“When you experience it yourself, when you’re sitting at home with the lights off out of fear of being killed—well, it really affected me,” said Elina Jioeva, recounting her experience as a young adult when the Russian Federation invaded Georgia, her native country, in 2008.
“If you don’t experience it for yourself you can’t understand completely what it means,” she said. “You did not do anything and you’re just sitting in your home—and another country just decided to change your reality. And you just can’t do anything about that.”
But Jioeva did not intend to keep that feeling of helplessness going forward.
Now, 12 years later, Jioeva is pursuing a degree in the Master’s in International Security program at the Schar School of Policy and Government. Jioeva already had an interesting perspective, having been raised in the former Soviet Union, in a country with strategic importance located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and neighboring Russia. However, the American perspective, she said, was something she sought.
“I always wanted to have this U.S. perspective about international relations and about Eastern Europe-and-Russia relations, and all the security issues that are going on now,” she said. “I really enjoy some of the classes, like International Security with Ellen Laipson, because we analyze different cases of U.S. decisions, such as with Cuba. It just gives me a different perspective, and how the U.S. came to this point in history—through what kinds of challenges and decisions.” Laipson, it should be noted is the former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council.
Jioeva’s path to the Schar School is unlike most students. After completing her undergraduate program in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, she began working for Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, planning training programs at the Diplomatic Training Center, and working alongside international partners such as German Marshall Fund for International Security. Jioeva then studied at the Estonian School of Diplomacy, before moving to the United States in January, 2019.
Jioeva currently works remotely as an analyst for the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, located in Helsinki, tracking human rights abuses throughout the former Soviet Union. She said she would like to use her master’s degree education to branch out and work on strategic and security policy. Some possible career opportunities of interest are at the National Endowment for Democracy, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Eurasia Foundation.
“I have always had it in my mind,” she said, “that whatever I do, even if I’m abroad, I will help Georgia, and the world, somehow.”
Schar School fact: The Schar School of Policy and Government, located in Arlington, Va., is just minutes from Washington D.C., and provides access to facets of American diplomacy and defense to students from all over the world. The school is ranked No. 2 in the world for security studies programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2019).