Coming from California, where an hours-long road trip may not even leave the state, Spencer Ma ’19 has long been fascinated by the proximity and diversity of the European Union.
“In Europe, you can just hop on a train and travel maybe an hour and be completely immersed in a different world,” says Ma, who received his degree in economics with a secondary concentration in European History, Politics, and Societies (EHPS) in May 2019. “How a conglomeration of different countries that have vastly different cultures, completely different ways of government and economy, could come together and form, not only a monetary union but also a political union as well,” he adds. “That was always fascinating to me.”
This fascination led him to CES in 2016, just as it began offering the secondary field of concentration. For Ma, who had also studied French, the secondary concentration in European studies made sense. “If you look at the track of my college career, the underlying regional commonality between a lot of classes was Europe,” he says.
The summer after his sophomore year, Ma got to experience the workings of the EU firsthand, thanks to a CES summer internship to the European Parliament. In Brussels, Ma conducted research for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of Europe (ALDE), contributing to policy analyses and recommendations.
“The job was always different, which I found incredibly exciting,” said Ma. He primarily worked for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) and the Foreign Affairs (AFET) committees, “researching everything from trade barriers and the flow of goods to humanitarian crises,” he said.“One day I would be doing research on a particular committee in the European Parliament. And another day I could be attending meetings all day, engaging in negotiations with other parties.”
His time there had tangible results when he was tasked with drafting a resolution on the humanitarian crisis following the kidnapping of Afgan Mukhtarli, an Azerbaijani journalist. It also built on the interest in international relations fostered by Ma’s time with Harvard Model U.N., which he joined his freshman year. As a member of the student organization’s traveling team, which competes around the country, he discovered a love of debating, researching international relations, and, as he puts it, “just being able to immerse myself into that kind of discussion.”
For Ma, all these interests converged. “One of the highlights of my internship was being able to actually apply the knowledge I had gained in Model United Nations,” he says.
These interests further dovetailed Ma’s senior year, when he served as the Secretary-General of the Harvard World Model U.N. With over 2,500 participants from 115 countries, the World Model U.N. travels to a different city each year. This past year, it was held in Madrid.
“I was able to use some of the resources that CES provided to contact officials in Spain and people that we could talk to in terms of getting really awesome speakers,” says Ma. Among those speakers was King Felipe VI of Spain, who gave the keynote address.
Next year, Ma will join L.E.K. Consulting in New York, a position that will“improve my business analytical skills,” he says. “That can lead to a wide variety of options.”
Before starting his work life, Ma plans a summer trip back to Europe, visiting with the friends he made through Model U.N. and CES, which he credits as having “a huge influence on my college career.”
“Especially because of that internship that they provided, but also because of the guidance and constant resources they have given me,” says Ma. “I recommend CES and the internships that they offer to everyone. CES was not only a resource but was also a defining force of my college career.”