Few students have been more involved in the Tufts international relations (IR) community than history and IR double major Eva Kahan. As co-director of Alliance Linking in Leaders in Education and the Services (ALLIES), a member of the IR Student Advisory Board and founding member of Tufts Women in International Relations, Kahan has dedicated her time at Tufts to increasing engagement in IR and facilitating cross-cultural understanding across the globe.
Through ALLIES, Kahan aims to help bridge the gap in civilian-military relations by promoting civil-military education and research. She said her interest in the field was sparked by a Tufts seminar she took on the modern history of Iraq, with a focus on the Iraq war.
“I got really interested in how we understand the Arab world and what leads states like the United States to make policies, and why the civilian population isn’t engaged and doesn’t understand … what our policy is and how to fix it,” Kahan said.
Kahan began learning Arabic during her first semester at Tufts. She spent her junior year abroad in Jordan, where she studied Arabic with Middlebury-in-Jordan throughout the fall semester — then left the program to spend spring 2018 living on her own in Jordan, conducting research on Jordanian civil-military relations for her senior thesis.
“I interviewed 26 Jordanian veterans and 20 Jordanian academics, mostly in Arabic, about what they thought about my thesis research, and I was able to record them or take notes and then go home afterwards and really process … what does it mean that all these people have had all these different experiences and they’re mostly not being listened to?” Kahan said.
From interviews with more than 40 Jordanians, Kahan said that she found many people she talked to felt as though neither the Jordanian government nor the American government heard their opinions or understood the experiences of Jordanian citizens.
“America spends 500 million dollars [per] year on the Jordanian military,” Kahan said. “When we’re not listening to the people there, when we’re not paying attention, it really has this impact on the ground and on Jordanian politics … and the exchange between Americans and Jordanians in the capital and throughout the country.”
Kahan recently finished writing her senior thesis about Jordanian military demography. She will spend next year abroad in Cairo on a Harvard-sponsored Arabic language study program; eventually, she hopes to work in public service and continue doing field research.
“I’m really interested in going into American federal public service, ideally as a researcher and analyst,” Kahan said. “With that, I’d like to be able to spend some time in the field — one of my favorite things about being in Jordan was doing field research and going to different places and interviewing different people about their experiences.”
She expressed gratitude for the Tufts Arabic program and Office of Scholar Development Program Specialist Anne Moore’s office as well as the community that her involvement in ALLIES has brought her.
“ALLIES particularly has been an incredibly supportive community with mentors above me and below me who have been encouraging me to go abroad for a year, to do my own research, to continue with my language study and to really break out of my comfort zone,” Kahan said.
Kahan, a Truman Scholarship finalist, recommended that any fellow IR students take the time to apply to fellowships and get involved in smaller Tufts institutions such as the Tufts’ Institute for Global Leadership.
“I’ve been really grateful for the support of all these smaller Tufts institutions … I encourage future students to be engaged in these smaller organizations where you’re able to really have connections that reach all over the world,” she said.