Diplo was born in the small island state of Malta; since then, diplomats from small island states have always had a special place in Diplo’s courses. Many small island state diplomats attended our Postgraduate Diploma programme (which has evolved into the Master in Contemporary Diplomacy) through support from the Commonwealth Secretariat. Drawing on Maltese expertise, Diplo developed and runs an online course on Diplomacy of Small States. And many small state MFAs use Diplo’s online courses to supplement their training for diplomats; online courses are especially useful for diplomats posted at missions abroad. With a small state alumni of more than 500 diplomats and other officials, Diplo can be considered the de facto diplomatic academy of small island states.
In this interview, Ms Setaita Tupua Kalou from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Fiji describes her experiences in the Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy offered by Diplo and the University of Malta. Setaita started the programme in 2012 and will graduate in autumn 2013.
Do you remember how you first heard about the Master in Contemporary Diplomacy, and why you decided to apply?
I had extensively searched online for a Master’s programme on diplomacy which best suited my needs in terms of distance and flexible learning, content, availability to international students and affordability. Diplo offers ‘all of the above’ and more.
What were your goals when you applied for this programme – how did you expect it to help you?
I was interested in the deeper intricacies of diplomacy in the 21st century, given the major tectonic shifts in today’s geopolitics. The Master in Contemporary Diplomacy programme delivered by providing us with a more holistic approach which featured the mainstream key players perspective as well as the often ‘silent’ dimension of small states.
Now that you are nearing the end of the programme, can you say whether it met your expectations? Did you benefit in any ways you didn’t expect?
It exceeded my expectations in the sense that I did not expect the coverage of some issues to have so much depth. The substantive course content at DiploFoundation was demystified on a number of levels by the lecturers so it was relatively easier for students to understand, yet at the same time, it pushed our traditional boundaries to expand our body of knowledge beyond our comfort zones.
Did you learn practical skills which you have used or currently use in your professional or personal environment?
The Multilateral Diplomacy II course was a major challenge. The course lecturers had high expectations which I preferred because it lifted the standard of the learning process. I have a lot of personal and professional interest in how the UN system works and its relevance in 21st century diplomacy and beyond. This course provided me with the necessary background knowledge of the United Nations, the key current issues on the table and the available online resources to the reservoir of knowledge and information which we can use in the course of our daily work.
How interactive was online learning in this programme? Did this interaction help you to learn?
It was an interactive learning process, flexible enough to develop a closer and more personal relationship between students and lecturers and among the students themselves, without derogating the expected high standard that we would want from such exchanges. In particular, the online chat sessions were enjoyable and a value-added dimension in the online learning experience.
How easy was it to combine learning with working and other responsibilities?
It was reasonably flexible and convenient. The lecturers were quite accommodating in ensuring that the students’ work and study needs were in tune with each other in the best and worst of times.
What are the challenges in attending this programme? What do you recommend to potential applicants to consider, before applying?
The biggest challenge would be the time zone difference which could mean having online classes at odd hours. However, Diplo is quite flexible and allows you to notify in advance if you are unable to attend a session and to provide your contributions post-session.