Many incredible people have passed through the VACorps internship program since we first started hosting interns in 2006. “Oh the places you’ll go” is a series where our alumni share updates about their careers and life accomplishments. In this latest post, Abdullah Khurram (’10) checks in from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, where he is currently a Doctoral Researcher at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy. As you will note from his career synopsis, Abdullah has already built a very impressive political career and we would not be surprised to see him become the Prime Minister of Pakistan in future! He is one we will be watching and cheering for in the years to come. Connect with Abdullah via LinkedIn HERE.

Please give us a summary of your career to date.

I’m currently a Rising Powers Fellow at PoliTact, a strategic advisor at Gulf State Analytics, and serve on the board of advisors for Duke University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s jointly organized U.S.-China Leadership Summit. I’m also pursuing my PhD studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Previously, I held research positions and/or fellowships at the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin, Germany; Middle East Institute in Washington DC, USA; and the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan. Amongst other places, I have guest lectured at Columbia University, Duke University, Bangladesh Foreign Service Academy, Institute for the Middle East and Balkan Studies in Slovenia, and at the National Defence University (NDU) of Pakistan. I hold a master’s degree in global security studies from Johns Hopkins University, a Master’s degree in international relations from The University of Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree in economics & government and international politics from George Mason University. For contributions in the field of education, I was awarded the National Youth Award by the Government of Pakistan

Abdullah with Jimmy Carter (President of the USA from 1977 to 1981)

What were the highlights of your internship experience in Cape Town?

Some cities are interesting because of their natural beauty, others are amazing because of the people that live there. But Cape Town was one of those experiences which merged the best of nature and the finest of human hospitality in a single experience. While this human experience was seen city-wide, but what really took it to new heights for me was the kindness of VA Corps, where the staff was extremely helpful to me throughout the process. They did not only make sure that I have the best of internship site experiences, but also ensured that I had great housemates and an excellent time enjoying the rainbow nation, both above the ground, and below the water through some amazing SCUBA diving spots that took me to.

Moreover, what made my time in Cape Town even exciting was the FIFA World Cup. It was my first time watching a live football match, and I thoroughly loved every single minute of it.

Abdullah with Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke

Abdullah with Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke

Can you share an example of how your internship experience aided you with your career? 

While working at the Economic Policy Research Institute in Cape Town, I got a really good insight into how a think-tank works, and what are the nuances of the development field overall. I helped the institute work on an evaluation report on the social assistance projects running in Sub-Saharan Africa, and also helped prepare teaching material for the “Economic Development” course for South African parliamentarians under a parliamentary capacity building project. Such insightful experiences sparked my interest in the field of research and policy evaluation and helped shape my academic path and professional thinking in the years after.

Abdullah with Google's Executive Chairman who is now Chairman of ALphabet Inc and the world's 119th richest man, Eric Schmidt

Abdullah with Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman – the world’s 119th-richest person

What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to future VAC interns and/or those considering participation in the program?

Life is too short, and everything has an opportunity cost, so think in detail before choosing your life directions and before making major decisions. However, if there’s one thing that you should not think twice about is whether to do an internship in Cape Town or not. It is that one decision that is sure to go the right way for you. The professional experience, the natural beauty, and the memories from local hospitality; you’re going to cherish each and everything for life.

Abdullah Khurram

Abdullah receiving certificate from Polish Ambassador to Pakistan at the European Academy of Diplomacy

Any predictions for what we can expect from you in 10 year’s time? 

There is only one thing certain: my long overdue visit to Cape Town! And of course, the uncertain things include finishing PhD, writing a book on rising powers, and the most exciting of all: travelling to other corners of the world.

In conversation with Jan Eliasson, UN 2012-2016 Deputy Secretary-General

Abdullah with President and CEO of Hyatt Hotels, Mark Hoplamazain

Abdullah with US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul and Pakistani Consul General to Chicago, Faisal Tirmizi