Each year, LBJ School students travel the world, participating in a variety of our foreign exchange partnerships.
Students have endless opportunities to study and work in new environments, conduct research and discover big ideas from across the globe. Here, we spotlight LBJ student Kirt Smith (MGPS ’17) and his adventures in Shanghai at one of China’s top-rated public policy institutions: the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University.
The Traveler: Kirt Smith, a second year master's student in Global Policy Studies
Distance Between the LBJ School and Fudan University: 7,472 miles
Policy Area: Chinese development
Why LBJ?: "The professors and flexibility of the curriculum are two things that stand out about the LBJ School. Any time a student has a question, or just wants to talk, as long as the professor's door is open, you can walk up, knock and go from there. Then there is also the price tag. The cost of attendance is significantly lower than a majority of policy programs out there. The value and reputation of the program is right up there with the best, which made LBJ a very appealing choice."
Biggest Takeaway: "Patience, humility and understanding. Remember that your background and opinions are just a drop in the bucket compared to the wealth of information out there."
When Kirt Smith applied to the LBJ School, the Fudan exchange program did not yet exist.
However, Smith, who previously worked as an English teacher in Asia, planned to specialize in Chinese politics so the school’s admissions team connected him to Dr. Joshua Eisenman, an LBJ School professor and a distinguished scholar in China studies.
“Dr. Eisenman approached me during the summer orientation and asked if I was interested in potentially spending a semester in China to pioneer the exchange between the LBJ School and Fudan University,” Smith said. “This exchange opportunity would be a valuable opportunity to gain in-country policy experience while allowing me to hone my Mandarin at the same time. So I said yes, applied to the program and went to China in the summer after my first year at the LBJ School.”
"Dr. Eisenman’s invitation to study in China is a perfect example of how the LBJ School works to help supplement students’ studies with appropriate work experience to enhance their learning.” —Kirt Smith
"LBJ's partnership with Fudan's School of International Relations and Public Affairs (SIRPA) gives our students the option to learn about contemporary Chinese politics, economics and society in China and from a Chinese perspective. Without adding any additional time to complete their degree, students can take classes in either English or Chinese, from Fudan's top faculty members, that supplement the already robust training they receive at LBJ," said Eisenman.
SIRPA frequently hosted guest speakers and lecturers from around the globe, giving Smith many opportunities to expand his perspective and knowledge in policy areas like energy, cross-border security, governance and Chinese politics. Smith also met Chinese and international students who shared policy interests.
“The LBJ School equipped me with the right balance of qualitative and quantitative skills to enhance my learning experience,” Smith said. “Professors at the LBJ School are also very eager to help students become connected to programs and projects that fall in line with their area of policy interests. Dr. Eisenman’s invitation to study in China is a perfect example of how the LBJ School works to help supplement students’ studies with appropriate work experience to enhance their learning.”
"Kirt is one of those special students who is as adventurous as he is bright and determined. He made the most of this new exchange program with SIRPA and applied the skills he acquired at LBJ to better understand the lessons from his Chinese professors. He exemplifies our motto, 'What starts here changes the world,' and is exactly the type of student we want to join LBJ's Global Policy Studies program." —Joshua Eisenman
For example, Smith spent two years conducting research on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) while serving as a research fellow for Innovations for Peace and Development, a cross-campus initiative spearheaded by the LBJ School and the UT Department of Government that provides a space for interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research on global conflict, foreign aid and poverty alleviation.
“The course work in conjunction with my extracurricular academic and policy related activities on (and off) campus provided me with an excellent foundation to begin a career in public service,” Smith said.
When not in the classroom, Smith spent much of his time looking for opportunities to engage in local activities and practice his Chinese.
“I met many wonderful people in my classes at Fudan and the LBJ School from around the world. Their perspectives have expanded my outlook on various topics and made me more motivated to become a better public servant on the global field.” —Kirt Smith
“I learned how to adapt to the Chinese rail system and navigate around the country on my own, learning about the cultural diversity of various regions and taking in the country’s rich and extended history,” he said. “I made sure to always try and participate in language exchanges, in addition to participating in additional Chinese language classes to improve my ability to communicate better with locals.”
Smith recommends students take advantage of these types of learning opportunities.
“I met many wonderful people in my classes at Fudan and the LBJ School from around the world,” he said. “Their perspectives have expanded my outlook on various topics and made me more motivated to become a better public servant on the global field.”
International Opportunities at the LBJ School
The LBJ School of Public Affairs offers many international opportunities for students. With four official LBJ School foreign exchange partnerships, the vast resources of The University of Texas at Austin, more than 40 study abroad programs in 80 countries through the UT International Office and faculty led internships and projects, students at the LBJ School can customize the way they engage with the global arena.