This first-year student explains how the practice-oriented Master of International Affairs, with its foundation in quantitative skills, was the right choice for him.
Please tell us about yourself.
I am Joschua Schanda. I grew up in Germany in the Black Forest, and I spent the last five years in the United States where I did my undergrad in political science and international affairs. Right now I’m studying in the MIA programme with a focus on security and sustainability. My hobbies are pretty much everything outdoors – football, biking, snowboarding in winter, climbing, surfing.
Why did you choose the Master of International Affairs at the Hertie School?
I’ve always been interested in international politics, climate and climate policy, as well as migration movements. For these global issues, you need to have an understanding of where they’re coming from and how to deal with those challenges. So studying international affairs was the logical next step for me.
At Hertie, I really like the fact that we have spring/fall semesters and not winter/summer (in comparison to other German universities). It was important to me that you can have a close-knit system and more personal interaction with the professors here. Hertie is probably the only school that I know of in Germany teaching everything in English. That attracts more international students, and I learned from experience in my bachelor’s that I really thrive in a super international environment.
Finally, Berlin was also a deciding factor. I’ve been to the city before many times, and I had a network in Berlin already before moving here last September. I just think it’s the best city in the world.
What have been your favourite classes in the MIA program so far?
Global Governance with Professor Jachtenfuchs is up there. And this year I would say Conflict Management with Professor Sporrer is one of my favourites. I think it’s great to have a more practical approach to political science, and I’m really looking forward to all the different conflicts we’ll look at in the course. We split into groups, and each group covers a different conflict each session. Each session is four hours, but I think the way Professor Sporrer approaches the course is very interesting and it doesn’t feel long at all.
The first session was already a lesson in conflict management, because we had to negotiate among ourselves who would cover which topic. Already we were disagreeing because people wanted different things. We had to find a solution within 15 minutes, and if we couldn’t, the topics would be assigned randomly. And if one group used their veto power, none of us could move forward – like in an EU negotiation. So long story short, we were assigned a topic randomly – the one we wanted the least! It was interesting because you’d think it couldn’t be that hard to find a solution. But here we were after 15 minutes, just in a deadlock.
What have been the most useful practical skills you’ve learned?
The Conflict Management class is very practice- and skill-oriented, and so is International Security. We use a lot of R and conduct data analyses, which I am not a big fan of, but we all know we have to do it for our master’s thesis research. I like that we were introduced to it last year in Statistics I, and this year we’re applying what we learned almost every other week with a small task. You can do these data analyses in groups, and some people are better at it than others, but you just get together and learn by repetition. I think that’s been very helpful.
What would you say to incoming students who may be unsure about taking quantitative courses such as statistics and economics?
In undergrad, I’d taken one class in statistics and two in economics, so I did have some basic knowledge and wouldn’t say that Economics I was a big challenge for me. Statistics I was also not a big challenge, but that is largely due to Professor Kayser, who is the definition of charm. He is just amazing when it comes to explaining concepts, and the way he presents his slides makes it so much easier to follow the content. I am not a big statistics fan, and I’m not a big R fan, but I really liked the class because of the professor.
Like with everything new, it can be challenging at first. But if you use the resources, like reaching out to your professors, the different tutors, or your classmates, you’ll always find a way to make it work. I don’t think it’s impossible to cope with, and I think so far it’s been doable.
What advice would you give to people interested in the MIA, whether they’re currently going through the admissions process or just deciding if this is the right programme for them?
I think the Hertie School does a good job of connecting future prospective students and the Hertie community, either through the admissions team or others who answered my questions. I would also recommend prospective students to reach out to people who are already at Hertie. If you don’t know anyone or don’t have any contacts, reach out to Hertie in general and just ask questions. I think the school is very responsive and service-oriented.
Do you have any recommendations or favourite spots in Berlin that you’d like to share?
There is a little-known spot down south called Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände. It’s an abandoned train station that was transformed into a park. There’s an art gallery in the hall where they used to park the trains, and some people have their studios there too. The outside area has been completely remodelled so that you can walk on former railroad tracks. And there is art all over place. It’s open to the public, and you usually only need to pay one euro to get in. It’s not your average Berlin park where there are people playing music, drinking beer, partying – it’s more tranquil and chill. Tall trees, birds chirping all over the place.