Impressions about Cornell and Humphrey Program

Milica Petrovic is a 2016-2017 Humphrey Fellow from Montenegro. She has spent her year at Cornell University studying Natural Resources, Environmental Policy, and Climate Change. The following is a reflection by Ms. Petrovic on her Humphrey year.

Enthusiasm for my profession, faith in knowledge, and curiosity to discover new worlds brought me to Ithaca, New York as a part of the Hubert H. Humphrey Program. This small town is the place where Cornell, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, is situated. I feel privileged to have an opportunity to spend a year in a place teeming with knowledge that is motivating students, professors, researchers, technical experts, as well as both accidental and intentional visitors to believe in knowledge, because knowledge is the only ticket to a secure future.

The road to Cornell was not an easy one. I was awarded a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship for 2016-2017 program year, by the U.S. Department of State. Following half a year procedure comprised of filling out the application, taking the TOEFL test, and going for an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica, I was informed that I had been selected as one of the participants of the Humphrey Program, part of a group of 168 participants from 95 countries around the world.

Along with 11 colleagues (from Nepal, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Ukraine, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Sudan, Ghana and China), I was selected to spend a year at Cornell University, one of the centers of science and knowledge in America.

Everything is possible here at Cornell, so it should be no surprise that people who have degrees in literature or music are dealing with water research or that biologists deal with finances. I realized here both that knowledge has no limits and that there is no success without hard work, immense love for the profession, and personal motivation for the research and study of the unknown. I was granted an opportunity to use my knowledge in the field of economy gained during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Montenegro, but also to move away from classic economic issues and study natural resources, environmental conservation policies, financial instruments that can be used for environmental protection, methods of financing infrastructure, and more.

A multidisciplinary approach to the global world has been accepted as the only viable approach in today’s world of rapid changes and uncertainty. Cornell is a university that supports this concept and allows students easy access to various kinds of courses, training, and personal contacts with professors who are world renowned experts in their fields. Chatting with my professors over a cup of coffee, ice cream, or dinner is a common practice at Cornell. Professors are fully committed to students. Not only do they transfer knowledge in the subject they teach but they also share information about developments in the world regarding their field of study, making professional connections, and involvement of students in research and practical experience.

The Humphrey Program is not focused solely on academic but also on professional development, and it is tailored to the needs of each individual participant. As I indicated in the objectives that I defined in my application for the scholarship, I paid special attention to upgrading skills such as leadership, project management, and negotiation.

During my stay in the United States I had an opportunity to meet with the presidents of National Water Association and the American Water Works Association, general managers of water utilities, founders of NGOs dealing with the sustainable management of water resources (Water for People), professionals in financing water and wastewater infrastructure (Morgan Stanley, Standard and Poor’s, Ernst & Young), and decision-makers on investments in water and sewage infrastructure (Central New York Water Authority). Furthermore, I was granted an opportunity to spend the last 6 weeks of the program at the World Bank, where I will be working on a proposal for tariff policy for water in Montenegro.

One of the biggest benefits gained through this program is friendship with people from different parts of the world. Different cultures, customs, and religions motivated us to be even closer, to share stories from our countries, and learn from each other every day. I did my best to make a “virtual” presentation of the beauty of Montenegro: our customs, culture, music and food. I am sure that some of them will visit Montenegro and be our ambassadors in the world.

In the photo: Milica Petrovic (middle row, second from the left) with her Cornell Humphrey cohort after completing a community service project

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