Faiqa Khan Niazi is a second-year graduate student pursuing an M.A. in International Development with a focus in Gender and Private Sector Development at the Elliott School of International Affairs. She has 5 years of professional experience working with NGOs, the public sector, and social enterprises in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Faiqa was the recipient of the Freeman Foundation Grant for 2022 and she interned in Cambodia working on gender impact investments and gender and disability. Previously, she has worked with the Provincial Government in Pakistan and has leveraged her technical skills to consult with the National Democratic Institute. At the Elliott School, she has served as a graduate representative on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, the Elliott School Graduate Board and the Leadership, Ethics and Practice Initiative. In her free time. Faiqa enjoys trekking, reading up on entrepreneurship, and travelling.
What has been your favorite experience at the Elliott School so far and why?
My favorite experience at the Elliott has to be my internship in Phnom Penh, Cambodia this summer. As a Freeman Foundation grantee, I owe it to the Elliott School to have given me this wonderful opportunity. I was one of the lucky students who received support to travel abroad and experience the Southeast Asian culture. I believe, if this opportunity had not existed, I would not have been able to really get the hands-on experience I had been secretly wishing for and that too perfectly aligned with my specialization in Gender and Private Sector Development. I worked on projects focused on gender disability, ranging from financial literacy to implementing Gender Lens Incubation and Acceleration toolkit. It was extremely insightful and very interesting!
What courses have you found most helpful in your intern experience and how have they been useful?
The first course is Development Policy and Practice, taught by Professor Fink and Professor Ledermann, which introduced me to the tools and frameworks most useful to the field of International Development. This summer I used all the tools that I learned in class to help the social enterprise I was working with as a Freeman grantee. The fact this course is project-focused and allows students to test their concepts from the start until the end makes it different from other courses. The second course I absolutely loved was the skills course called Gender Advisor: Roles and Skills, taught by Professor Bertone. It’s a great course to learn the basics of gender concepts from a consultancy point of view. Since my aspiration is to be a Gender consultant in the future, both courses have allowed me to dive deep into my specific interest area and build very focused skills pertinent for my specialization.
Describe the pros and cons of being a full-time or part-time student at the Elliott School.
I am a full-time student. For F-1 international students, you cannot work full time for the first year because the laws limit the number of hours and that can be disappointing to many international students. However, on the bright side, being a full-time student means you have every opportunity available on campus at your disposal. For me, that was being a member of three prestigious boards including the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council; the Leadership, Ethics and Practice Initiative; and the Elliott School Graduate Board. It does depend how well an individual can balance; however, for me it was possible and equally amazing to connect with different people and also have the ability to make an impact through leadership roles. I’d just say, be positive in creating experiences at GW, it doesn’t matter whether you are a part-time or full-time student.
What resources or strategies have proven to be the most valuable in helping you reach success at the Elliott School?
In terms of resources, Handshake is very thorough. Many students do not fully explore it. The information can get overwhelming sometimes but that’s okay. Your Graduate Student Services office in general and academic advisor in particular should be your go-to person for understanding anything that might seem too confusing. Personally, my career coaches have played a very crucial role in the way I have progressed at the Elliott School. I have always researched, pre-planned before hand, and then practiced with my coaches or taken their help wherever necessary. Additionally, building a relationship with your professors also helps a lot. I have been very lucky to get a very focused guidance from my professors who are also my mentors and together we have worked out ways to make the best use of my skills in my particular field.
What advice do you have for prospective students who are comparing a graduate program at the Elliott School with other DC grad schools?
Know the power of networks and don’t underestimate it. The Elliott School has one of the most well-connected network across the U.S. and the world. Network is a make-or-break factor when it comes to career growth, so when you invest in your education, invest in your network too. The diversity in the student body as well as the faculty will not only allow you get varied perspectives but also a very vast network that will translate into amazing career opportunities later on.
What city outside of the U.S. should people should visit and why?
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico! You have to travel to Mexico during your March break. It’s a must! The weather is amazing, and the city has some of the most pristine white sand beaches. It’s a very budget friendly trip and the food is the best I’ve had so far!
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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 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.