International Student Juan Mantecón Spends His Summer at SIPA

Juan Mantecón is an undergraduate and an international student from Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico. As part of an elite honors program at his university, he is studying abroad at Columbia and majoring in international affairs. Passionate about history, conflict resolution, and politics, he's currently enrolled in two courses at SIPA, Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. We spoke with him about attending Summer Session, living in New York City for the first time, and aspiring to work in the U.S. after graduation.

Can you tell me a little bit about what brought you to Columbia?

I'm here as part of an honors program at my university. I had the opportunity to study abroad at one university on a list, and being able to choose Columbia is a gift. It's a once in a lifetime chance.

I'm taking two classes at the international and public affairs school (SIPA): one on terrorism and counterterrorism with Prof. Stuart Gottlieb and the other on American foreign policy with Prof. Bruce Cronin.

These two classes are heaven; I'm loving the experience. I am actually to looking forward to working in the U.S. in the field of security, international affairs, or conflict resolution.

Have you ever been to New York before, or have you ever visited Columbia before?

I went to New York once. I came here as a tourist, so I went to Fifth Avenue, the Statue of Liberty – but it was closed, the Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, the U.N., and the Empire State Building. You know, tourist stuff.

I had never visited Columbia before. This is my first time at Columbia and my second time in the U.S. as a student. I did an internship a year ago in Washington, D.C. I worked for Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

What's your impression of the campus and the classes you're taking?

The classes, I really like them. Prof. Cronin and Prof. Gottlieb are very experienced people. They actually know what they are teaching. Also, Prof. Gottlieb spent some time working for the Senate [as a policy adviser and speechwriter]. When it comes to his class, he clearly knows what he's talking about.

What's unique about studying here that you can't get at your university back home?

Well, it's Columbia – it's Ivy League! It's one of the most prestigious institutions in the United States. Barack Obama studied here. And the professors, they have real world experience. They're not just experts in theory.

Plus, I live on campus. I'm on Broadway, and I'm in the middle of everything.

You said you're hoping to get a job in the U.S. What are you hoping to do?

Something related to security or conflict resolution or advocacy – because that's where I worked last time. I had the opportunity to attend sessions at the House of Representatives and the Senate.

I think you can't always stay in the classroom. Too much theory isn't good at all. It takes away from the feeling of solving a real-world problem.