#WeAreElliott: Rudan Balay

Rudan Balay is a communications specialist at a Washington, DC-based news publication and is currently pursuing an M.A. in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution at the Elliott School of International Affairs. She is the co-founder of Human Rights Post, an Instagram platform that addresses human rights violations in different languages. Rudan has launched various projects on refugee and IDP rights, religious minority rights, and youth development in Iraqi Kurdistan and represents Iraq at the annual United Nations Youth for Human Rights conference in New York. Rudan has lived on three continents in her 25 years, speaks four languages, and has a published bachelor’s thesis on Islamic State recruitment tactics from the State University of New York in Prague, Czech Republic.

When did you realize you wanted an international career? 

I come from a Kurdish immigrant background and was born in Germany, raised in the Czech Republic, lived in the Middle East, and spent the last four years of my life in the United States, so I’ve always looked at the world through an international lens and felt like it was inevitable that I was going to pursue an international career. While I’ve always been surrounded and fascinated by different cultures, it wasn’t until I travelled to international youth conferences in Qatar, Ireland, and New York that really solidified my passion of wanting to work in the international field.

Where do you currently work and how does it fit in with your career goals?

I am currently a Communications Specialist at CEO Update, a Washington, DC-based news publication. We provide news and host events in the association and nonprofit community, so it’s very much an environment where you meet and work with individuals from all walks of life. I also volunteer at several refugee and IDP camps in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where I work on projects that advocate for human rights education and provide English classes to children who have been displaced due to war and conflict. The gaps in human rights education, sustainable development, and intercultural understanding in the Middle East have always been a driving force in my life, which is what ultimately led me to joining Elliott.

What tools/strategies have proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?

I would definitely have to say the Office of Graduate Student Services! GSS has a ton of resources available to you, all you have to do is reach out to someone from the office and they will guide you through every step of the way with anything you need—from career development tips to academic advising. In my first semester at ESIA, I sat down with the career coach Sharon McCoy, who walked me through everything I needed to know in order to feel comfortable and succeed not only at ESIA, but also in my career.  

What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?

Always remind yourself of why you are here and remember the challenges and hardships you faced to get to where you are. I think we often times get so caught up with school stress and work anxieties, that we forget to celebrate the little accomplishments in life. So, celebrate yourself, always push to be better and do better, and remind yourself how good you’re going to feel when you finally accomplish a task or a milestone. Most importantly however, set time aside for yourself and your hobbies. Especially as we find ourselves in this pandemic, use the time to get to know yourself better, your likes, your dislikes, and how you envision your future.

What has been the best investment you’ve made since quarantine?

My best investment thus far has been creating an Instagram page with fellow activists I work with during the annual United Nations human rights youth conferences. We address international human rights issues in three different languages (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) with the aim of using Instagram as a platform to shed light and educate youth on human rights violations taking place worldwide. You can check our Instagram page out at @HumanRights.


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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.