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Student Spotlights

There are many great resources and opportunities for undergraduate students at UCSD. To give you an idea on how to take advantage of these opportunities, and make the most of your college years, take a look at what your current and past fellow International Studies undergraduate students have accomplished during their time here at UCSD. 

Represent ISP and UCSD at the annual APRU Undergraduate Summer Program

Angela Luh

Degree: Bachelor of Arts Candidate, International Studies - Political Science, expected 2015

Words from Angela prior to attending the 7th Annual APRU Undergraduate Summer Program in China (Summer 2014) 

Last fall while studying abroad in Shanghai, I experienced firsthand the worst weather conditions recorded in China. What looked like a dense San Diego fog outside my window was actually thick smog with a particulate concentration of 450, 18 times the recommended limit. After discussing approaches to China’s environmental dilemma with my UCSD peers and international classmates, it gave me insight on the importance of cross-border dialogue and cooperation. This summer, I will be participating in the APRU Undergraduate Summer Program - an institution that fosters collaborative efforts with overseas universities in research and leadership to address environmental safety, economic agreements, and political conflicts. I am very grateful to Dean Peter Cowhey of IR/PS and the International Studies Program for this opportunity for me to attend the program in Nanjing, China, this summer. I hope that this will be an impetus experience to increase interregional collaboration among universities and students. 

Angela shares her experience post-7th Annual APRU Undergraduate Summer Program in China (Summer 2014)

This summer, I attended the 7th annual Undergraduate Summer Conference hosted by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), an organization of academic institutions along the Pacific Rim that facilitates educational, political, and economic cooperation. The conference was held at Nanjing University in China with about 40 participants. Our daily schedule included lectures given by visiting faculty members of APRU, round-table discussions, and collaboration opportunities with other students. The last two days were dedicated to exploring the vibrant (and very hot) city of Nanjing and its rich history, preserved even in the face of increasing modernization.

Among the many things I gained from the program, the most significant was simply learning from the students. A University of Tokyo senior shared that he expected 9am-to-12am work days post-graduation. My groupmate from National Taiwan University explained that Taiwan's declining economy has affected its educational system, causing an outflow of professors and students. Major Chinese universities are becoming more progressive with the inclusion of religious and LGBT student organizations, according to my Nanjing University roommate.

Gaining a broader perspective on social and cultural differences and developments in the world is an essential part of being an IS major. Knowledge of other countries' standards and how the United States could improve will benefit every IS-related career and life in general. I want to extend my appreciation to ISP and IR/PS for this great and memorable opportunity and would highly encourage students to apply to similar programs in the future. 

Get Awarded the UCSD Chicano/a Alumni Community Service 2014 Award

Jehoan Espinoza 

Degree: Bachelor of Arts Candidate, International Studies - Political Science, expected 2015

Jehoan Espinoza has a solid record of engaging and contributing to his community. He worked for the OASIS Summer Bridge Program as a facilitator for the Contemporary Issues course. He is a member of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan (MEChA) – a political student organization at UCSD. He has held leadership roles as MEChA’s VP External (2012-2013) and sat on the National MEChA Coordinating Council. Currently, he is the Campus Wide Senator for UCSD’s Associated Students and also works as a Program Assistant at the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. Jehoan will be graduating in 2015 with a degree in International Studies-Political Science.

Elizabeth Flores-Arroyo

Degree: Bachelor of Arts Candidate, International Studies - Political Science, expected 2015

Elizabeth Flores-Arroyo is the second in her family to attend a four-year university. She gives back to her community by bringing awareness and addressing the importance of higher-education to first generation students. She was a mentor for the Triton Community Leadership Institute, a transfer orientation leader and assistant for Muir College, and a resource advisor for the SPACES Summer Overnight Summit. Elizabeth will be graduating in 2015 with a degree in International Studies-Political Science and a minor in Chicano/a - Latino/a Arts and Humanities.

Study Abroad

Sarah Vella (Abroad in Thailand)

Degree: Bachelor of Arts Candidate, International Studies - Political Science, expected 2015

I have always felt like I belong to the world and cannot be tied to one nation. As a daughter of Maltese immigrants, my fascination with the world around me helped me make the choice of International Studies as a major. Along with my primary interest in Political Science, my curiosity about East Asia motivated me to choose East Asian Studies as a secondary focus. I spent a year immersed in East Asian culture by studying abroad in Bangkok, Thailand with the help of scholarships from both the Boren and Gilman foundations.

While abroad I took part in an academic internship at the EMPOWER Foundation, teaching sex workers and migrants English while studying at Thammasat University. I could not have been there at a better time to study the country's political crisis. The Royal Thai Armed Forces imposed martial law on May 20, 2014, claiming that they were protecting the country from violence. On May 22, 2014-the end of my second semester's exams-a successful military coup shook the country.

My experience abroad allowed me to meet the US Ambassador to Thailand and helped me create a plan for my future-to pursue a PhD in International Relations. Studying abroad helped me grow more open minded as a person. Experiencing a completely different culture allowed me to see world in different colors, rather in than just black and white.

Daniela Leal, Class of 2014 (Abroad in Chile)

Degree: Bachelor of Arts, International Studies - Political Science and Latin American Studies

Studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, has allowed me to explore and learn more (outside of a classroom setting) about social issues occurring in Latin America. Coming to the country in a semester when important political events are occurring, including the 40th anniversary of a brutal military coup and the upcoming presidential election, has made my experience very rewarding and empowering. As a senior at UCSD my interests are highly focused on politics and media manipulation in the region. This is one of the main reasons I chose to study abroad in South America.

Currently I am taking classes at the University of Chile in Santiago that focus on the politics of the freedom of expression relating to censorship of the press during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. I am interested in the role of media after the country's transition to democracy in 1990. Through UCEAP, I have been able to intern at CNN Chile using my bilingual skills to do translations for reporters. The opportunity of learning about freedom of speech while working for a major news media network in the country has indeed solidified my interest in conducting future research in the southern cone. While in Chile I have been able to learn more about the student movement fighting for free education, having also the opportunity to meet and talk with Roxana Miranda, presidential candidate representing the Partido Igualdad (Equality Party) in the November presidential elections.

It is these types of experiences that have made my journey abroad one of the greatest adventures I have had during my UCSD undergraduate career. Living and studying abroad not only fosters cultural awareness but also exposes students to new forms of creating knowledge. It is through the exposure in a different cultural setting that one can further explore social issues related to development, globalization, neoliberalism and social inequality along with the impact they have in a distinct society. As a future study abroad returnee and a 2014 UCSD graduate, I strongly recommend other ISP students to go out and explore the beauty and diversity of the world that we live in. Not only will the experience give you a new perspective on the world, it will also contribute to personal growth while allowing you to form long lasting connections.

Melissa Etehad, Class of 2013 (Egypt)

Degree: Bachelor of Arts, International Studies - Political Science and Study of Religion

When I told people that I would be studying abroad in Egypt for 6 months, many of the remarks were that of surprise, disbelief, and worry - "Melissa are you sure you want to go there, it's not safe!" or "Don't go right now, you should wait for things to settle down." Luckily I followed through on my instinct and it became one of the greatest adventures I've had in my college years. However, living in Egypt definitely has its difficulties. I was forced out of my comfort zone and soon came to appreciate the luxuries that I have at home such as reliable access to public transportation and communicating in my first language. I was living in Egypt at a time of transition and I couldn't have been happier to witness this change. I was struck with this reality when a family member of one of my Egyptian friends died in a protest against President Mohammad Morsi. Subsequently, I came back to America with a deepened sense of appreciation for democracy and freedom of expression-ideas that my friends in Egypt were risking their lives for. I learned what it meant to be a guest in a different country-not to impose my own beliefs and understandings of what is "normal" but instead to expand my conception of "truths" by learning to appreciate differences in culture, tradition, and religion. I took classes at the American University in Cairo that centered solely on politics and religion relating to the Arab Spring-something that wouldn't have been possible if I didn't study abroad. I was also involved in a project with Egyptian youth that allowed me to do field-research on how social media can be a tool to sustain and build Egyptian society. The ability to live and study in Egypt solidified my academic ambitions in conducting research in the Middle East. Egypt is a beautiful country rich with Islamic tradition and hospitality. I am thankful and humbled to have had the opportunity to live there and recommend everyone to take the opportunity to be a guest in another country.

Be a Boren Fellow in South Korea

Sonya Lee, Class of 2014

Degree: Bachelor of Arts, International Studies, Master of International Affairs

In 1998, I remember watching a news broadcast about South Korea sending hundreds of cattle to North Korea because of food shortages. That event made a big impact on me and led me to deepen my interest in the two-Koreas. As a Korean-American, I began to further my interest in the Korean peninsula as an IS student at UCSD. I decided to apply for the BA/MIA program because of the accelerated joint degree. I wanted to finish my studies quickly while ensuring that I gain the necessary skills to pursue a career in the international arena. In order to work in the international field, particularly in Korea, I knew I had to improve my Korean language skills. I applied for the Boren Fellowship to study the language. Currently, as a Boren Fellow, I am studying at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. I also volunteer as an English tutor to North Korean refugees with PSCORE. This summer, I plan on interning at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul as a political intern – to gain firsthand experience in the working environment of a diplomat. Then, I will return to San Diego to finish my last year at IR/PS. I want to pursue a career as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. Ultimately, I want to work on projects and talks with North Korea to ensure peace in Northeast Asia and to eventually reach reunification talks for the two-Koreas.

Take a Class Trip to Cuba

Firas Ayyad, Class of 2014

Degree: Bachelor of Arts, International Studies, Master of International Affairs

Last quarter, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba – a trip organized by Professor Richard Feinberg. It included meetings with high-level Cuban, Brazilian, and American diplomats; tours of the city and historic sites; trips to famous beaches; and delicious dinners and nights out around Havana's renowned salsa clubs. Prior to my arrival I did not know what to expect. Not many people get the chance to visit Cuba, so most of the information comes from books and news reports. Overall, the rhetoric had a slightly negative undertone. Cuba is actually a beautiful country - with stunning classic architecture and sites. The streets are always abuzz with people shopping, working, and just enjoying the day. Classic American cars add a nostalgic feel to the tropical setting--it's quite a scene. In general, the Cuban people are quite happy, and they are hopeful for the future as the government is allowing more private businesses to operate, which is improving the economic conditions overall. I truly enjoyed my ten days in Cuba and will certainly go back if given the chance. The most memorable part was the unforgettable dinner and performance by the original members of the Buena Vista Social Club - we ate and danced the entire night. I highly recommend the course by Prof. Feinberg, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to travel to Cuba.