Brian Farell - Class 2011

Imagine going to class in December when temperatures are in the mid-sixties to lower-seventies. Imagine earning two coveted Masters degrees in thirteen months while studying on the doorstep of global headlines. Imagine that the program’s tuition equates to an out-of-state semester, and the cost of living is about the same as rural West Virginia. Plans for the weekend could point towards Rome, Valencia, Bologna, Paris, Cyprus or Morocco. The “too good to be true” adage does not apply here: this is the marriage of ICAR and the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies (MEDAC), hosted at the University of Malta.

Last June, after receiving an ICAR email regarding an opportunity to study in Malta, I knew that it was an ideal opportunity for academic rigor and personal enrichment. Following this insight, I then looked up where Malta can be found in an Atlas. Malta is an island found between the boot of Italy and the Libyan coast, which has conveniently placed us on the door step of current events. The demonstrations in Tunisia began while we studied Mediterranean regionalism under MEDAC director Prof. Stephen Calleya. Mubarak fell while German Chair Professor Monika Wohlfeld instructed security studies, and while Swiss Chair Professor Derek Lutterbeck lectured the natural resources in a conflict economy, Libyan pilots landed in Malta after refusing orders to bomb their own citizens.

Eleven students have completed the first semester of the newlywed ICAR/MEDAC program. Comprised of seven North Americans and four Maltese, the geographic demography of the inaugural cohort lacks the Arlington campus’s billboard global representation. However, the professional and personal diversities form a cohort that fosters ideal chemistry for conflict resolution inquiry. Students have worked professionally in journalism, law, NGOs, the State Department, and the private sector. This exceptional cohort has deeply enriched me, and as per theory has formed our own in-group identity. We did not choose our family; admissions did.

The unique modular delivery of the program offers each course truncated to one or two weeks. The cohort meets four to five sessions per week for upwards of eight hours per day. ICAR and MEDAC faculty teach in a state-of-the-art classroom in a university over 400 years old. The faculty face the challenge of acquainting themselves to students with established relationships and chemistry. Usually their integration to this group is achieved following a toasted pint at actor Oliver Reed’s watering hole, and they beomce an intergral part of the group dynamic.

Recently, we met MEDAC’s diplomats for a grad school mixer. The inevitable question they asked: “What are you studying?” The elevator pitch for the program is very difficult. What exactly is it that we study? What do we do? We began the course with a perfunctory, heavy dosage of Galtung, Burton, Lederach et al,. After applying theory-derived insights towards reflective practice through Prof. Cheldelin’s guidance and Prof Korostelina’s identity-based conflict, we have since studied MEDAC realism. The elevator pitch has become easier: “We’re applied theory practitioner students who specialize in Mediterranean security.”

Over the New Year’s break, a colleague suggested a weeklong excursion to Morocco’s cultural center, Fez. We took advantage of the opportunity to smell the pungent spices of Fez’s Old Medina, to stare in the eyes of dead camel for sale in the souk, to taste authentic Moroccan cuisine, to hear the call to prayer, and share two hours of tea with a vendor with an infinite source of local legends and tales. I am greatly thankful for the marriage of ICAR and MEDAC. Having this opportunity has not been without consequence: we do not know you. My name is Brian, and my friends in the cohort are Andre, Suzan, Mike, Jessica, Kyoko, Ylenia, Natalie, Bardia, Stephen and Sue. We are pleased to meet you. - Brian Farell - Class 2011

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