The dream of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Middle East

1 April 2016 14:44

(updated: 1 April 2016 14:46)

You can't just be blond and want to save the world, you have to have some meaningful tools. Economics is such a tool.

Laila Chedid Arnesen

The dream of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Middle East

NHH alumna Laila Cehdid Arnesen went from NHH to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' prestigious diplomat trainee course. Her dream is to be stationed in the Middle East. "NHH is the perfect background for such an opportunity", she says.

Laila Chedid Arnesen was in Lebanon in 2006, when Israel and Hizbolla clashed.

NHH alumna Laila Chedid Arnesen
NHH alumna Laila Chedid Arnesen

"Buildings nearby were bombed, and we were evacuated. On the evacuation ship, under the dark, starry sky, I sat with Lebanese people, Norwegians, people from all kinds of places, and I thought: 'As irrational as world politics are, it would be exciting to learn about negotiations and diplomacy. That's something I would like to do, and that is something the world needs'", she says.


She has always known she wanted to work internationally. Arnesen believes economic interests are behind world politics, and therefore chose to study at NHH. She brought along a bachelor's degree in Arabic.

"Many people speak Arabic better than I do. But I thought that if I study at NHH, I can try for the diplomat trainee course afterwards, and if that doesn't work out I will still have many options", she says.


The application covers many fields, including childhood, interests and experiences. Arnesen wrote a colourful, enthusiastic description, with a risk of seeming too "chirpy".

"It can seem as if they want people who are experts in Trival Pursuit, and I am not", she says. The next step involves various tests. She was sent several online language and IQ tests, which she filled in at home. This was followed by a six-hour written test, in which candidates were set two essay questions. Some candidates were then invited to a final round, which took place over four days in Oslo. They were first given a personality test, then they had a two-hour interview with a psychologist, another round of IQ tests and finally a group case study. The last round also included a three-hour language test, which for Laila was in Arabic.

"I met many great people with very different backgrounds. The processes was compassionate and good. It was a lot of work, but a good experience", she says.


The last stage is the actual interview. The purpose of the interview is to gain insight into who the applicant is. What attitudes does he or she have? What does the applicant stand for?

"Since the interview with the trainee committee is notorious, I read up on the different members ahead of time. Gerd-Liv Valla was on it, and I had parodied her in the revue in Uken, which I hoped she was unaware of", Arnesen notes with a smile.

"The interview was actually a release, because I am who I am. You can't just be blond and want to save the world, you have to have some meaningful tools. Economics is such a tool, and the 'edge' I had was NHH. There are not a lot of economists applying for the diplomat trainee course, and they were specifically looking for economists this year", she says. She prepared for everything from politics to culture, peace and conflict and Norway's interests.

"I can argue for my views using perspectives from economics. If we are talking about aid, I can do it from an economic standpoint. I can quantify it, look at cause and effect and make it more concrete by using economics as a starting point. I read up on capitals, the BRICS countries, the UN and EU. I was ready to be pumped, and I got questions about all sorts of things, including economics", she says.

Only 15 people are accepted onto the trainee course every year.

"It took four weeks before I got the call. It was like winning the lottery and the pools at the same time!"

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