The Bush School is fully committed to its mission of educating and training principled leaders as well as performing service. Learn more about why students have chosen the Bush School of Government & Public Service as Christopher Weech, class of 2023 Master of International Affairs candidate, discusses his experience at the Bush School. Chris’s main focus is International Economics and Trade Policy.
My name is Chris and I’m a second-year International Affairs student. My main focus here at the Bush School is International Economics and Trade Policy.
Why did you choose to come to the Bush School?
There are a lot of different reasons why I picked the Bush School. So, originally I’m from the DC area. I’m sure a lot of you are already looking at programs or have looked at programs that are in the DC area, and I think I just wanted to experience something a little bit different. The Bush School is definitely a departure from a lot of the programs that are in the DC area. Something that I really liked and enjoyed about this program is the practitioner focus. I think that’s really special and unique about this program and I figured, if I’m going to someday be an international development worker, I think its best to learn from people who have actually done it as opposed to just academics. So I think the practitioner focus is special. If we’re being really honest, you can’t beat the economics. They offer such generous scholarships and the cost of living is so much cheaper here than in DC that you just can’t beat what you’re getting for the price that you’re getting.
What is one of your favorite things about the Bush School?
One of the most fruitful things about my experience at the Bush School has been developing really strong relationships with a couple of professors. In particular, I can think of Dr. Robertson. He’s been a professor – I’ve had him for two classes – but he’s also been a mentor, he offered me a job working as a student researcher. I think that opportunity has been unique and I’m not sure I would have gotten that somewhere else so I think developing these really strong relationships with professors has been special. And it’s not just him, I think almost all the professors here have been so welcoming that you can go to their offices at any point. They’re always here, which is really nice. I think professors in DC do work full time, but professors who are here in College Station ARE here in College Station for the students, and I think that’s a focus that’s really special.
What activities do you engage in at the Bush School?
I’ve been involved in a lot of different extracurricular activities here at the Bush School. So one is being a student researcher. I was employed as a student researcher for Dr. Robertson. So he essentially had an external client – the US Consul for International Business – and they had a research project, and he needed somebody to help him get that project over the line. So working with Dr. Robertson, I was able to practice my quantitative analysis skills, practice my writing skills, and really work with an external client which is an invaluable experience to have. I am also a Bush Board Fellow, so I am getting a nonprofit management certificate, and as part of that, it’s really helpful to me to serve on a local board. So as a Bush Board Fellow, you get to apply to work on any of the local boards for nonprofits that are in the area. I serve on the board for the local library system, which has been a fun experience just to see how boards operate at a local level, as well as get more in touch with our local community because they do so much community work that’s really important. This year, I’m working as a GAR, so I’ve been a student researcher, and now I’m a GAR for Dr. Teague. And that has just started, but it looks like it’ll be an amazing experience where I’m helping Dr. Teague get her manuscript across the line and help her with a few other research projects as well.
What is life like in College Station?
Life in College Station, it is, if you’re from a big city like me, it is a bit of a departure from that, so it’s a small town. It seems small to me, for some people I’m sure it’s big but it is a little bit different being isolated. We’re not necessarily close to major cities. But that being said, there are still plenty of things to do. Game days are a special experience, so if you like college football or other college sports, this is the place to get involved with that. College Station itself, I think being isolated is both a bit of a blessing and a curse. We aren’t necessarily close to major cities, but with that being said, we still do get visits from highly qualified speakers and visitors and people that come to College Station. Even though we’re not necessarily part of a major city, this is a place that still attracts the people that ou want to meet with and you want to speak to.
It is a fun group of students. I think one of the things that’s nice about College Station is it attracts people from all over the place. So you have students from all types of backgrounds. We have a really healthy – especially in the International Development and Economic Policy Program – really healthy international population. So it is fun to get all of these really diverse ideas. And as a student in College Station and especially at the Bush School, there are so many fun ways to get involved. So students are always doing fun things outside of the Bush School. We have a pretty dedicated intramural sports team for volleyball, soccer, there’s Dillo Cup. There are always opportunities. Students are always going out and supporting each other. Being a student here, it’s like being a part of a community. You’re not an individual who’s competing against another one. We’re all here working as a community to support each other.
What was the most challenging part of your first year at the Bush School?
I think the most challenging thing at the Bush School was, when I came in in my first year, I was actually working full-time for the Department of Public Health in Georgia. And I think managing a full-time job as well as being a full-time student at the same time got a little bit hectic. I think it worked out in the end in that it really helped my time management skills and I was able to deal with everything that was on my plate all at once. But at the same time, if I had to do it again, I don’t think that’s necessarily the path I would take because I wasn’t able to spend as much time with my fellow students meeting with professors, and getting the most out of the opportunities at the Bush School because I was so focused on work. So I think finding that balance and actually forcing myself to take advantage of the opportunities that are here at the Bush School has been a bit of a challenge.
What did you do this summer?
My summer experience was actually amazing. I was the Econ Intern at the US Embassy in Quito, so my daily responsibilities were essentially just doing daily economic reporting. So I was able to write cables as varied as: there was new mining and oil policy that came out, so I had to write a cable on what are the effects of this policy, how is that going to affect Equador in the long term, as well as potential investors – to things like, I had to write a cable cacao sector, so how are women involved in the cacao sector at a grassroots level in Equador. So it was really varied and dynamic, the work that I did. It was fun in that I got to receive trade delegations, so I received the governor’s delegation from Nebraska to try and help build future partnerships between Equador and Nebraska. So the work itself was amazing. Ecuador is such an amazing and beautiful country that it was fun to be there, even if the work wasn’t so engaging. So I was able to do work that was really meaningful and interesting, kind of at the highest level. I’d never worked with Ambassadors and governors and ministers of different departments before, so I thought it was an amazing experience. Getting some practical experience as well as kind of getting to see what a career in the State Department might look like.
What advice do you have for prospective or incoming students?
For students considering the Bush School, I think the thing that tipped me over the line really were the scholarships. I think just considering the costs of other programs relative to the cost of this program, cause we’re getting just as good of an education, if not better, than some of the other programs that cost 10, 15, 20 times as much. So I think, just being aware of the benefits of coming to Texas even though it seems a little bit out of the way, just being aware of the benefits that you’re getting by coming here is definitely something you should take into consideration while applying.
If I had to go back and do my first year again, I think, there are a lot of opportunities that I just didn’t take advantage of. There are always speakers, there are always career presentations. I don’t think I did enough of those as a first-year. Now, as a second year I’m more into the routine, I’m more aware of what’s going on, but I think in the first year, just coming to the career presentations – lunch is almost always free – so coming to those can be really beneficial as you get to network and see what potential opportunities are out there. Also, it’s my first year taking a class outside of the Bush School, so I’m able to take a class in the agricultural economics department. I think being aware of the opportunities that are at Texas A&M generally as opposed to just kind of within our own little bubble here at the Bush School, is something that you should definitely think about as a first-year student.