#WeAreElliott: Cian Deegan

Cian Deegan, M.A. International Affairs, 2023, #WeAreElliott

Cian Deegan is set to begin his final year of the Master of Arts in International Affairs program at the Elliot School, where is focusing on International Affairs and Development. He completed a bachelor’s degree in Spanish at Indiana University in 2011 and a master’s degree in Citizenship and Human Rights from the University of Barcelona in 2019. In addition to his current internship at the State Department’s Miami Media Hub of the Americas, as part of the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) program, Cian has worked in a variety of fields, namely public education, hospitality, and translation and localization, but is ready to begin a new career in the field of international affairs when he graduates in May 2023.

When did you realize you wanted an international career? What led you to choose the Elliott School?

I have known for a long time that I wanted a career with an international dimension of some sort, in part because my life has been shaped by international experiences. I was born in Ireland and immigrated with my family to the USA when I was 6-years-old. Later on, I studied foreign languages as an undergrad and have been working as a translator for the past five years in Spain. During lockdown in my apartment in Barcelona, I decided that I wanted to change careers to something where I would be designing or implementing policy instead of translating it. I knew the logical path would be earning a degree at a top university in the U.S. I chose the Elliot School upon the recommendation of a good friend who completed the same degree a number of years ago, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

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

Apart from translating, throughout the school year I have enjoyed a virtual internship with the Media Hub of the Americas, a State Department agency that engages major Spanish- and Portuguese-language media outlets to communicate U.S. policy to audiences throughout the region. It’s been a wonderful experience. Just recently I helped train a U.S. ambassador in media skills at their new post. I am still unsure of my specific career goals, but this internship has opened my eyes to the wide range of career paths that I could pursue in the public and private realms. There are countless government agencies, private companies, and NGOs in DC alone, and I hope to use the knowledge and experience gained at the Elliot School, my internships, and my language skills to find my niche in any one of them. Mostly, I am excited to begin working in the kinds of sectors we study in class, specifically international development and democracy promotion.

What has been your most rewarding academic experience at the Elliott School and why?

I have enjoyed every course I have taken here at the Elliot School. Every day I learn something new and find new interests. I never thought I would enjoy economics until I took a required course in my first semester. Professor Suranovic made the topic truly accessible and interesting. Nevertheless, in my entire academic career I have never taken a course as rewarding as History and its Uses in International Affairs, taught by Professor Hope Harrison. Since taking that course I will never look at the intersection of politics and history the same way. It has made me question my own long-held beliefs on politics, identity, culture, etc. I am so happy the course was required, otherwise I may not have taken it.

Describe the pros and cons of being a full-time or part-time student at the Elliott School.

I am the kind of person that enjoys being busy, so working and studying full-time is the way I want to do it. There is no doubt, however, that social and family life can suffer as a result. At the moment I don’t have a family of my own, so I haven’t had to make that sacrifice, but I have to make an effort to keep in touch with my parents and brothers and sister; I’d be in trouble if it weren’t for group texts. Despite these challenges, I have found most internship and work opportunities to be quite flexible, especially following the pandemic and the new digital workplace. Elsewhere, I get a lot of social interaction through my courses, where I have met some truly wonderful people who share a lot of similar interests. Everyone has something fascinating to tell, and I have learned as much from my classmates as I have from my professors.

What advice do you have for incoming students who are starting to think about internship and work opportunities?

In my experience, the trick is making direct connections with people working in places where you want to find internship and job opportunities. It is one thing to simply apply for a position through a posting, it is something entirely different to have a connection with someone working at the same NGO, company, agency, etc. LinkedIn is a great tool for that. Don’t be shy and reach out to anyone you think might be helpful. I have met lots of people working at exciting places who were more than willing to put me in touch with the right person. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but it’s the best way to find employment and internship opportunities. Secondly, make sure to take advantage with Graduate Career Development. I recently had a great conversation with Joshua Lissauer whose advice helped me secure an internship for the summer.

If you could donate unlimited funds to any cause, what would it be and why?

I would donate to documenting and reviving endangered and dead languages. Languages and their speakers offer a wealth of local knowledge, tradition, and culture that can be lost, plus they are fun to study. I have a friend who teaches at the University of Virginia who has done a lot of admirable work to help document and revitalize languages in Louisiana, including Louisiana Creole and a language isolate called Tunica.


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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