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SAIS Was the Perfect Fit

Diego Lingad

Diego Lingad
Home Countries: Philippines and the U.S.
Degree: Master of Arts in International Relations
Scholarship: Public Service Fellow

Before joining the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), what were you doing?

Immediately before joining SAIS, I spent about six weeks traveling in East and Southeast Asia.

Before that, I worked for two years as an Adviser at the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in New York. I primarily handled social, cultural, and humanitarian issues in the General Assembly. I also covered the Security Council and helped with bilateral relations. Finding myself negotiating resolutions, crafting policy recommendations, and casually running into foreign ministers or the UN Secretary General on a normal work day, less than a year after college, was a surreal experience. I also previously served as a Research Intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Southeast Asia Program, as well as a Global Health Intern at the United Nations Foundation.

Being in public service and having the opportunity to work towards a better world was the privilege of a lifetime.

I wanted a program that had both a practical curriculum and specialized expertise … SAIS was the perfect fit.

What led you to Johns Hopkins SAIS?

Having worked for a few years, I wanted to go to grad school to reflect on my experience so far and learn new skills to bring my career forward. I wanted a program that had both a practical curriculum and specialized expertise, in my case expertise on Southeast Asia. I was also looking for a program with a strong quantitative foundation — something I knew I would need. SAIS was the perfect fit.

What has been your favorite experience at SAIS and why?

So far, my favorite experience has been a hike in Shenandoah National Park as part of the Public Service Fellows and Scholars program! In addition to being in nature, it was nice to get to know my peers better. On the hike, I found it amusing how easily conversations can go from getting-to-know-you questions to lively exchanges on international relations. It has been nice being around fellow IR nerds.

Diego Lingad

SAIS students in the Public Service Fellows and Scholars program took part in a hike in the Shenandoah National Park, just a one and a half hour drive from Washington, D.C.

What do you plan on pursuing after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to continue in the multilateral space, ideally in Southeast Asia where I can work on development projects from start to finish. I will gain experience on the ground and work directly with communities for whom these development projects seek to help. In five to 10 years, I aim to transition into a policymaking capacity where my education and on-the-ground experience will help me craft effective policy.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students in the process of choosing graduate schools?

I agonized over my decision. I visited the campuses during admit open house days. I read and reread curricula and faculty profiles. By doing so, I identified how different programs match up with my study and career goals, but that only allowed me to narrow down my list. The technique that helped me in the end was imagining myself having committed to a program and reflecting on how I felt throughout the day. When I imagined myself having committed to SAIS, it just felt right. Trust your instincts.

Who have you learned the most from during your time at SAIS?

My peers! SAISers are passionate about history, politics, and world events, and usually have strong opinions. It’s been interesting to learn from them and, at times, debating in a way that deepens my understanding of different viewpoints and sharpens my thinking. I’ve learned that good policies and good ideas do not form in a vacuum — they come from healthy doses of collaboration, debate, and even dissent.
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 Diego's experience? Learn more about our Master of Arts in International Relations.

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