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From Kansas to Canada and Back

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Ashley Cossaart
MA Canadian Studies

1. What encouraged you to apply to Johns Hopkins SAIS? 
I was drawn to Johns Hopkins SAIS for several reasons. Being located in DC, I knew there would be endless opportunities to hear from the most influential people in the world of politics. Furthermore, Johns Hopkins SAIS is a renowned institution with the best and the brightest professors and students from all over the world. The thought of being surrounded by incredibly intelligent people that bring new and innovative ideas to the table was a very exciting concept to me. Lastly, I was drawn to SAIS for its rigorous economics curriculum. Before attending SAIS, I had a very limited understanding of economics. In order to have a career in trade, I knew I would need to have a good foundation in economic concepts.

2. What were you doing before attending the school? 
After graduating from the University of Kansas, I moved to New York City and began working in litigation at Arent Fox law firm in Midtown. At the time, I was on a path to eventually go to law school. Instead of applying to law school straight out of undergrad, I decided to work in the legal field to better my chances at getting into a good school and to ensure that I was on the correct career path. While I enjoyed my time working in the legal field, I knew my true calling was to work in the public sector working on policy issues.             

3. Tell us why you chose Canadian Studies, and what do you hope to gain from it?
During my junior year at the University of Kansas, I interned at the Embassy of Canada in the Media Relations department. It was the year 2018 and relations between the US and Canada were becoming increasingly tense. President Trump implemented a frenzy of steel, aluminum, and auto tariffs, NAFTA was being re-negotiated, and the countries debated whether the U.S. had a trade deficit or surplus with Canada. As an intern, I was responsible for monitoring how the bilateral relationship was being presented in the press. At the end of my internship, I was offered a job as a policy assistant in the Embassy of Canada’s trade and economic department where I was able to delve into US – Canada trade issues and specific issues relating to transportation and technology.

I loved everything about working at the Embassy of Canada. As a result of this experience, I became a major advocate of the US-Canada relationship. When it came time to pick my region of focus at SAIS, it was a no-brainer. The Canadian Studies program at SAIS gave me an in-depth understanding of Canadian policy issues and helped me develop my skills in policy writing. I am confident that my background in Canadian Studies will help me when working on US-Canada policy again in the future.

4. Tell us about one of your favorite experiences, classes, or memories at the school.
One of my favorite experiences at SAIS was when my practicum group went to Toronto during spring break to present policy options to our client, the Canadian Infrastructure Bank. During our time in Toronto, my practicum group got the chance to interview people in high-level positions to get a deeper understanding of Canadian infrastructure challenges and opportunities. Once our presentation and interviews concluded, we explored the city and enjoyed what Toronto has to offer. For many of us, this was our first chance to leave the country since the start of Covid-19.

5. As a graduating student, what is some advice you’d give to future students?
As a graduating student, some advice I would give to future students would be to take advantage of the time you have with your peers. Students at SAIS are top-notch and have a lot to bring to the table. I truly believe that some of the best networking you can do is with your own peers.

6. As a prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Finalist, how will your degree better prepare you for your future career?
My SAIS degree has better prepared me for my future career by providing me with a skill in policy writing. I think the curriculum at SAIS does a great job at ensuring that students are able to turn their knowledge and research into succinct policy briefs that would be useful to policymakers. In my future career working on policy issues, this writing skill will be crucial to have.

If you are looking to learn more about what it's like to be a current student at Johns Hopkins SAIS, we encourage you to schedule a virtual appointment with one of our Admissions Fellows.

Enjoyed reading Ashley's experience? Learn more about our Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR).

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