The IR Program would like to congratulate all those students who graduated from the IR Major in 2020. We want to honour the knowledge and insight these students have to share even though they are not able to do it in person, so will be featuring many of them in a series of interviews here online. Go forth, grads, we are proud of you!
Name: Lisa Ren
Started at UBC in: 2016
Why did you choose to study IR?
It was actually a happy accident, I was still struggling to figure out what I wanted to do when I was applying to university and I found about “International Relations/International Affairs.” I knew that I liked history, but I also had interests in getting some more policy analysis experience as well as just developing my understanding of current events. So it seemed like IR was the perfect fit and now that I finished my degree I can say that it definitely was!
What was one significant learning moment that happened during your degree?
HIST 380 with Professor Peterson! I took his history of Modern China class and it completely changed my life. It really lit a fire in me to pursue my passion in history and I’m pursuing my MA in modern Chinese history at UBC now because of what I learned in his class (also if any students would like advice on the MA application process or how I decided to pursue this path, I’d also happily answer any of these questions as well!)
However, overall, I think every class I’ve taken at UBC has been so instrumental in shaping who I am not only as student and researcher but also as a person. So definitely take advantage of all opportunities, UBC Arts always has very interesting courses that come out and its always a great opportunity to branch out and try out new things you’re interested in.
What is one thing that you did/were involved in that you think future IR students should consider?
I actually have two things!
First is to definitely try something you’ve never done before, club or work related! I found a job at DAE (Development and Alumni Engagement) through the UBC Work Learn Program and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. My team is fantastic, I’ve made lifelong friends, and I’ve gained so much valuable work experience for whatever my future career will be.
Second is to take every course as a learning opportunity to try or explore an interest! I know sometimes that mandatory classes aren’t fun, but they’re a great opportunity to develop a newfound passion. For instance, for my literature requirement I decided to take some Russian literature courses with Professor Bowers and it was the best choice I ever made. Professor Bowers is such an amazing professor and so passionate about Russian literature, it made the class a pleasure to take and I really got to explore my interests in Russian literature. I recommend any of her classes, they’re really fantastic!
Most memorable or favourite IR class? And why?
HIST 432! It is the history of International Relations in the 20th century. It is taught by Professor Tworek and she’s an amazing professor! It is one of the mandatory fourth year level history courses that you have to take, and I’m really happy that I chose her class.
She really challenges you to think about historical events in new and creative ways. Also as professor that focuses on media research she has some incredibly creative assignments, like designing a Wikipedia page for a famous historical figure, event, or theory. It was a lot of fun and I learned so much in her class. She is such an inspiring professor and it was truly a wonderful experience to learn from her.
Any advice for future IR Majors?
1. Don’t be afraid to try a new class or explore an interest during your IR degree, the beauty of the IR degree is as an interdisciplinary degree there is plenty of options and time to explore all your options.
2. Go on exchange if you can! I was a transfer student from D.C., but exchange definitely is a wonderful option to develop your understanding and experiences in other countries, cultures, and institutions.
3. Take summer classes. I personally really like summer courses, its a good opportunity if you have some challenging courses (for me it was ECON 355) to just take 1 or 2 classes and really focus and learn the material better. You might have to sacrifice a little bit of summer but I think its really worth it.
4. Choose your seminar class (final year) wisely! Your seminar class is a great opportunity to get some more personalized or deeper research experience, so really try to pick a class, or schedule your year around a seminar, that interests you and will give you a great opportunity to develop your research/paper writing/presentation skills!
5. Volunteer for IR events, I’ve done volunteer work when the IR department needed some students for panels or advice meet ups and its really fun, plus its a great time to share some of things you’ve learned or advice you’ve gotten over the years with new students or potential ones!
6. Have fun! The IR department and community is really great, Ms. Olson is always there helping students out and providing great information on upcoming classes, seminars, events, clubs, conferences, etc. All the professors part of the department are super accomplished and amazing instructors to take a class with that it makes every class an enjoyable experience. I felt so welcomed and I am so happy I did my degree in IR at UBC, it was amazing!