Curiosity Will Take You Places You Never Thought You’d Go

Alesia Burnazi ‘17



Alesia Burnazi ‘17: Curiosity Will Take You Places You Never Thought You’d Go

Alesia Burnazi ‘17 is Communications Associate for Palladium and Communications Manager for the UNICEF-funded AFPro project in Albania. Born in Tirana, Albania, Burnazi’s began her college career at BMCC before transferring to CCNY. Her family background, paired with her passion for world affairs, politics, and journalism, led her to study international studies at CCNY. 

Please tell us a little about your background.

I was born and raised in Tirana, Albania. I am of Bulgarian and Kosovo roots. My father immigrated to the U.S. leaving all behind for a better life. After all his immigration struggles he finally became a U.S. citizen opening a wide door of opportunities for me to explore in the U.S. Right after finishing high school in Tirana, I moved to NYC to pursue my bachelor's degree. I started my academic journey at BMCC on a liberal arts degree not knowing what to do or what to pursue. Community college felt huge at first and I felt so little. It was a culture shock that I had never experienced before, immersing myself in a pool of students from all over the world. I didn't know anyone, and no one knew me. The beginning was hard. My English was great but I hesitated to speak during classes. I felt timid using my voice while others spoke so confidently. During those two years at BMCC, I changed. I became stronger and more confident, I made friends and I started to explore my passions. I always knew I wanted to pursue a degree either in the arts or social sciences. BMCC was a pool of opportunities for me where I tried everything I was passionate about. I tried theater, creative writing, photography, astronomy, but also foreign languages and literature. BMCC set the basis of my education where I was able to distinguish myself through my hard work and commitment, being part of the Dean's List for two years straight.

What brought you to CCNY and to the Colin Powell School?

After finishing two years at BMCC I was faced with the big decision of which college to apply to pursue my education. I finally decided to explore International relations and journalism degrees all over CUNY. I decided on CCNY because of the variety of the international studies degree and the curriculum. I loved that students could choose different concentrations based on their interests. I started CCNY in Political Science, then switched to International Studies.

What was your passion or purpose behind pursuing what you did at City College?

At CCNY, I studied International Studies with a concentration on international relations and I also did a minor in Journalism. I always knew I wanted to study something that would have a bigger impact on the world. I have always been curious and this curiosity has driven me to explore many things. I wanted to be in the middle of world affairs, to understand complex issues, shape my critical thinking, and be able to speak eloquently with people from different backgrounds. I love culture and I started to love learning about politics. On the other hand, journalism runs in the family. My mother is a journalist and my maternal grandmother has worked in the Albanian Radio Television. Since I was a child, I dreamed about writing and telling stories like my mother. This was my thinking behind pursuing a journalism minor at CCNY.

How has your career unfolded? How did City College and the Colin Powell School help you to get where you are in your career?

Colin Powell School was the place where I found myself. This school and the degree I pursued shaped me into the person I am today. The classes I have attended and the professors I had the honor to be taught by are one of a kind. I was a little girl from Albania and I was presented with the world at CCNY. The professors at CCNY wrote my recommendations for my master's applications at the London School of Economics and Political Science where I pursued an MSc. in Human Rights. In the last four years, I have worked in social and legal research, research and development, international development, and communications. I have worked for several organizations, companies, and public institutions such as the Prime Minister's Office in Tirana, Albania, The Centre for Artificial Intelligence in London, Palladium, UNDP Albania, UNICEF Albania, Ministry of Tourism and Environment of Albania, etc.

Do you have any significant memories or accomplishments from your time at CCNY that you would like to share?

I loved my time at City College. I have made lifelong friends from all over the world with whom I still maintain close relationships. I also am very grateful for my professors Michael Busch, Barbara Nevins Taylor, Rajan Menon, Rajul Punjabi, and many others. My most precious memory would be being selected to attend the NMUN conference in 2016 along with my classmates. I was part of the Human Rights Committee and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. This conference also spiked my interest in human rights which I later pursued as a master's degree at LSE.

What advice would you give to current students?

Be curious. You don't have to know what you want to do yet, which is okay. But being curious will take you to places that you never thought you would go. It will keep the drive within you going and it will be the start of everything you want to explore in life.

What are your future career aspirations for your career?

I want to focus more on storytelling. I want to integrate my knowledge of human rights and journalism into creating a platform for underrepresented voices. Ideally in the future I would like to have my own media or institute where art, culture, journalism, and human rights would be the center of it. I also want to work for UNESCO focusing on education and culture and making an impact for the younger generation. I want to write a book, but I haven't decided on the topic yet. I will continue to stay curious.

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