The BGIA MA: an Afghan Student’s Reflections


A few days before Kabul fell to the Taliban, I had traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan. Having secured a position in the inaugural class of the MA Program in Global Studies at Bard College, I was applying for a visa at the Austrian embassy. I had expected my trip to be a few days. I never returned home.

Instead, I headed to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan where I enrolled in online courses at Central European University (CEU). Bishkek had been home for me for several years when I attended the American University in Central Asia (AUCA). It was a good place to be as I was balancing a new personal challenge and the enormous challenges facing my country. All of it has been life changing.

What is the BGIA MA program? It’s a one-year program designed to address today’s transnational issues. It is focused on critical thinking, writing, and experiential learning — set in two different cities.

The program begins in Vienna at CEU in September, where we take a range of courses on international relations. Mine included the European Union’s integration and political theory. It moves to New York in January, where we complete coursework and an internship with an organization working on global affairs. Among the classes I’m taking are human mobility, applied statistics in global public health, making social changes in a globalized world, and media and public engagement.

The hallmark of the program is an internship. That has been at the heart of BGIA since its inception in 2001. I am currently working as a research intern with the American Association of the International Commission of Jurists (AAICJ) where I research attacks on the representatives of legal systems around the world with a main focus on Afghanistan and other South and the Central Asian States. Here, I have the opportunity to be a voice for Afghan lawyers whose lives are greatly endangered by the current regime of Afghanistan.

Being able to study at two universities has been tremendously valuable. What really makes the program stand out is the tremendous diversity of the student body. I’m in class with students from Belarus, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and the United States. And that’s just the MA program. We’re also able to take classes with students at CEU, who hail from Hungary, Austria, Germany, the UK, Macedonia, Russia, India, Pakistan, and beyond. The issues that we study aren’t just theoretical for us, they’re lived experience.

· Hezbullah Shafaq, MA in Global Studies (’22)



Bard Globalization and International Affairs: BGIA

Bard Globalization and International Affairs (BGIA) is a semester away program in New York City, offering professional internships and courses in IA.