Dec 1, 2016

The founding principle of all the activities of Zdenek and Michaela Bakala is, truly, the courage, which must, according to their belief, always go hand in hand with responsibility.
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September 2013 – July 2014 (ongoing)


The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland


International Affairs


At the beginning of September 2013, after several weeks of preparations, I finally arrived to Geneva, Switzerland. Coming from the Czech Republic I didn’t experience a cultural or any other shock. And so, without further ado, I could dive right in to my “mission” pursuing a master’s degree at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies also known as the Graduate Institute (or IHEID). 


The first weeks in Geneva were mainly about exploring the international environment that this city is famous for. Not only the city but also the Graduate Institute is the most multicultural and multinational environment I have experienced so far in my life. Currently, the student body at the Graduate Institute is composed of over 100 nationalities. This has been from the commencement of my studies a great opportunity to interact with ambitious peers from all around the world. This might sound only as a catchphrase but the presence of many cultures and nationalities enabled me during the whole semester to understand the different points of views and understandings of issues discussed not only in class but also during frequent debates with my classmates in our free time. 




Together with Ludvik Eger, another Bakala scholar, we looked, and finally found a room at the « Cité universitaire », a students’ house in the center of Geneva.

It was a difficult search and we were very happy and released to have a roof above our heads !


In the first semester I chose 5 courses with regard to the curriculum. I was very grateful that I didn’t have to take the compulsory Statistics course because I already completed a similar course during my undergraduate studies in the Czech Republic. Every week we had to be thoroughly prepared for each class (on law, international history, political science). Reading of the given articles/chapters of books and other assignments for every class took most of my time. Additionally, as the semester developed, new tasks including essays, papers, group work or presentations consumed almost the rest of my free time. Both professors and their teaching assistants provided me with guidance throughout the whole semester and helped me to improve my research and writing skills.


The topics that I focused on included: the United Nations Security Council Report from the perspective of Asian powers such as China, India and Japan; Nuclear Talks with Iran or the access to water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. My favourite courses were on International law (with Professor Andrew Clapham) and on political science and international affairs (with professor Thomas Biersteker). The system of exams at the Institute is a bit different than what I was used to. All exams and papers are done within the 15 weeks of the semester. Therefore I finished all my duties before Christmas. I am glad to say that I managed to complete all the courses with an overall grade of 5.1, which exceeded my expectations. 


Besides studying I also actively participated in many extracurricular activities. A few classmates and me got together every week to discuss a book that we chose. This reading circle became a great opportunity for me to share experience and knowledge with my classmates and at the same time learn from them in a very informal and relaxed way. Further, together with my classmate Ludvik Eger, another Bakala scholar, we established a new student organization at the Graduate Institute. The Junior Diplomat Initiative Switzerland serves as a platform where students with interest in diplomacy can interact with diplomats and leading UN professionals. I was very happy that this new student organization received a lot of positive feedback from fellow students as well as from the Graduate Institute. During the first semester we organized 2 seminars, both dedicated to multilateral diplomacy. Our first guest was Mr Dominic Porter, Deputy Head of Delegation of the EU to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva. He gave us great insights on how the EU’s diplomacy works. In December we had the great honour to welcome Mr. Michael Møller, acting Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva. He is one of the most experienced UN diplomats therefore the debate with him allowed us to understand for instance how the top decision-making in the UN works or what are the challenges of being a UN diplomat. I am very excited to continue organizing events of Junior Diplomat Initiative in the next semester. 


In sum, studying at the Graduate Institute is an eye-opening experience that enables me to understand the complexities of global affairs. Interacting with peers and professionals from the field who are based in Geneva is something that would not be possible anywhere else in the world. Without The Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala Scholarship none of this would be possible. The provided funds are sufficient for a student live in Geneva and they allow me to pursue my dream – a Master’s degree at the Graduate Institute. Without a doubt the next semester will also be very challenging, however, it is a challenge that I am looking forward to.

Ludvik Eger


© Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala