Despite being raised Jewish, senior Andrea Moneton, an International Politics major concentrating in Foreign Policy, did not expect to pursue any Jewish studies when she first arrived at Georgetown. But her plans changed soon after she attended a Parents’ Weekend lecture by professor Jacques Berlinerblau during the fall of her freshman year.
“I stumbled into a lecture during freshman fall Parents’ Weekend given by Jacques Berlinerblau on American, French, and Israeli secularism, and talked with him a bit after the lecture,” Moneton says. “I ended up in his class the following spring, joined the Center for Jewish Civilization, and this year Professor Berlinerblau is my thesis advisor and I’ll be his teaching assistant in the spring!”
With Berlinerblau as her mentor, Moneton has combined her background and interest in Jewish studies, Chinese politics, and international relations to focus her Jewish Civilization thesis on the demographics and culture of Jewish communities in China.
“My independent research brought me to the central Chinese city of Kaifeng to interview members of a small Jewish community that has resided in the city since approximately the 10th century,” Moneton explains. “My thesis addresses the recent decline of the community and the contemporary identity of its members.”
In addition to conducting her independent research, Moneton, who has studied Chinese since 2006, honed her knowledge of Chinese culture and politics by participating in the ACC-Hamilton intensive Chinese language program in Beijing and assisting Asian Studies professor Kristen Looney with archival research at the National Library of China during her semester abroad in 2017.
I’ve grown especially interested in the intersection between domestic and foreign policy, especially considering growing trends of nationalism and populism all over the world.
She considers that the experience enriched her understanding of the importance of bridging national and cultural divisions through diplomatic, interpersonal relations.
“Beyond the improvement in my language skills, my semester and summer abroad reinforced my belief in the importance of public diplomacy and people-to-people interactions. There’s this widespread belief in our country — less present at Georgetown and in higher education more broadly — that Chinese and Americans are irreconcilably different, and there’s no doubt that there’s major differences in our cultures and national histories,” Moneton says.
“That said, those macro-level differences don’t prevent individuals from anywhere from having core similarities in their life ambitions and philosophies, and being able to interact with Chinese people from a variety of backgrounds helped me better understand that.”
Moneton hopes to apply these lessons and skills after graduation to her job in PwC’s Global Intelligence division. Looking forward, she aspires to transition to the public sector, be it through government or through international organizations.
“I hopefully see myself eventually migrating to the public sector within a decade,” Moneton says. “Within that, I could see myself staying in the U.S. government in federal intelligence or in the foreign service, and am also intrigued by multilateral development banks and their role in promoting global development.”
But more than anything, Moneton wishes to make a long-lasting impact on people’s lives through her work.
“I’m open to anything as long as I can continue to use my language skills and do work that remains internationally-focused and works with people at a grassroots-level to make a real difference in people’s lives,” Moneton asserts.
Looking back at her undergraduate experience, Moneton points at the Carroll Fellows Initiative (CFI) as a major factor in her intellectual and professional development.
“CFI has been an incredible part of my time at Georgetown. Dr. Glavin, the program’s director, also consistently pushes his students to do better and perform to the best of their abilities, and to take risks and do the unconventional,” Moneton says. “His emphasis on risk-taking and grit were a major factor in my pursuing a summer of independent research in China.”
If you have the opportunity to go abroad for a semester or summer, take it – I found it really rewarding to have time off from the Georgetown bubble, in order to understand its limits and also make the most of what it has to offer.
Moneton is also grateful for the people she has during her time at Georgetown, whether through the Center for Jewish Civilization and Carroll Fellows Initiative or through her involvement in student organizations like The Corp or The Caravel, where she served as editor-in-chief from 2015 to 2016.
“I will definitely miss living within walking distance of my closest friends,” Moneton says. “An interesting conversation at school is never more than a few blocks away, and I’ll miss having the time and opportunity to interact with my peers!”
For this reason, Moneton encourages Georgetown undergraduates to be outgoing, engage with other students, and build deep and meaningful relationships.
“Challenge yourself to get to know people who seem completely different from you in any or every way. College is a rare and unique opportunity to live in proximity of a huge diversity of individuals. Among them, seek out close friendships, and ask questions of your peers,” Moneton says.
“Ask them about their interests and what makes them tick, not about their midterms and their homework–avoid the small talk. Be vulnerable with people and share meaningful things with them. Keep an open mind about the people you meet, and don’t make assumptions about them with regards to anything.”