In March 2017, Astghik Hairapetian received the “Outstanding Leader in the Faculty of Arts” award for her contributions to the Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies, and the Faculty of Arts. During her time at UBC, Astghik was deeply invested in connecting students to community outreach programs, the Spanish-language community, and to each other. Working alongside the Arts Undergraduate Society as the President of the UBC Club de Español, Astghik encouraged UBC students to practice Spanish while learning about Hispanic culture. We asked her to reflect on some of her most meaningful UBC experiences and share some parting words of wisdom for fellow Arts students.
Hometown: San Marino, California
Program of Study: International Relations and Spanish
UBC Affiliations and Awards:
Awards: Wesbrook Scholar, Katherine Brearley Arts Scholarship
Clubs: Armenian Students’ Association, Club de Español
Why did you choose your academic program of study?
I never doubted that the Faculty of Arts was where I should be. Choosing my major within the faculty took a bit more thought, but in the end was equally intuitive. I knew that I was interested in International Relations because it allows students to explore classes in many different departments. I also knew that I would keep taking Spanish classes because I enjoyed them. The double major in International Relations and Spanish was the natural choice, with the two departments complementing each other in elegant and sometimes surprising ways.
What are some of the most meaningful experiences you’ve had at UBC?
Most of my most meaningful experiences came from being outside my comfort zone. For example, I had the opportunity to serve as president for two different AMS clubs. The challenges that these responsibilities entailed forced me to learn and grow in ways I never expected. Another example that comes to mind is going abroad. I had the chance to go on exchange to Spain and later complete a Co-op term in Chile, two experiences that expanded my perspective and understanding of the world.
How do you find a balance between involvement and academics?
I think there’s a natural dynamic between the two. Each demands different abilities and pushes you in different ways, which makes this balance easy to preserve. In my experience, the best way to reinforce this balance was finding threads that connected my academics to my involvement. In this way, the line between involvement and academics blurs and the different facets of your work have common goals.
You recently received a 2017 Outstanding Leader award. What makes a great Arts student leader?
What makes the Faculty of Arts special is the diversity of thought, talents and passions it encompasses. In my eyes, every one of my peers show leadership when they pursue these individual pursuits while showing solidarity with their fellow students.
What are the top three things that every UBC Arts student should do before they graduate?
First, I would say that every Arts student should submit their academic work to a conference or journal. We don’t often share our academic work, but it’s an excellent way to get feedback, and see what other students are passionate about. Second, I’d recommend every Arts student study a language, as it’s one of the most useful hard skills an Arts degree will give you. If you have the chance to go abroad to improve your skills, even better! Finally, I’d suggest taking courses in other faculties, as it will offer you new ways to look at the problems you tackle in your Arts classes.
What’s next for you?
I’m very excited to be starting my studies at the UCLA School of Law in August.