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Painting a Picture Is the First Step
Galina Duckworth, Alum
School of International and Public Affairs 2003

I was entering the second year of the Master's program at SIPA when my life was suddenly changed - once and forever.

During the summer, my internship brought me to Africa. Sitting in the office of the UNDP building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I was contemplating all possible ways to write my poverty and development report. That same moment, I heard a "You've got mail" chime coming from my computer, and, glad to have a reason to postpone a tedious task, I went to check my inbox. It was a message from my sister - my mother was dying...

I don't really remember the rest of that summer. After funeral, I came back to Ethiopia, but had to curtail my internship simply because I could not concentrate on my work.

Than I was back to SIPA. The beginning of the second year was totally disastrous - I couldn't fully focus on my studies, and wasn't willing to discuss my feelings with anybody. I was so consumed by my tragedy, that I was even considered dropping out (especially after getting a "D" in one of the courses...).

I had to find my way out - so I went to talk to one of the SIPA professors and my good friend. "Painting the picture is the first step," he said. "Try to stop for a second, and reflect on what's in your heart and your mind... And let go."

This advice helped me to understand that my entire future depended on my studies, that if I gave up, everything would just go downhill.

My grades improved to a point where I was even nominated to be a course assistant, helping other students with their studies. I finished my year with honor and deep satisfaction.

To different people, maturity comes at different times. That year, I became an adult. My mother would have been proud of me.

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