“Trading my briefcase for a backpack helped to boost my career”

Clara Thompson-Lipponen graduated cum laude in 2015 from a one-year Master’s programme at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA). Now a consultant for the OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate, she tells us how the Master’s degree at Sciences Po helped her boost her career after an initial ten years working in EU policy.

  • Sciences Po: Why did you decide to pursue a one-year Master's degree at Sciences Po?

Clara Thompson-Lipponen: I had worked in EU policy in Brussels for ten years – both for the U.S. State Department and the European food and drink industry – however, after relocating to Paris for my husband’s work and taking a career break in order to look after our son, restarting my career turned out to be unexpectedly difficult. After looking into different options, I decided that the wisest strategy would be to return to university to refresh my skills and complement these with more quantitative subjects, such as Statistics and Economics, as well as other subjects which I had long wanted to study, such as Agriculture and International Trade Law. The one-year Master’s degree at Sciences Po offered the ideal opportunity to re-boost my career within the shortest time-frame while ticking all the boxes in terms of subject material.

  • What did this experience change for your career? 

It’s still early days, to be honest, but I have worked continuously since graduating in July, and there is no question that this is thanks to my latest qualifications. My previous Masters – in EU Affairs – from the National University of Ireland had served me very well while I was based in Brussels. However, after taking time off work and changing location, I needed to prove to future employers that my skills were both relevant and up-to-date.

  • Among the skills you gained during your one-year Master's programme at Sciences Po, which are the most valuable for you in your current position?

 Firstly, the content of the subjects which I took – Agriculture, Economics and Trade Law included – proved to be very relevant for my current position as a consultant for the Trade and Agriculture Directorate of the OECD. Secondly, on a broader level, the intensity of the workload taught me how to perform well under greater pressure than I had ever experienced before! The Masters took me well outside my comfort zone, both in terms of the sheer volume of work and the content of some of the more quantitative subjects. I’ll never forget the gut-wrenching terror of walking into my first exam (Macroeconomics) in 15 years! But it was well and truly worth it – trading my briefcase for a backpack helped to give my career the boost that it needed.

  • Anything else to say about the course? 

Three important elements will always stay with me. A number of the lecturers were inspirational characters who invested a lot in their students. The Academic Advisor for the course was a rock of sense who went the extra mile for many of us. And finally, my classmates – both the tight-knit, supportive group of professionals in my Masters and a good few of the enthusiastic younger students with whom we shared a number of classes – opened my eyes in many ways and will never be forgotten. It was honestly a privilege both to return to study at this stage in life and to work with people such as these.

Related link

Five key figures on the Welcome Refugees programme

Five key figures on the Welcome Refugees programme

Since March 2016, Sciences Po has been taking an annual cohort of asylum-seeking or refugee students. Originally a student-led initiative, Welcome Refugees has now become a fully-fledged programme in partnership with the NGO Wintegreat. Sciences Po will be welcoming its third cohort this fall—an opportunity to take stock of the programme's progress with five key figures.

More
The Paris Agreement: what can we expect from the US?

The Paris Agreement: what can we expect from the US?

On June 13th, the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) welcomed Sue Biniaz, adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and the US State Department’s former lead climate attorney, to Sciences Po. Having played a key role in international climate negotiations, such as COP21 and the Paris Agreement, she delivered her analysis on what we can expect today from the US following the announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

More
Redefining the Field of History

Redefining the Field of History

How does one tell the history of any given country or actor?  What role should social processes have in the discussion and analysis of international relations and politics? What is the significance of collaboration among historians?
 
Watch Professor Gienow-Hecht discuss the recent controversy and debate among historians as well as current developments and innovations in the field. 
 
More

REINVENTING THE WORLD

REINVENTING THE WORLD

Between May 31st and June 4th, 600 students from around the world gathered at Sciences Po to rethink international relations by taking part in the Paris International Model United Nations (PIMUN) conference. This event, which takes place in Paris each year, was founded in 2011 by students from several universities including Sciences Po, HEC and the Sorbonne.

More
How Master in Advanced Global Studies students make the most of their professor

How Master in Advanced Global Studies students make the most of their professor

"It's interesting and stimulating for me, I hope it is for them too!" Lakhdar Brahimi, diplomat, former UN special envoy and iconic figure of international relations, is also a professor at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA). This year, the eminent professor agreed to take part in a slightly unusual exercise: to reverse the preparation for his Master in Advanced Global Studies course, letting the students structure it for him. They studied his career and his missions and submitted their questions to Mr. Brahimi before the course began. More

A new scholarship for Filipino students

A new scholarship for Filipino students

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) of the Philippines has signed an agreement with Sciences Po to finance at least ten full scholarships for Filipino students admitted to Sciences Po at graduate level. Each scholarship covers tuition fees, living expenses, health insurance, the visa application and a return airfare ticket. In addition, Sciences Po will help subsidise scholarship students’ tuition fees. More

First cohort graduates from the Dual BA programme with the University of British Columbia

First cohort graduates from the Dual BA programme with the University of British Columbia

The graduation ceremony took place on 24 May 2017 at the UBC Vancouver campus in Canada. This year’s graduating class, composed of 12 different nationalities, was congratulated by the Consul General of France, a Sciences Po alumnus, who presented each graduate with their Sciences Po diploma. Praising the students’ achievements, he noted the special relationship between Canada and France, now embodied in the graduating cohort.

More
Sebastião Salgado donates works to Sciences Po

Sebastião Salgado donates works to Sciences Po

On 29 May 2017, as part of the Political Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean’s tenth anniversary celebrations, Sciences Po was honoured to receive two large-scale photographic works donated by Mr. Sebastião Salgado. This is the photographer's first donation to a university and the first time an artwork has been gifted to Sciences Po. The works, both 1.80m by 2.70m in size, are exhibited on the Sciences Po premises at 27 rue Saint-Guillaume, Paris, and can be viewed by all Sciences Po students, faculty members, staff and visitors.

More