Thomas Sand Nielsen is an international student from Denmark. He just graduated from the University of South Alabama with a B.A. in Political Science in only three years, while he also ran track and cross country, and studied minors in economics and Spanish. Thomas will be a part of the International Economic Policy program at the Elliott School starting Fall 2021. Throughout his undergraduate years, Thomas learned to interpret and quantify data while working as a research assistant on a project that sought to analyze crime statistics and the role of media in South American countries. He is interested in acquiring an applicable set of skills that can help him better understand the economic aspect of international policy making. Thomas also has a background in international politics where he worked with youth organizations in Morocco and helped host a major conference in Rabat in a collaborative effort between Denmark and Morocco. Thomas loves traveling and meeting new people – and he also hopes to be able to practice his Spanish when gets to D.C.
What has been your most rewarding academic or professional experience so far?
One of my most rewarding professional experiences is actually from when I was still in high school back in Denmark. I was a part of an international development project between a Danish youth political organization and a group of Moroccan youth parties. I served as head of accounting in the project and I got to travel to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, and attend our conference. The conference was hosted in a collaborative effort between the Moroccan organizations and the Danish political organization which I was a part of. I got to meet many young people from all over Morocco who were all eager to learn from us. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to all of them and I made many friends – despite only being 18 years old myself at the time. The young Moroccans sought inspiration from the democratic processes we knew from back in Denmark, while we learned a lot from them about the Moroccan society and traditions. Coming from Denmark, a small and somewhat homogenous country, I found it to be particularly fascinating how one country, in this case Morocco, could be made up of multiple ethnicities working together under the same flag.
What are you looking forward to about living in the DMV?
I have had a desire to take part in international collaboration efforts as part of my future career for as long as I can remember and I do not think there is one place in the world more suitable for such aspiration than Washington D.C. – or the DMV in general, as it is an extraordinarily international place. I am looking very much forward to experiencing what the area has to offer. I want to meet people from all over the world (and perhaps I will get to practice my Spanish with someone too), connect with potential future employers in the area, and I also hope to spend some of my spare time learning more about American history by visiting the many great cultural and historic institutions available in the DMV area. All in all, I simply cannot wait to move to the mecca of international politics and start my graduate studies – it is a dream come true!
Is your grad program related to your undergrad degree?
I studied political science as my major for my undergraduate degree while double-minoring in economics and Spanish. I like to view my graduate program, being the International Economic Policy program, as sort of a combination of the three fields I studied during my undergraduate. Through undergraduate years, I found economic policy making to be the ideal fields for me to pursue for my further studies. I truly liked political science, but it was clear that the parts I liked the most were often related to economics – and my economics minor also manifested this preference of mine. While being an international student, it is hard for me not to also implement an international aspect to my studies – one way or another. So, I have been pursuing Spanish as a third language for the past few years and I obtained a minor in it too. In a way, I like to view the policy aspect of my graduate program as having been covered through my political science major, the economics aspect having been covered through my economics minor, while the international part of the program was covered by being an international student in the US and studying a foreign language. So yes, I definitely think the two degrees are related and I view this graduate program as a natural continuation of everything I liked in my undergraduate program.
Why did you choose to commit to the Elliott School for your graduate program?
I ended up choosing the Elliott School of International Affairs for my graduate studies for various reasons. The International Economic Policy program fits my interests and career plans perfectly. The location of the university is like no other. The thought of sitting in a class room only a few blocks away from the White House and Congress, while also being next door to numerous international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, is simply amazing. Ultimately, I wish to work to better international trade relations globally and I was never in doubt that the Elliott School, with its location in the heart of international politics and being set amid many international organizations, would be the perfect place for me to acquire the skills that I need. I have also been lucky enough to also have been given a spot on GW’s track and field and cross country teams as a long-distance runner. Thus, the university not only accommodates my academic interests perfectly, it also lets me continue being a student-athlete at the D1 level as a graduate student.
What has been an unexpected upside of living in COVID quarantine?
The COVID pandemic obviously brought with it many terrible things. But I remember how the early stages of the pandemic and the various quarantine phases allowed me to focus on my studies and prepare myself better for my upcoming search for graduate school. I was able to take extra summer classes as well as an extra class during the remaining semesters of my undergraduate years mainly due to the extra time that the COVID pandemic, its various restrictions, and quarantine phases freed up in my schedule. It ended up being essential in my plan of graduating one year early. I am in no doubt, had it not been for the pandemic, then the extra class load I was taking would have been more challenging as I do not think I would have had the same time available. So, in that sense, the COVID pandemic and the many weeks spend in quarantine, resulted in an unexpected upside by having more time available to focus on studying.
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The #IncomingElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights newly enrolling students to answer common questions posed by prospective and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.