Santiago Lopez Alvarez

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I am a social scientist in training. I grew up in Medellín – Colombia, where I studied journalism and communication studies. Throughout my bachelor degree I became obsessed with the idea of discovering the world and a month after graduation I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, escaping from a regular 8-to-5 office-job. I lived in the south for almost four years, and obtained an MA in History and Memory at Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Although I succeeded in building some work experience in advertising and web marketing, I failed to master the art of tango dancing. I then changed a cosmopolitan city with almost 3 million people for Morgantown, a small town in rural West Virginia with 30k residents. Regrets? None. I had an amazing experience at WVU. Not only did I make new friends, improved my English skills and obtained a second master’s (this time in Hispanic literature), but I also developed an invaluable understanding of the US culture, its values and drives. Working for West Virginia University, and living in the US to a large extent, changed my professional path both drastically and positively. Thanks to this experience I envisioned a career in international relations.

After Morgantown, my next stop was Washington D.C. where I had a unique opportunity to work as a contractor at the US Department – Foreign Service Institute. Working as a language and culture trainer for diplomats was a priceless opportunity to learn more about geopolitics, and to further understand how the US positions itself globally, a necessary knowledge for anyone intending to build a career in international relations.

Seven years after leaving Medellín, I decided to go back home and I was fortunate to land on a dream job as an International Cooperation Advisor for the second largest university in the country. I worked there for 2.5 years coordinating binational alliances and scientific exchange agreements; obtaining government and international grants for research development; organizing diplomatic visits; representing the university in international events; and more importantly, contributing to change the lives of economically unprivileged students who, just like me more than a decade ago, see education as a life changing deal. As much as it hurt to leave this job, I realized that I needed to take a further step in my training, and thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship I am now pursuing a PhD in Political Science. I am currently studying how violence affects voting behavior and political preferences, using statistical and data analysis techniques. After my doctoral studies, I plan to work somewhere between the academic and the practitioner world.