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Master's graduation a giant leap for international student

Wednesday 3 February 2021 4:59pm


After a year of challenges, walking across the stage last December to gain a Master of International Studies would have had added significance for Deepa Kuttikat – and despite the ceremony being cancelled, she’s still celebrating.

Deepa overcame several trials and tribulations last year, including a complicated internal inflammation that required multiple surgeries, and many family members in India contracting COVID-19.

The international student, who hails from Hyderabad, says staying in New Zealand to complete the programme as family members fell ill was “mentally stressful and challenging.”

“During lockdown I learned my father, brothers and uncles – about half my family – had COVID. While I wanted to return home, I made one of the hardest choices to stay and, because they place great importance on education, my family were on the same page.

“A lot of energy and frustration was channelled into my studies and dissertation. Also, thank God for technology that allowed me to talk with family around the world every day.”

This year Deepa also underwent surgery. She credits partner Sibin, sister, parents and friends, her Professors, Sarah Ewing from Otago’s International Office and a strong friend circle in New Zealand as a big factor in dealing with these issues, and giving her the supported needed to continue focussing on her studies.

Deepa’s dedication paid off; her thesis on populist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political policy was awarded with distinction.

She discussed how Modi’s foreign policy, and his strong relationship with other populist leaders is often at odds with his views on minorities in India. This resonates with Deepa, who is part of India’s Christian minority.

“There’s so many applications for research on the problems of the world, which I’ve always wanted to learn more about, and it really tied in with a fascination about the facts behind the issues, and how the macro relates to the micro.”

Deepa has previously completed a communications and journalism master’s at Christ University, Bangalore, a “corporate stint” and worked at Deloitte, where she developed a “passion for facilitation and coaching.”

These experiences, and her studies at Otago, have furthered her interest in international relations, peace and conflict studies, global economics, international law, and the impact or various global geo-political struggles. She may pursue PhD studies in future.