Student Highlight

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Anna Savva (she/her) shares her experience as a student in the Human Rights Studies M.A. Program so far.

In which program are you enrolled and when is your expected graduation date?

Human Rights Studies Masters Program; Spring 2023

What is your research focus in the HRSMA program?
I am interested in post-conflict resolution, specifically peace building after genocide and ethnic conflict. I was raised in Nicosia, Cyprus, the last divided capital in the world. My paternal family was internally displaced during the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. All I've known as a child growing up on the island post conflict were the broken pieces left behind after the war. Living in one of the most militarized countries in the world, I was accustomed to these reminders of war; bullet holes in buildings, UN peacekeepers patrolling our neighborhoods, barbed wires and fences barricading the border. I wanted to understand why life was like this for Cypriots and how we can fix it through civil society action. This led me to understanding activism and peace building hypotheses that aim to rebuild fragile societies after conflict. I am especially interested in interfaith relations, cultural relativism and bi-communal relations.
Which class would you recommend to other students interested in the same issues as you?
War, Genocide and Aftermath (MDESGU4357)
Where did you grow up? In which countries and/or cities have you lived?
I was born here in Queens, New York City, and moved to Nicosia, Cyprus at age seven. I moved back to NYC for my undergrad, which marks 11 years in each of my homes. I also spent time studying abroad for winter semesters in Sydney, Australia and Cape Town, South Africa. 
What is a must-read for a human rights student?
Orientalism by Edward Said and The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon 
What has been your favorite moment in the program so far?
I enjoy engaging with fellow students in structured class environments where we respectfully discuss our opinions and experiences within a human rights context. I have particularly enjoyed presenting in my classes and leading class discussions!
What has been the most challenging part of the program?
Balancing my work and school life as a part-time commuting student. My commute from Queens takes about an hour and a half and I also am working part time at the Office of Undergraduate Student Life. The financial aspect of grad school is perhaps the most terrifying. 
What are your goals (professional or academic) after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I'd ideally like to work with NGOs that focus on peace-building and negotiation after ethnic conflict; particularly within the research and development sector. I enjoy the practice of meaningful research guiding sustainable solutions to issues. I have also considered diplomacy and intergovernmental work. 
What is your favorite spot to study or spend time on campus?
Butler Library or Earl Hall
What is one thing that your peers would never guess about you or might find surprising?
I used to have three little pet chickens that lived in my family's living room. 
What is your hometown/area famous for?
Being colonized by a ridiculous amount of empires. Also, halloumi cheese.
If you were to start a bookclub, which book would be first on your list? Why?
A near impossible question for someone who studied Comparative Literature in undergrad. Perhaps Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M Coetzee. It is a very engaging fiction book that brings in questions of ethics and colonial perspectives in a way which doesn't make you feel as though you are taking a philosophy class. 
Anything else you wish to share about yourself or your experience in the program/Columbia so far?
It's great to be in an environment where my peers care about their work in a meaningful way. I am moved by much of the work and aspirations of those around me and cannot wait to see them flourish in the field.