SIT Independent Study Project Reflections

As mentioned in a previous post, one of the hallmarks of SIT’s Study Abroad Program is its Independent Study Project (ISP).

Since that post, I have officially turned in my paper, closed all of my computer tabs, and paid for my last cup of coffee at Boréal. As you can imagine, it was a bittersweet moment to turn in one of the few remaining papers in my college career (alright, you caught me, I will admit that it was definitely more sweet than bitter). But, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised by the research process.

Allow me to explain.

I don’t typically identify as a writing fanatic. In the past, I liked writing short news briefs that were short and to the point, but I wasn’t too keen on producing long essays or research papers. If anything, I enjoyed documenting facts and organizing them to help contribute to others’ research reports, as I did in my previous internships.

For some reason, with this project, I found myself more excited to research, write, and think critically about a topic that interests me. I am a big advocate for defining your interests and running with them, in fact, like one of the readings for my Washington Semester advised, I don’t seek to find myself in my interests, but rather, get lost in them.

Long story short, I got lost in my research for this semester’s ISP.
My research topic drew on my interests in American national security, great power competition, and strategic supply chains. In particular, I assessed how China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) in African countries impacts the United States defense industrial base. This was extremely fun for me because not only did I have the incentive to read the United States National Defense Strategy, but I could also tie in my previous internship experiences and content learned in SIT classes, in addition to information gained from my Hope College courses thus far.

As a part of my research, I interviewed 6 experts in Geneva to understand some of the topics mentioned in my project. All of them worked in an industry related to my topic, including international development, diplomacy, Indo-Pacific policy, and national security. This is one of the pros of studying in Geneva, because it is one of the most international and policy-based cities in the world, it allowed me to have access to resources, people, events, and conversations that I might not have had otherwise. Taking that into consideration, I really valued the interview portion of the project because it provided me with different perspectives to consider when dissecting international development aid and national security threats. I appreciated the opportunity to challenge myself by listening to and integrating international perspectives into my paper, especially since it is a US-centric topic. Each time I conducted an interview, produced a graph, or wrote a few pages, I was excited to continue working, and, in fact, even looked forward to developing this project further.

I really appreciate SIT’s ISP, because it enhanced my academic experience in Switzerland and allowed me to define my professional and personal interests. This experience gave me the space to get lost in my interests and enjoy writing about them. Needless to say, I am super stoked to return to Hope and see how I can continue building upon this newfound discovery!

A special thank you to my interviewees, in addition to the SIT Study Abroad staff who supported me and helped make this research project possible!

Published by Juliana Struyk

Class of 2023 Political Science Major and French Minor SIT Geneva, Switzerland

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