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Kristian Fischer - Denmark

Course: Master of Arts (MA) in International Relations
Institute: Australian National University   
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Kristian Fischer chose the ‘modernisation of US radars in Greenland’ as his master’s thesis topic, which is not such an unusual area of interest for a Dane. What is unusual, though, is that he moved 16,000 km away from Scandinavia, to Australia, to do it!

Fischer explains he was lured by the International Relations (IR) master's program at the Australian National University (ANU) and by one professor in particular.

When it comes to strategic studies, Professor Desmond Ball is considered top of his class, so to have him as a thesis supervisor was enough to entice Fischer to set up home in Canberra. “He is quite exceptional,” says Fischer, now Deputy Permanent Undersecretary in Denmark’s Ministry of Defence.

Professor Ball, he reveals, gave him the best advice he’s ever received and that was to “go to the direct source; don’t believe what you read in magazines or periodicals.” It is, he acknowledges, not always easier to do, but it is always better. And in his current job, he is constantly reminded of its value.

Fischer remembers his time at ANU as “extraordinary” in terms of the amount of reading required, the mock report writing, the active class participation, and for being the first time he had ever seen, let alone used, a Macintosh computer! “The IR programme taught me – a badly needed – dose of real study discipline which I used not only back in university life in Denmark but also in my ensuing professional life,” he says.

“We were a small unit of people, all from very different backgrounds, all very different people,” says Fischer. “It was multicultural and multinational; we had great discussions inside and outside the classroom.” Fischer says the IR course cemented his career path. He had, he admits, been “drifting” towards security policy but once he’d completed his MA at ANU, he was in no doubt that he wanted to work for the Ministry of Defence or Foreign Affairs. He did both.

He credits the Australian academics at ANU with instilling a strong work ethic, saying they were candid and unhesitant when it came to criticising poor work and commending good work. “They strive for excellence,” he explains. “Being average isn’t good enough.”

The same philosophy pervaded the sports field. Fischer fell in quickly with a bunch of football (soccer) lovers at ANU, playing most afternoons and lunchtimes - even in 45° heat! He was part of the first ever ANU soccer club to win the Grand Final in the Australian Capital Territory.

Fischer is an unabashed fan of Canberra. “I like the whole sentiment of the city,” he says. “It’s clean, with decent infrastructure, not just in terms of roads but for music, culture, exhibitions. It has great museums.” And the university-government sway, which so many people are quick to condemn, is to him, very appealing.

When asked to name his favourite thing about Australia, he nominates the people, saying it was one of the things that drew him to study there. “Australians have an appetite for the surrounding world,” he observes. “They have an outlook on the outside, an interest, but they still have a unique culture of their own.”

“I made friends there who will be friends for the rest of my life.”

Last updated: Monday, 17 August 2015 10:34:45 AM

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