Andrés Fortunato: MPP Class of 2021, talks about his experience moving from Argentina to Chicago to study public policy.

Taking a break from work to pursue a master’s degree outside of my country while in my thirties is a privilege I will always be thankful for.

Statistically, I didn't feel I was a traditional graduate student in policy: I was over 30 and had a philosophy degree. However, I very quickly realized that my background is part of what makes me an asset to the program. There are many different perspectives to bring to a public policy degree, and mine is that of someone who came with experience in policy implementation and wanted to learn the science behind it.

After six quarters, two years, or a lifetime—depending on how you measure time—I can say coming to Harris completely shifted my perspective. The first big step was learning the language of data. Of course, there are many prominent scholars, researchers, and programs in the field of data science in Argentina. But data is not yet incorporated as a basic language for policymaking in Argentina, and I daresay it is the same everywhere—including the US. When you take that step of learning data, you are multiplying your capacity for decision making, interdisciplinary work, and evidence-based planning.

The Core at Harris teaches you that language in a year, and then you have another academic year to use it for your own research interests. If you are doing an MPP, this doesn’t mean that you will become a data specialist. Instead, you will become a person who understands the language of data specialists and can use some of their tools for policy making. That skillset is very powerful.

Another value of the Harris experience is amplifying your own spectrum of ideas. I came from a specific world, with particular political views, discussions, and problems connected to one specific city in a given country. Suddenly, I was working for the Chicago Mayor's Office, for an NGO in India and discussing policy with people from all over the world. My ability to understand the social problems of my people increased exponentially by getting a first-hand perspective of how policy works in different contexts around the world.

But change also comes with some strengthening of your own skillsets. In this case, I feel my ability to combine the evidence-based policymaking skills I gained at Harris with my background in philosophy has proven to be a powerful mix. Data often does not speak for itself, and I believe my philosophy background strengthens my ability to tell the most impactful stories.

Finally, I recognized that not only is it hard to solve problems without going to their roots, but problem solving and data interpretation are better when they are interdisciplinary. I have classmates with backgrounds in engineering, psychology, literature, economics, political science, and many other disciplines. Getting together to think about a problem set with a group with such diverse intellectual backgrounds helps you learn a lot.

I would recommend making the leap to pursue graduate school abroad to anyone who has the opportunity. You may be surprised at where it takes you.