You have lived in a number of countries, but where are you from exactly?

I’m half French, half Filipino. I was born in Belgium and raised in the US, and am currently living in Spain. I’ve lived in 10 different countries/territories since I was born (Belgium, New Caledonia, US, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Argentina, UK, Switzerland, and Spain) but the two countries where I’ve spent the most time are the US and Spain.

Interestingly, my citizenship is French. Now, do I feel French? Yes and no. Yes, because French is my mother tongue and my schooling was all in French. Yes, because the predominant culture in my family is undoubtedly French. No, because I’ve practically never lived in France except during my graduate studies.  So after 16 years in Spain, am I Spanish? Well, I definitely don’t feel Spanish, although I love Madrid. I speak Spanish fluently and my three children are half Spanish. But, I am by no means a native speaker and would never consider myself Madrileña. Do I feel American? Again, yes and no. Yes, because I grew up in the US and most of my cultural references (and my accent) are certainly American. No, because I have no American roots and no one in my close family currently resides in the US.

So where am I from?  I guess one is really from the city where one was raised as a child. If that is the case, then I am from Washington DC. I grew up in a very cosmopolitan, multilingual environment. My friends were from all over the world and most of my friends’ parents (including my own) worked at embassies or international institutions based in DC (such as the World Bank or the IMF).

What does it mean to be a global citizen? 

A global citizen is someone who identifies with the world community above her identity as a citizen of a particular country. I guess this definition applies to me. I certainly feel like a citizen of the world and don’t feel a very strong affinity with any one country. The pros are that you truly feel comfortable almost anywhere in the world. You can blend in and relate easily to other cultures. You feel at home everywhere. The cons are that, by the same token, if home is everywhere, then home is also no single, special place. You don’t have deep roots anywhere or a special attachment to a single city or country. And this sense of belonging to just one place can be something you yearn for from time to time.

Does the concept of global citizenship, in a way, deepen social divisions in society?

I wouldn’t think that the concept of global citizenship deepens divisions in society unless you go around presenting yourself as a privileged globe trotter. If you start name dropping and saying that you used to live in Paris, Hong Kong, or Buenos Aires, that could be a bit pretentious. But if you travel the world because you are interested in discovering different cultures and far off places, because you want to know and understand them and not just read about them or watch documentaries, then you have an open and curious mind. And people are usually quite appreciative of someone that is genuinely interested in getting to know their culture.

How has your upbringing influenced your personal view of the world, the trajectory of your career, and how your build relationships both professional and personal? 

Growing up in Washington DC, in diplomatic circles, I always imagined I would study international politics and economics and then join the French foreign service, the UN, or the World Bank. It just seemed like the logical career path for me. In fact. I never really questioned it or wondered if it was what I really wanted to do. I was just sort of following in my parents’ footsteps. This is what a lot of children do, I realize. And I see this in my IE undergraduate students. Many of them are studying what their parents studied (or want them to study) and wish to engage in similar lines of work as their parents: diplomacy, law, business. I ended up studying business and international relations and my first job fresh out of grad school was at the World Economic Forum in Geneva (certainly a good stepping stone for an international career). It seemed like everything was going according to plan. Until my plans changed radically and I moved to Madrid (laugh)….

How can students get out from under the wing of their parents and find their true passion?

For one, students should study what they are drawn to, what they enjoy. If they are interested in the topics addressed in class, then they will engage more and apply themselves when it comes to studying. In the event that they don’t know what they really like, then they should try to take as many different courses as possible.  I would also reach out to a trusted counselor or mentor who might provide useful advice about what to study and what career to pursue. I wish I had had a role model or mentor when I was a university student. Being faced with too many choices can feel overwhelming. Sometimes all you need is a bit of orientation.

As students move from the study of international relations to the practice of international relations, what should they keep in mind?

There are many different theories that IR students explore during their studies but if I had to pick just one it would be the concept of national interest. In effect, states will always protect their national interest and if they cooperate at all it is only because they believe it is in the interest of their government and constituents and that there is a benefit or advantage in cooperating, either through trade or military alliances. This theory will help students understand how the world works and why states act in certain ways. It is a cynical but mostly accurate theory.

Do you ever miss the practice aspect yourself?  

Well my plan was always to work in an international organization and be an actor in the global arena. But life didn’t go according to plan.  I didn’t end up working for the World Bank or the UN or the IMF. Instead of practicing international relations in a global organization, I now teach international relations as an academic field at the IE School of Global and Public Affairs – a number of courses in fact, including Global Governance and International Institutions; Aid, Development & Social Entrepreneurship; Global Governance & International Organizations; and Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement.

So, theory instead of practice. Do I miss the practice? Yes, a little bit. I believe my teaching would be well complemented by some experience in the field. Students love stories, especially if they are stories about real life experiences. I give many examples to illustrate the theoretical concepts we cover in class, but most of them are not personal and I think my classes would benefit from personal tales as well.

Can you talk a little bit about the Transatlantic Relationship initiative?

The Transatlantic Relations Initiative (TRI) fosters debates on European affairs, US-Hispanic politics, and broader Ibero-American issues. It was launched at IE at a time when the until now unquestioned US-EU alliance was (is) at its weakest point in decades. We hope to play a role in strengthening these transatlantic ties through dialogue and discussions on political and economic issues of vital importance on both sides of the Atlantic. To this effect, we’ve launched a new Observatory on Canada that focuses on Spanish-Canadian commercial and political relations.

I know that you are an avid reader.  What types of books do you like and why?  Any suggestions?

I read in a magazine article recently that to qualify as an avid reader you should read +50 books a year. Someone that reads between 20 and 49 books is a frequent reader. So that would make me a frequent reader (laugh). I have a very eclectic taste and enjoy thrillers, novels, non-fiction, science books, you name it. Anything that catches my fancy.

I read a lot of academic articles and books for work so when I relax I try to read books that have nothing to do with my classes. Right now I am going through a Toni Morrison phase and in order to pay homage to the recently deceased Nobel prize winner, am rereading her books. I just finished Beloved and it is as spectacular today as it was when I first read it 20 years ago. Now I just started Jazz.

Your office has some interesting posters.  Are you a collector?  

It’s funny you mention my posters. I wouldn’t call myself a collector but I do have a lot of rolled up and unused posters at home, waiting for the day they are hung on a wall. Whenever I visit an art gallery or museum, I usually buy the temporary exhibit’s poster. It makes for a nice souvenir from my travels. The posters in my office all represent women at different moments in time.  (The outlier is Hokusai’s Great Wave – one of my all-time favorite paintings).  It wasn’t my intention to curate this group of female protagonists for my office walls, but I do like the result.

Professor Quiviger was interviewed and photographed by Kerry Parke in Madrid.