Annie Joy Williams is a Class of 2022 Master of International Affairs candidate at the Bush School in the National Security & Diplomacy Track.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Annie joy Williams. I am a second-year Master of International Affairs student here at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, where I have concentrations in Middle Eastern Studies, Topics in Terrorism and International Media Engagement. Prior to my time here, I was a student at the University of Mississippi in the Lott Leadership Institute. I studied public policy leadership and journalism.
During my time in undergrad, I had the privilege to conduct a self-designed research study in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where I focused on women’s rights and Saudi-American relations. I also had a chance to study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where I took classes in conflict resolution and city planning. Both of those experiences opened my eyes to the world of international affairs and piqued my interest specifically in Middle East studies, which is what led me to apply to the Bush School.
How would you describe your Bush School experience thus far?
My experience at the Bush School has far surpassed my expectations coming in. I have particularly enjoyed the relationships I’ve built with my professors and academic advisor. It’s very clear they have a vested interest in us as students, in our success not just within the classroom but also starting our careers. My professors have connected me with experts in the field of Middle Eastern journalism, where I want to work, and have gone far beyond the call of the professor to help serve their students better.
I have also been shocked by how much camaraderie I’ve found with my colleagues here at the Bush School. I didn’t expect to find the level of community I’ve found here. Everyone has a common interest that bonds them but also very different lived experience, which gives them important insight on the topics we’re discussing.
What did you do in the summer between your first and second year?
My summer internship was one of my favorite things I’ve done at the Bush School. It was definitely an unconventional one. I had applied to 87 internships around March of last year. I’d either gotten rejected, not heard from them, or I’d had three interviews and not gotten the position. I reached out to my academic advisor, Dr. Gregory Gause — and this is an example of him going above and beyond — and he connected me with a former student who was working in Dubai as a business journalist. She offered me an internship, and I thought ‘why not? Let’s do it.’ So I went to Dubai.
It was the biggest growth experience of my life. I learned a ton about the world of journalism, business journalism, which was completely foreign to me, and also the Middle East. It was very interesting to live and work with in a [Persian] Gulf state, which is my region of interest.
If I had gone straight form undergrad into the internship, I would’ve been completely lost. Studying about the region for a year prior to going from experts who have lived within the Gulf definitely opened my eyes to what I would be dealing with there and the differences and the ways of life.
It was also really neat to work with a former Bush student across the globe, because she had been right where I had been. She had lived in my Bush School shoes and navigated the career search. It has connected me with tons of resources for finding a job come May and boosted my resume. I wouldn’t be getting this far in the job search if I hadn’t had that internship.
What is a challenge you encountered related to your Bush School education up to this point and how did you overcome it?
I came fresh out of undergrad and didn’t have the lived experience of a lot of my colleagues who had spent years working in international affairs. In the classroom, I was quickly humbled with my opinions. The classes are extremely rigorous. It pushed me to become a better thinker and young professional. The way that I overcame the feeling that I was behind was by investing in the readings, talking with professors, going to office hours, reading on my own time and being up to date with the news — all those things helped me have a better Bush School experience.
What advice would you give to first-years?
Show up. That is the best advice for life, especially at the Bush School — I’m already realizing that as I’m entering my last semester. This is a very rare place with very important experts in the field and a very impressive cohort of colleagues. So show up socially, academically, in clubs, any way that you are able. The time is fleeting, but it can be a fruitful journey for everyone, as it was for me.