We welcome Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Meng-Ping Hsu of Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Eugenio Garza Sada to reflect on pursuing a career in public service. This is her first story in the graduate voices series.
“As an IB alumna who had been taught to strive to be better and go further, I desperately ran towards pathways that would lead me to become more knowledgeable, more skillful and more successful”
I decided to study international relations a month before starting university. Although the decision was not random by any means, it wasn’t a very detailed plan. As a daughter of immigrants, who had been surrounded by cultural diversity her whole life, I felt like it could be a good fit. Additionally, as an IB student, I had grown to appreciate the feeling of being a global citizen. Thus, at the very least, I thought international relations would be a field familiar enough to engage with, and large enough to get lost for a while, until I found something I really wanted to do.
I felt awfully out of place at first. While classes were interesting and I was doing well, I felt an overwhelming amount of uncertainty. I suddenly found myself surrounded by people who had spent years dreaming of becoming diplomats and governors; everybody seemed to know all sorts of historical facts and they all seemed to advocate for thousands of unheard causes. In contrast, I had spent high school exploring formal sciences, psychological cases, hidden meanings in literature and business technicalities. Suffice to say that, at the time, I could barely utter any political opinions and my knowledge of global affairs was limited to the weekly newsletter I sometimes glanced at during lunch.
“I wanted to dedicate my life to create a better, kinder and fairer world for all”.
Nonetheless, as I continued to meet new fascinating paradigms, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed learning when I was doing the IB programme, and I loved the challenge. Surprisingly, I ended up liking politics, fell irrevocably in love with discussions surrounding moral dilemmas and grew to understand why conflict and structural failures are such large crises. I was stricken by the seemingly perpetual existence of inequality, suffering and injustice and quickly became convinced that I wanted to dedicate my life to create a better, kinder and fairer world for all. However, in spite of its significance, I was initially hesitant about pursuing jobs related to public service.
Careers in public service were infamous during my university years. Although many admired their purpose, positions in government and civil society organizations were not exactly the most coveted. Compared to other traditional opportunities in the private sector, public service tended to be associated with less profitable time investments, bureaucratic schemes, exhausting lifestyles and very few rewards in both emotional and professional terms.
Every time I encountered an opportunity that sought to resolve a social issue, whether it was an internship or a volunteering project, I gravitated towards it. After a while, I completely forgot about the qualms I had heard about public service and began to seek internships that would take me closer to my goal, without any prejudices.
“As I continued to meet new fascinating paradigms, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed learning when I was doing the IB programme, and I loved the challenge”
Eventually, I became a full-time policy analyst. This involves analyzing data and generating insights to contribute to the design and evaluation of public policies. While the technical parts of the tasks are not unique, what sets a policy analyst who serves the public apart from similar professionals in other fields, is their commitment to ensuring people’s well-being. Because so many interests tend to be entwined in this endeavor and the consequences that are attached to it are so significant, public service involves a lot of bargaining, careful calculations, delicate decisions and constant alertness.
Just like its reputation suggests, public service can be very demanding and sometimes exhausting. The jobs in the field can be filled with a lot of frustrating experiences. While public service has given me access to opportunities to create change, results haven’t always been as expected and a sense of loss occasionally invades me when I realize that I haven’t been able to achieve all that I am passionate about. I am tremendously convinced that peace is achievable, so although I consider myself a realist, I am, simultaneously, an idealist who suffers constant heartbreaks when change is too slow, and steps are too small.
My experience in the field has also taught me enormous life lessons. It has expanded my resilience, strengthened my tolerance and it has given me the opportunity to cultivate more empathy. Moreover, it has allowed me to rethink my worldview.
“Do not hesitate to do whatever you can, whenever you can, because your actions are building the foundations of a greater tomorrow”.
Although I had no specific direction when I graduated high school, as an IB alumna who had been taught to strive to be better and go further, I desperately ran towards pathways that would lead me to become more knowledgeable, more skillful and more successful. I wanted to become someone and accomplish something. I wanted to be part of a big revolution that could change the entire world in some meaningful way. I used to think no movement and no action could be considered meaningful if its impact was minimal in the big scheme of things.
Now, I have come to realize that changing a single individual’s day is as significant and worthwhile as pursuing the entire world. My heart leaps joyfully every time I hear someone consider themselves represented and benefited from a project or policy I supported. And while I know that it is not enough and I am not satisfied, I have learned that making a day in someone’s life happier is in itself a revolution.
After all, to listen to those who are being silenced and to notice the struggles that are overlooked, is the basis to start thinking about solutions and answering questions that have yet to be posed. Hence, I have come to the conclusion that if brightening someone’s day can make a difference in their life, then perhaps, the little steps are precious and essential to build the bigger changes that we all need.
If you are like me, and you find yourself eager to construct a better future but frustrated at the pace of change, focus on what you can do right now and breathe. Without realizing it, you may already be changing the world! Do not hesitate to do whatever you can, whenever you can, because your actions are building the foundations of a greater tomorrow. Be patient, be brave and fight all odds! Don’t give up!
Meng-Ping Hsu is a graduate of Tecnológico de Monterrey in Nuevo León, Mexico. She studied international relations and earned her master’s degree in conflict resolution from the University of Essex. Her biggest aspiration is to create pathways for peace through the construction of ethical, realistic and sustainable solutions. She loves underrated clichés like flowers, poems, philosophy and can be found overthinking a lot in sleepless nights. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.