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“Learn something new!”

About: College Student from Bosnia and Herzegovina based in Germany
Major: Science, Informatics, and Economy
Columbia Program: Visiting Students, Undergraduate
Columbia Course: Economic Growth and Development I (Summer Session A) 

Alma Sikira is a Bachelor in Science, Informatics, and Economy student at the Technical University of Munich. To fulfill the study-abroad component of her degree, she chose to enroll in Palaash Bhargava’s Economic Growth and Development I course offered as part of the 2022 Columbia University Summer Session. 

The Bosnia and Herzegovina native first arrived in the United States with her family as a four-year-old fleeing war in the 1990s. She spent seven years in New York City before moving to Munich, where she has lived ever since. Here she talks about her summer experience at Columbia University. 

What informed your course choice?  

In Germany, as an economics student, most of the courses I took were focused at the level of the individual or firm. I wanted to broaden my understanding of the discipline, to explore how economic issues played out at the country level. Development economics interested me in particular, as I was curious to explore the forces that contribute to the disparity in wealth between countries. Economic Growth and Development offered the best mix of micro- and macroeconomics while also promising insights into economic challenges of real social significance.

What was your favorite part of the class?

There were several. For one thing, the small class size allowed for spontaneous discussions, encouraging students to voice and critique different perspectives. This was quite different from my experience in Germany, where the average class sizes were much bigger, in some instances exceeding 200 students. 

Additionally, Professor Bhargava made every attempt to connect class material to the real world. He invested a lot of time in explaining concepts and challenged us to think beyond our preconceived notions. The course made me understand that privilege comes with a responsibility to help those in need. It helped me realize how connected the world truly is and how a small contribution can make a huge difference in the development of many poor countries. 

Tell us about your postgraduate plans. Has the Columbia Summer Session experience helped you refine your interests or goals?

I am more inclined to work than continue studying once I graduate. It would be nice to gain some work experience in the field of computer science. The course I took at Columbia helped shine a light on the structural problems that keep people in poverty, like poor access to education, and I would like to play a part in improving the situation by serving those who are most vulnerable. In the long term, however, I want to pursue a career as a teacher. 

What were your favorite things to do on campus and around New York? 

Meeting new people on campus was always a treat. I also enjoyed grabbing meals with my friends after class, late-night strolls outside John Jay Hall, and relaxing by the Low Steps. Outside of campus, I enjoyed going to baseball games, especially when the Yankees were playing.  

What advice would you give to students who may be considering the Columbia Summer Session? 

I would suggest that they pick their courses carefully. Try not to take courses that are similar to what you were taking back home. Use the study-abroad opportunity as a chance to learn something new! 

Explore options for visiting students during the Columbia University Summer Session.