Nicholous Rucker is in the TransAtlantic studies track of TAM. Next year, he will study in Grenoble. This year he has a Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) award from the US Department of Education for Portuguese. He graduated from UNC in 2020 with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Global Studies. He is originally from Augusta, Georgia but moved to Charlotte, North Carolina when he was 4; so, he thinks of himself as a native North Carolinian. In his free time, he enjoys tennis, hanging out with friends, and being outdoors. His primary research interests generally fall under the umbrella of populism and specifically its effects on women and minority communities. He is hoping to tie his FLAS Portuguese studies to his research interests and incorporate both into a thesis.
Now that you have completed the first semester in TAM and are embarking on the second one here at UNC, what are your impressions of the program? How did last semester go?
As my college graduation approached, I was in pursuit of an opportunity that would allow me to further explore my passion for international politics and diplomacy. My search led me to the Transatlantic Master’s Program, and I now consider this one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The people behind the program are truly what have made TAM so special for me. From the faculty and the administrative staff to my lovely cohort, TAM has offered such a supportive, driven, and passionate community which I can now call home. I have made connections, bonds, and friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Last semester, specifically, was extremely gratifying. My classes were taught by passionate professors, panels were led by impressive alumni, and weekends were always spent with new friends. It was the first time where I was surrounded by people with the same interests as me and laughed at super niche poli sci jokes. If I had to choose one place to be a grad student and pursue my Master’s, I would undoubtedly choose TAM over and over again.
You chose to defer your enrollment last year and sit a pandemic year out before starting graduate school. What did you do during this time, and how do you feel about this decision in hindsight?
As we are all fondly aware, an integral part of TAM’s mission is its focus and commitment to a global education. This is a facet that I truly love about the program, and I wanted to have the international experience in its full authenticity. As a result, I decided to defer my enrollment until Fall 2021. Within this year, I moved back with my family in Charlotte, NC and worked various jobs. I primarily served as a tutor for school-aged children who were navigating the new realm of remote learning. I hosted virtual sessions, created study materials, and ultimately worked to fill in knowledge gaps according to each student’s learning style. In return, I learned patience and how to effectively communicate with people from all sorts of backgrounds.
In addition to tutoring, I devoted time and energy towards taking care of my grandparents who were experiencing health issues at the time. While seeing them in that state was not the easiest, I’m so grateful for the quality time spent together and that they both have now made a full recovery.
Overall, I am confident in the decision I made to start in the 2021. I’m a huge believer that everything happens for a reason. I may have not made the connections with my current cohort otherwise. Deferring also meant living with my immediate family and grandparents for the first time in five years, which came with quality time that I absolutely cherished and would have not happened otherwise. All of these factors combined make it pretty hard to regret my decision.
How has your interaction been with TAM graduates so far?
I can’t say it enough; TAM has allowed me to meet wonderful people, and this, of course, includes its alumni! The alumni panels were a highlight of my week in the fall semester. I listened to the unique stories and perspectives of the graduates and always learned something that I could apply to myself. They offered amazing advice and insight that I genuinely appreciated and will continue to carry with me. Each one offered their expertise and were super generous with their time and connections. Seeing our alumni actually apply what they learned in TAM was incredibly empowering. It also was just more conformation that I am on the right track. Only one semester into the program has already allowed me to meet so many graduates willing to help my classmates and me academically and professionally. They each have had such a genuine and welcoming spirit which makes connecting feel so natural. This is what struck me the most. It felt as though they were helping because they wanted to and not out of obligation.
What are your goals post-TAM?
I came into TAM super open-minded in terms of career goals. Before arriving, I knew that I was interested in global affairs and international politics. However, I wasn’t specifically sure on how this would manifest as a career. This is another reason why I am so grateful for the many opportunities my cohort has had meeting alumni. They really helped provide some clarity in terms of careers after TAM. These sessions show my cohort and me the plethora of careers available to us and what a degree from TAM can do. It inspires me to see the creative ways in which alumni are working to change the world. My current career goals are working for the foreign service or pursuing a degree in Law; possibly both. However, this program has made me realize that there are so many possibilities in our field. So, I am continuing to keep an open mind during this time.