fun. But if I could do it over again, there's plenty that I would change.

Enjoy learning more.

You were too focused on grades in your freshman year. Ironically, that's when you got your worst grades. You'll easily get the A's if you enjoy what you're learning and think deeply about it.

Stop chasing after prestige.

Your college search was mostly based on rankings and aesthetics. You got lucky that Tufts was a great fit, but you failed to seriously consider all the factors that make up a good university experience.

At Tufts, you pursued an IR/Arabic double major in part because it sounded impressive. But this was silly. The eight class language requirement for IR is ridiculous. You should have majored in political science instead, and traded time on language for more interesting classes. Similarly, you had to take five MENA culture classes (e.g., "Visualizing Colonialism") to complete your Arabic major. That was a waste of time and money.

Even after Tufts, you took the same approach in your job search. You claimed to want to work in public policy, but were somehow attracted to a smattering of random, prestigious places in consulting, law enforcement, or U.S. government. If you really want to develop, fuel, and implement good public policy, then just do it. Stop "positioning" yourself to work on public policy. The fancy title might help but it's neither necessary nor sufficient. Find a public policy area that you're interested in and contribute your research and advocacy now. Think more about what you can do today, not tomorrow.

Think less about your career.

You think a lot about potential careers, as a teacher, professor, military officer, law enforcement officer, intelligence analyst, and think tanker, among others. This is likely bad advice for most people, but for you: slow down on this thinking. You're spending too much time and energy on it. And despite all that work, you almost ended up teaching English in China anyways.

My Classes:

Fall 2013
Arabic 1
Art History to 1700
Western Political Thought I
Principles of Economics

Spring 2014
Arabic 2
Intro to International Relations
Intro to Computer Science
Social Psychology

Summer '14: Student @ Middlebury College Arabic Program

Fall 2014
Arabic 21
Modern South Asia
Nietzsche: Will To Power
Honors Calculus 1 & 2
Microeconomic Theory

Spring 2015
Arabic 22
War and Terrorism
The Global History of International Development
US Foreign Policy from 1900 to Present
Intro to Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Summer '15: Tisch Fellow @ U.S. Department of Defense, OSD/CAPE

Fall 2015: Arabic Study Abroad with CET @ University of Jordan
Intensive Advanced Modern Standard Arabic
Intensive Advanced Beginner Jordanian Dialect
Jordanian Society
History & Development of Religious Political Parties

Spring 2016
Arabic 122
Force, Strategy, and Arms Control
Rise and Decay of the West
International Economics
Palestinian Literature and Film
Arabic Music Ensemble (half credit)

Summer '16: Research intern @ The Syria Institute

Fall 2016
World Wars and Nation States
EPIIC-Order and Chaos: Diplomacy and Force in a Changing World
Arabic Culture
Arabic Music Ensemble (half credit)

Spring 2017
EPIIC-Order and Chaos: Diplomacy and Force in a Changing World
Warrior Nations: Russia & the United States
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
Visualizing Colonialism