From One Conference to the Next: Double Major Isha Mandal

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Political Science and International Business major Isha Mandal is a degree-seeking student from Kathmandu, Nepal. She actively participates in STAND, the Model United Nations Society, and the Literature club, in addition to being a Resident Assistant. Passionate about gender studies, law, and poetry, Isha has represented JCU in numerous conferences around Europe.  

Tell us a bit about your background
I was born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal. In high school, I pursued an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma where I took mostly Science classes.

You are the first student from Nepal to attend JCU. Why did you choose this university?
I have been in an American school my whole life and I thought that JCU was the best transition in terms of being able to continue studying in English, and still be surrounded by culture.

You recently attended a conference on Women in Law at the British Embassy. Can you tell us a little about it?
As a member and the ex-president of the Model United Nations Society, I participated in a conference with the International Criminal Court, as the committee. After I participated in this committee my interest in law grew, so I decided to take several law classes at JCU. Given my profound interest, Prof. Chiara Magrini asked me to consider going to the conference on Women in Law.

Participation in this conference was open to the entire student body but students were required to send a short motivational letter describing why they wanted to attend. Dean Pamela Harris and Prof. Magrini made the final decision based on the letter. I was incredibly lucky to be able to attend the conference as it gave me an insider’s perspective on the law industry and the important issues at stake. When I took a class called Politics of Gender, I learned how gender inequality problems are still relevant today. When I attended the conference, I assumed that the topics would revolve around such inequalities. I thought the speakers would talk about how they progressed in their careers in spite of inequalities, and give tips on how to start a career as a young lawyer while overcoming adversities.

However, I was surprised when the conference focused on celebrating the achievements of women in law. We also got the chance to meet some of the women in law at the conference, and many were inspiring, such as Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) of England and Wales. Besides getting invaluable tips on law from the experts, most essentially, I learned to appreciate the achievements rather than just focusing on the flaws in the system.

Isha Mandal at the Oxford International Model United Nations

Isha Mandal at the Oxford International Model United Nations

You were recently awarded the Best Advocate in the International Court of Justice committee at the Oxford International Model United Nations. Can you tell us more about that?
Undoubtedly, Oxford has been the best conference I have been a part of. Everything, the location, participants, chairs, organizers, exceeds your expectations. But more than all of these, Oxford was a dream. Being a part of it felt unreal enough, so when I won the Best Advocate award in an advanced committee, I did not know how to react. It was an invaluable experience that has made me more confident and intensified my interest in law.

You also participated in the Preparing Global Leaders Forum (PGLF) in Croatia. What was your experience like?
The PGLF was one of the most influential and inspiring conferences I’ve been a part of. Aimed at developing leadership skills, the conference lives up to its mission of cultivating and preparing a network of innovative leaders who excel at bridging diverse disciplines, demographics, and divides. I was one of the participants in the conference among 39 others holding managerial and operational positions in different companies. I was the youngest participant, and I was chosen thanks to my leadership experience within different clubs at JCU, community service and my involvement in different disciplines.

What is your favorite thing about living in Rome?
The people I have met. All the way from the seniors who I met for a short period of time to the faculty and staff at JCU. Rome is home in the sense that these people are the ones who accept me and appreciate me for who I am. These are the people who constantly inspire me to be better given that, in most cases, they believe in me more than I believe in myself. I found a strong support system that allows me to try things that I wouldn’t have the courage to do. For example, I didn’t think I would be accepted to the Oxford Conference, but my friends encouraged me to apply.

Why did you choose to double major in International Business and Political Science?
Initially, I started with a major only in International Business and a potential minor in Political Science. But given my profound interest in both subjects, especially with the correlation between them, I ended up deciding to double major. I realize that there is no clear overlap between the two subjects, however, I do believe that they are complementary to each other. For example, in my Politics of Gender course, we recently spoke about positions of power for women and the quota system. On that same day, in my Principles of Management class, we spoke about the prejudices that exist in the market.

Isha Mandal

Isha Mandal

What class has given you the most in terms of personal enrichment?
I’ve learned relevant skills that can be directly applied in the real world from almost all of my classes. But in terms of personal enrichment, it has to be Politics of Gender. Besides equipping me with the practical skill of writing a policy brief, this class challenged my beliefs. It encouraged me to think out of the box, to understand the ideas and perception of ideologies I did not necessarily agree with and most importantly it made me question why do I believe in the things I believe. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t frustrate me, but what came out of it has helped me address issues better. Today I believe I am more open-minded and considerate and I make a good argument as I acknowledge both my biases and the opposing ideologies.

You are an RA and you are active in the Literature club and STAND. How did this involvement in the community affect your university experience?
It has been an invaluable part of my university experience. Not only has it helped me connect with the JCU community and establish long-lasting relationships,  but it has also equipped me with hands-on skills to tackle everyday problems. With the RA job, I’ve learned crisis management and how to provide immediate help. With STAND, I’ve learned the importance of compassion and the necessity for intervention. With the Literature club, I’ve learned to preserve the part of me that I care about the most, even if it contradicts and doesn’t go along with whatever I am doing now: poetry. Lastly, I have learned the most important skill of time management.

What are your plans for the future?
After I graduate from JCU, I would like to go to graduate school and earn a master’s in the Politics of South Asia.

What advice would you give to incoming JCU students?
JCU has helped me become who I am. It gives you the tools to understand and tackle the problems at hand. The flexible, understanding and the incredibly experienced faculty gives you the opportunity to explore what is it that you really want. And most importantly the support of people around you ensures that you never lack the motivation to achieve it. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to work hard but also learn to be pro-active and efficient in your approach. Dare to expand your horizons and act on your interests.

What was it like moving to Rome?
Surprisingly I did not experience culture shock. When I was back in Nepal I was a typical teenager with parents who provided me with everything. When I came to Rome though, I found myself having to look after myself. My move here helped me transition into an adult. I became an RA, focused on academics, and found a balance that helped me adapt to my new surroundings.

Is there anything you miss about Nepal while you’re here?
I miss Nepal in terms of food. I also miss home during festivities. Recently it was Tihar in Nepal, the Festival of Lights, which celebrates the connection between humans and other animals. It’s as big as Christmas for us. I was also taking midterms as my friends were celebrating, so that might have had something to do with my missing home as well.