Małgorzata Zacheja

Year of MA graduation: 2018

Current occupation: International Programs Coordinator at the European Academy of Diplomacy

What skills have you gained while studying that you think you would not acquire anywhere else?

Communication: asking questions, active listening, multicultural communication, public speaking, networking, team work;

Personal: confidence, time management, showing initative, resilience, leadership;

Technical: writing, research and analysis;

What do you do professionally at the moment?

I am currently the International Programs Coordinator at the European Academy of Diplomacy, where I coordinate the United 4 News – Building Democratic Resilience against Disinformation project, sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy. I also organize several short-term trainings, such as European Diplomacy Workshop, Diplomatic Skills Masterclass, EAD Alumni Club in-person gathering. I also worked with many international institutions such as the Council of Europe, OPEC, Central European Bank, ENISA, and Warsaw Security Forum, as well as countless diplomatic missions in Poland.

In the past, I also interned at the U.S. Embassy in Poland in the Protocol and Public Affairs section during the last months of President Obama’s second term. I had the chance to meet in-person President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as hear former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright deliver a speech.

Since I graduated at the end of 2018, I have finished the Academy of Young Diplomats program with a specialization in International Security, as well as OSCE – UNODA Scholarship for Peace and Security on Conflict Prevention and Resolution through Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. Currently, I am also a part of the Chatham House’s Common Future Conversations program.

In what way the experience of studying at the ASC influenced your future career choices and helped you get to the place where you are today, both professionally and personally?

When I started my BA degree in 2013, I decided to try a lot of new things and find out whether they might become my future career. While studying at the ASC, I met many people who inspired me and I realized how many great opportunities await just around the corner. Throughout my 5 years at ASC, I have done many amazing things that all together have led me to the place where I am today.

Some of them were:
– Erasmus+ exchange at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice
– China Summer School at Tsinghua University in Beijing
– Logistics Coordinator for Warsaw at the Beijing Forum with the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing
– 15th Transatlantic Student Symposium
– U.S. Delegate at the UN Security Council
– VEUMUN in Venice
– Member of the ASC Students’ Union
– Student Representative to the Senate of the Institute of Americas and Europe,
– Mentee at the Top Minds mentoring and training program.

Has someone at the ASC had a particular impact on you and inspired you in some way?

It would be impossible to write down every person who impacted me at ASC, but some people deserve the above-the-fold thanks. Professor Grzegorz Kość for giving a gentle approval of my writing in my first course (the whole thing was still marked in red, but the comment was “solid piece of writing”). I took that to heart and haven’t stopped writing since. Professor David Jones for being my two-time thesis supervisor and approving my ever-changing interests and revisions. Dr Małgorzata Durska for the absolutely terrifying class (for an introvert) on Communicating in the American Workplace. It forced me completely out of my comfort zone, but it has been invaluable in my professional experience. Professor Paweł Frelik for giving all of us the tools to critically analyze what we see and also, explore our creativity freely. One of my favorite projects was comparing Renaissance paintings to promotional campaign posters of season 2 of Daredevil (I believe it was for the Audiovisual Culture in the US course.)

Would you choose the program again?

100%, one of the best choices of my life.

To whom would you recommend pursuing a degree in American Studies?

To open-minded people who want to explore themselves at their own pace. You might find that you suddenly become interested in a completely different topic. Through the 12 years in a fully Polish education system, I never really took to history and social studies. Look at me now, 2 theses written on history, politics, and diplomacy. All thanks to the first class of the BA program with Prof. Glass. I attended the first lecture and thought, huh, I am a history person now.

What are your future career aspirations?

I want to have a career first that is in line with my values and in an international environment. I am open to opportunities from various fields, but currently I am leaning towards a career in diplomacy in one of the international organizations, as it ties with another one of my interests – foreign languages.

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

After defending my MA thesis, I wrote, what I like to call, a love letter to the ASC. It pretty much sums up my thoughts.

A place that wasn’t a common choice for usual student candidates and lead to me forever explaining what American Studies are and why they’re important.

A place where I felt the American spirit that I have encountered countless times before.

A place where no one cared what your sexual orientation is, and everyone could discuss the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race without any judgement.

A place where I could talk to my teachers as friends and as real people who understood that sometimes life is not perfect and the students are still trying to make it as best they can.

A place where I learnt how fascinating history and politics can be.

A place where we established that “Lost” is the greatest tv series ever made.

A place where I’ve been taught to think critically and analytically.

A place where you could code switch between English and Polish and it was completely normal.

A place where I regained my excitement towards learning.

A place where you were sometimes given assignments that made you think „why, God, why, do I have to analyze Walt Whitman again?”

A place where I made incredible friends from around the world who are doing amazing things and it’s a blessing just to be a part of their lives.

A place where I realized that the sentence „fake it till you make it” holds a very real meaning.

A place where I learnt how to write an entire essay in two hours, just short of the final deadline glaring in almost neon colors on my computer screen.

A place where I was engaged in different art forms, made a zine, and compared Renaissance paintings to promotional campaign posters of season 2 of Daredevil, on Tumblr, for a grade.

A place where I was encouraged to explore more of what I liked and do the absolute minimum of the things I didn’t.

A place where students could discuss a presidential candidate’s optics in the primary campaign, post modernism in literature, feminist elements in Beyoncé’s Formation, and the view of politics in Machiavelli’s Prince, all in one day.

A place where I learnt to decipher the daily news and distinguish it from fake news.

A place where I turned from a quiet person I was in high school to a person that grabbed people’s attention solely through what I had to say.

A place where I was pushed outside of my comfort zone.

A place where I learnt about the power of forming unlikely alliances.

A place where I realized that the thing I would never consider interesting before, can become a fantastic essay topic.

A place where I analyzed poems and enjoyed it.

A place where I made public speeches and survived.

A place where I sometimes took the hardest courses on purpose because they would teach me the most.

A place where we loved watching movies or tv series and saying „it’s for research purposes.”

A place where we would still check the Chicago Style Manual for every single essay we wrote.

A place where I felt accepted for exactly who I am – an introverted nerd who can become the most chatty person on the planet if something catches my attention.

A place that taught me perseverance.

A place that lead me to meeting my idols in person – SoS Madeleine Albright, SoS John Kerry, and President Barack Obama.

So, to anyone asking: Why did you choose American Studies? What will you do with this degree?

I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really knows who they’re destined to be.

While listening to Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming,” I’ve heard a quote that resonated with me in:

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”

My growth has begun and I’m curious to see where it leads me. But, I know that there is a small place in Warsaw where one floor of one building became an entire community.

A place I am glad to have called home for 5 years. Now, 2 degrees later, thank you ASC for making me into who I am today – a better analyst, a better listener, and a better human.