June 10, 2024

Written by Senior International Policy Associate Parker Summerhill ’25.

This March, I had the opportunity to travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, to conduct research, in part thanks to generous support from the Liechtenstein Institute. This transformative research experience made a significant contribution my Junior Paper (JP). My research focused on the impact of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act on U.S.-Azerbaijani relations, a topic that required nuanced perspectives and firsthand accounts. The support from LISD and others at Princeton was pivotal in making this in-depth exploration possible.

During my week in Baku, I conducted over a dozen interviews with academics, think tank writers, as well as both current and former government officials. Each meeting enriched my understanding of Section 907 and the broader dynamics of U.S.-Azerbaijani relations over the past three decades. I gained a distinctly Azerbaijani perspective, which is often underrepresented in English-language academic literature.

Being in Baku added a layer of contextual understanding that would have been impossible to achieve remotely. Walking the streets of Baku and engaging directly with Azerbaijani people gave me anecdotes and real-life examples that strengthened my paper's arguments. The environment provided a palpable sense of Azerbaijan’s geopolitical significance and its complex relationship with the United States.

This trip to Baku was not just about collecting data; it was about immersing myself in the subject matter, understanding the nuances of U.S.-Azerbaijani relations, and bringing a well-rounded, informed perspective to my JP. The skills I developed in arranging and conducting interviews, solo travelling, and synthesizing complex information, are invaluable. They will serve me well in my academic pursuits and future career, whether in government, business, or journalism.

I am deeply grateful to the Liechtenstein Institute for helping make this research trip possible. Their support has not only enabled me to produce a more informed and comprehensive Junior Paper but has also provided me with an unforgettable learning experience that will have a lasting impact on my academic and professional development.