The Segovian who witnessed Obama’s final speech to the UN

@Roberto Arribas

Elena San Deogracias, graduate in International Relations from IE University, worked in New York for the Spanish United Nations delegation for nine months.

Segovian Elena San Deogracias Casado began her studies in International Relations at IE University with a few doubts.  She thought that perhaps she had made a mistake when she chose her degree: up until that point she had gone to high school in her hometown, had scarcely traveled outside of Spain and, what’s more, was about to share a classroom with students from all four continents, everyone united under a common language, English, and with impressive international experience.  Adapting to this next step and going to university was, at that point, a real challenge.

The following phrase is attributed to Michael Jordan:  “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” Elena belongs to the latter: the great attitude with which she started university, as well as her brilliant academic performance meant that, four years later, Elena graduated top of her class.  After graduating, she is now living temporarily in New York.  About to return to Spain, she remembers her years studying at the Santa Cruz la Real campus in Segovia with nostalgia.

When she stepped onto the IE University campus for the first time, Elena couldn’t imagine that one day she would be working as an advisor at the State Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid, or that she would be collaborating on a nine-month mission for Spain at the UN headquarters in New York.

Photo by: Roberto Arribas

Without a doubt Elena’s passion for international politics and relations goes way back.  It’s true that for years she thought she would end up studying criminology or even forensic medicine, but soon Elena realized just what a degree in International Relations could give her: a deep understanding of the social, political, and economic world, at both a national and international level.  “My interest for this field of studies increased day by day; studying this degree slowly became my only goal,” notes Elena, highlighting that, “I realized the huge role the past played in international politics, and how crucial it is to life today. I took the leap and studied International Relations at IE University.

Elena’s gamble couldn’t have turned out better.  From her time at university as a student in her first year of International Relations at IE University, she remembers “enjoying the tranquility of the campus at Segovia and the intensity of life in Madrid, with some wonderful professors that not only helped me grow academically, but personally.”  In New York, Elena also feels a longing for her old classmates, the classroom debates, and cafeteria chats.  “I met people with extraordinary potential who I’m sure will go a long way,” she says.

All your experience adds up in life,” says Elena with complete conviction, adding that “what I achieved up until now has been thanks to all that IE University allowed me to experience during my four years at university.”  At this point, the young Segovian remembers, for instance, the five months she stayed as an exchange student at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, “an enriching experience that I will never forget.”  The time spent at that institution—where social and political science enjoy great prestige not only in France, but all over the world—was decisive; “one of the keys that opened doors for me, professionally,” she remarks.

After returning from Paris, in her third year of studies, Elena began to intern as an advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid.  In Elena’s words, “during those seven months I worked elbow-to-elbow with Jorge Vázquez Costa, technical adviser of the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ignacio Ybáñez Rubio.” It was truly a tremendous professional experience; hard work, but with great satisfaction.  From there, Elena began to delve gradually into the professional field of international relations.  “Jorge Vázquez Costa has, since then, been one of my greatest supporters and I will always be grateful to him for the opportunity he gave me,” notes Elena.

As a member of the team, Elena had to “get to grips with” multiple tasks and professional assignments.  In this way she was able to see firsthand how the section of the general State budget that relates to foreign aid is developed, and the establishment of the regulations relating to the accounting and control of Spain’s contributions to international organizations.

At the Ministry she also collaborated on the drafting of a study on the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, aimed at the the Office of Analysis and Forecast in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  At the same time, she conducted a thorough investigation of UN treaties and the situation in Spain, as well as collaborating on activities related to the participation of Spain as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.

Trip to New York

After an enriching experience in the Ministry, Elena focused on completing her final study project.  At that point, an opportunity arose that couldn’t be missed, and she applied for one of the openings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work at the UN headquarters in New York, in support of Spain’s diplomatic mission as a non-permanent Security Council member.

Her experience in the State Ministry and her outstanding academic achievements were determining factors in securing her place as one of the young Spanish women selected to work for their country for nine months in New York.   Since May 2016 Elena has moved towards specific fields within the UN Security Council, especially those relating to the continent of Africa: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea Bissau, and the region of the Lake Chad basin, but also with special dedication to Haiti.  As an employee at the UN, Elena has been an exceptional witness to Spain’s participation in the Security Council, something that occurs approximately every ten years.

Elena can also always say that she was witness to the final speech of President Barack Obama, or the inauguration of the new Secretary-General Ant Guterres.  “They were historical moments that will never happen again, and I feel hugely proud to have been witness to all of them,” says Elena.

After this long period in New York, the IE University graduate in International Relations is about to return to Spain.  She is not even sure of her destination: whether to secure a job in diplomacy or start a Master’s related to her studies and experience.  “Everything I’ve experienced up until now has made me grow as a person at a tremendous pace, and I will never be able to thank my parents enough for the wonderful opportunity they gave me by allowing me to study what I am so passionate about.” Words from Elena.  Without a doubt, the most international Segovian.