Ina Gjika (’15): ‘AUBG offers an education that makes you a well-rounded person’
Albanian alumna Ina Gjika (’15) has just been accepted to Ivy League school Cornell University where she will study Applied Economics and Management at the Cornell Dyson School. There, Gjika will further pursue her interest in development economic issues. We reached out to the alumna to learn more about her professional and volunteer experience and hear about her time at AUBG.
Congratulations on your acceptance to the Cornell Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Why did you choose this university and what sparked your interest in economics?
Thank you Dimana. My liberal arts undergraduate academic background is truly a diverse one, two majors in Business Administration and Political Science and a minor in Economics. There are certain aspects of these three broad fields, which triggered my curiosity to continue exploring. In a way, my academic experience at AUBG has helped me see the macro picture, where these disciplines are interconnected, and develop a sense of understanding that different stages of development occur in differently organized countries. Moreover, the technical courses unfolded the micro picture, which is more specific and technical. So, I would say that the grounds to build my interest on development economic issues were already there from AUBG.
Later on, my professional experience at a development-oriented German bank added the practical component to my understanding of development, while communicating and analyzing business clients in a developing country such as Albania. So, I realized that by building on my economic tools and skills, I could engage in research that could eventually lead to more aggregate policy recommendations for different SME sectors, as they integrate in the global value chains. Hence, I decided to pursue my graduate studies in the field of applied economics, concentrated on development.
Thankfully, this year I obtained a full scholarship, by the Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF) and Biberaj foundation, to continue my graduate studies in the U.S. I chose Cornell Dyson School, because I believe that I will gain a hands-on experience, while learning from the best. The faculty have expertise and have conducted extensive research on development economics issues. Also, I think that the great reputation of the program, the comprehensive research facilities and the international community will give me a competitive advantage in pursuing a career in this field.
You graduated AUBG in 2015. Where have you lived and worked since?
Shortly after graduating from AUBG, I joined the banking sector in Albania, where I have worked for the past five years. I served as a client relationship manager for medium and large size businesses, and afterwards as a credit risk specialist for medium and large size business loan exposures. During this time, I have been living in between Albania and Germany, as I have also attended a three-year part time executive management track offered by the bank, in Frankfurt and Furth, which helped me build on my professional expertise in banking, along with my certification in International Trade Finance, by the London Institute of Banking and Finance.
I have also continued to be active in the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) alumni organization, by participating in regional conferences and organizing activities in my community. I have also further pursued my passion for reading and writing about books, by creating my own blog for book reviews called Ina’s Bookshelf.
In what ways did your AUBG education shape you personally and professionally?
I think that there are many components that make AUBG special, which I have realized only sometime after graduation, once I entered the corporate world. AUBG offers an education that makes you a well-rounded person. In addition to the technical skills, the soft skills that I have learnt such as critical thinking through in-class discussions and class projects, teamwork, time management, communicating in a multicultural environment, public speaking, writing skills and intellectual independence are just a fraction of what AUBG has taught me. These skills turned out to be useful not only in shaping who I am, but also in my job research after graduation. AUBG has a very good reputation in Albania and the extra-curricular activities that I had the chance to engage in while at AUBG definitely added value to my profile during my job interviews.
What classes and extracurricular activities had the most impact on you and why?
It is very difficult to pull apart specific classes, as all of them have contributed to my current academic and professional preparation. Not only required classes for the majors, but also classes such as history, or philosophy have shaped my worldview and inspired me to better understand what happens around me. Moreover, I would say that these classes have been very useful in participating in meaningful conversations with my managers and colleagues at the bank.
As for extra-curricular activities, I would mention both AIESEC and my working positions as a writing tutor, and as a teaching assistant for a couple of courses. These experiences have extended my network at AUBG, have strengthened my volunteering spirit, and have made me appreciate writing and training skills even more.
Are you still in touch and collaborating with other AUBGers and in what ways?
Definitely YES. I have kept in touch with other AUBG alumni, as well as faculty. My communication is in various dimensions such as friendships, professional relationships, and exchanging opinions on different matters. AUBG was not only an academic space for me, it was home for those four years, during which I have gained lifetime friendships, which I will always cherish.
What are your professional aspirations and plans for the future?
My short-term plans are to fully engage in my two-year master program, while continuing to specialize on international development economics, through research experience in the U.S. My long-term plans consist of working as part of international institutions such as NGOs or consulting firms, giving my contribution in different development research areas in Albania and other developing countries.