Graduate Student April Snedeker Says “Never a Dull Moment” When Studying Dynamic Region


December 16, 2016 by Margaux Fontaine

When April Snedeker (MAERES’17) was 14, she spent a summer in Ukraine on a volunteer program, which immediately sparked her interest in studying the region. Over the years, this interest broadened.

“I have always been interested in how people situate the region in a global context,” says Snedeker, a graduate student in the Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies (MAERES) program, which is managed by the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies (CERES). “In this light, it’s been an interesting time to study the region. 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the former republics are trying to find their place in the world.”

She cites Ukraine as an example of this shifting political climate.

“Ukrainians are exploring the tension between efforts to integrate with Europe, while still dealing with the Soviet legacy and ties to Russia,” she explains.

A similar balancing act is found in Central Asia, where countries are grappling with pressures from Russia, China, the West, and national identities.

“The region is extremely dynamic and in a state of flux,” she says. “As such, there is never a dull moment.”

Snedeker has studied Russian for seven years, and was able to use the language in practice while studying and conducting research in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for eight months in 2011 and 2012.

She came to the MAERES program  looking to expand upon her interest in the region. Given the two-year duration of the master’s program, she has chosen her courses carefully, focusing on developing skills in functional areas such as politics or economics. But she has not been alone in this endeavor.

“My advisors at Georgetown have helped me at every phase of the decision-making process,” she says. “You can always rely on them to give you honest insight into which courses will be more valuable to you.”

She has also found career guidance and support within CERES.

“CERES offers amazing support to students, and professors are always willing to help students in any way that they can,” she says. “I regularly meet up with former professors to ask for career advice.”

As Snedeker has enjoyed learning from her professors, she also praises her classmates’ intelligence and passion about the subject area.

snedeker-falcon“At CERES, we all study the same region, but because we have wide range of backgrounds and experiences, we view and approach the region slightly differently,” she says. “Learning from my peers has given me a more nuanced understanding of the region.”

While the MAERES program focuses on one specific region, she notes that it is also a professional program that provides students with the opportunity to develop skills useful to future careers. She cites one of her favorite courses, “Business in Eurasia”, as an example of this.

“As a part of the [Business in Eurasia] course, students complete a small consultancy for a company that conducts business in Eurasia or hopes to break into these markets,” she says. “It is common for courses to have a professional development component such as this.”

Building on this professional approach, she says that Georgetown’s location in Washington, D.C. allows for classes to be taught by practitioners who work in the field, providing students with professional insight.

It also gives students the opportunity to pursue jobs and internships in their relevant fields even before graduation, an opportunity that Snedeker has embraced. She is currently working on the Eurasia team at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), where she helps develop and manage programs in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia that aim to improve the business environment for small and medium-sized businesses. Through this work she is able to apply and expand on what she has learned in the classroom.

“Prior to this work, I was fairly unfamiliar with business in the region,” she says. “However, I have come to view the region through a completely different lens.”

“My work at CIPE focuses on the bread and butter issues that affect people’s everyday lives,” she continues. “Understanding what drives people at this level can help explain broader socio-economic and political trends.”

After graduating in the spring, Snedeker hopes to either continue her work in international economic development or pursue a job in the political risk field.

“My experience in CERES has solidified my interest in working with business in Eurasia,” she says. “I am now exploring whether I prefer to work with American or multi-national companies doing business in Eurasia, or working with local businesses in the region.”

The advice she would give to students who are considering pursuing the MAERES program would be to “come in with an open mind.”

“Be willing to explore new functional areas that you may not have considered, such as business or security,” she says. “Once you have figured out what line of work you are hoping to pursue, develop expertise and skills in that area. Additionally, pursue internship opportunities that will give you professional experience to complement your academic expertise.”