Nassau: Miami: Denver

A five hour stop in Miami can mean only one thing: the dog days of summer are over and I’m on my way back from The Bahamas to Denver to start classes again. Although it was an intellectually stimulating few months at ECLAC in Trinidad, I’m still keen to get back into course work. Having already established that I am showing major symptoms of being an unsalvageable nerd, this should be of no surprise to anyone who reads this blog by now.

Class-wise, this quarter I am signed up for International Monetary Relations with Professor Ilene Grabel, International Business Transactions with Josiah Hatch and International Project Analysis with Thomas Laetz.

Grabel’s IMR (and her “Finance and Development” class, which I’ll get to take next quarter) is essentially why I will get to put “global finance” in my degree title. It’s about the theory, policy, political economy and history of the international organization of money and finance. There’s a lot about today’s international financial arrangements that we may take for granted, but it wasn’t always so.

Think about how in almost any Hollywood movie you’ve ever seen, a ransom for a kidnapping in some far flung country is always expected to be paid in US dollars. Why is that? Well it’s due to international financial arrangements. The US dollar, for a variety of historical, political and economic reasons, is considered the international reserve currency of choice and for this reason, it’s the currency of choice for “business transactions” for everyone from a major international company to your local kidnapper.

It wasn’t always this way– the British pound Sterling used to be the most in-demand form of moolah. Furthermore, the US might not always maintain this “exorbitant privilege” in the future, if, for example, the US were to make imprudent policy decisions like failing to raise the debt ceiling, or showing that its politicians may be unable to come to do so, as seemed to be about to happen in 2011. The fact that the US dollar is the international reserve currency and others are not both signifies the political and economic power the US holds in the world, and also confers upon the US additional economic and political advantages in the international arena. These include things like having it debts to foreign creditors denominated in its own currency, which means it will never have to worry about an exchange rate shift causing its debt to increase, as other countries do. The way international finance is currently “arranged” has significant implications for investment, employment, inflation, income distribution and class conflict not only in the US but in all advanced and developing economies, so I see this class as absolutely critical to developing my understanding of the global economy.

Hatch’s IBT class lets me build on my intended concentration in international trade, as it delves into the legal aspects of the international trade regime, which will be useful should I end up working in this field. As Mr Hatch puts it, the class provides the “intellectual and practical skills essential for evaluating and conducting global business transactions” and an understanding of the “major role that business interests now play in international affairs”. Among other things, we’ll look at international trade agreements and the role of the World Trade Organisation. All useful stuff considering I came to Denver wanting to understand more about such agreements and organisations, given The Bahamas’ increasing involvement with both.

Lastly, I am doing International Project Analysis, which is a class I decided to take up only recently but which I hope will provide me with some practical skills in the area of project design and implementation that will come in handy should my work post-Korbel ever call on me to take the lead in such activities.

Outside of class I’ll be keeping busy with a few other things, among them, being a Research Assistant for Professor Grabel, which is an opportunity I am extremely honoured to have been offered. Forgive me if as a GFTEI student I’m a little biased, but Professor Grabel does some of what I consider the most interesting research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver, looking at international financial arrangements and their impact on developing economies, and vice versa, and often as part of consultancies for organisations like the UN and the World Bank. I can’t help but think that assisting her will be a great learning opportunity, both in terms of the research process and the particular topics I’ll be covering.

I also somehow ended up taking on a role in the Latin American Studies Association, as its President for 2012. Along with the rest of the LASA officers, we’re hoping to continue to offer a chance for students with an interest in Latin America, as I have, to hear interesting speakers from the region, or with expertise about the region’s issues; to attend Spanish-speaking “charlas” (informal chats) where they can practice their language skills; and to join social events like Latin American movie nights. One of the topics that the other LASA officers and I have talked about pursuing in more depth through LASA is drug policy – – – what is the impact of US drug policy on the Latin American region? What are Latin American government attitudes towards the drug war and how are they changing? What are the security, health, and development implications of pursuing one or other policy towards drug production and trafficking? With increasing numbers of Latin American leaders or former leaders questioning the US strategy, and their own in response, I think it is a great time to put some focus on this critical issue.

And finally, re: my Latin American interest and ongoing desire to be fluent in Spanish, I just signed up for some Spanish classes in Guatemala – so that’s something else I’ll be doing over the next couple of months. However, given time and financial constraints, I’m not going to be flying to Xela, Guatemala, twice a week. No, Julio Morales and I (my Spanish teacher) will be communicating via Skype thanks to Celas Maya Online. I’d recommend checking it out if you want to improve your own Spanish skills. Definitely much cheaper than classes in person in the States, and with the added advantage of getting to feel like you take a little trip to Latin America each week, to chat with a native speaker. Si, se puede!

Reading this back just now my heart gave a little flutter of fear and trepidation….Have I over-extended myself? Am I going to pull this all off? And will I manage to do so while implementing my extremely over-ambitious new post-Trinidad exercise regime which involves running, jumping, kicking, punching, crunching and abs-blasting my way through every single class on offer at the Ritchie Center gym, signing up for masters swimming classes and training for a marathon?

Did someone just increase the number of hours in the day to 30?

I think I need a beer!

Posted on September 7, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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