By Mary Leong
Hailing from Toronto, Caroline Durran was initially drawn to UBC by the strength of its International Relations (IR) program. Four years later, with a Global Citizenship term abroad and a Student Directed Seminar under her belt, she is graduating with the distinction of the Dean’s Outstanding Leadership in Arts award.
UBC’s interdisciplinary IR program was one of the reasons that Caroline chose the university in the first place. The mix of Political Science, History, and Economics, exposed her to many different streams of thinking and provided her with an opportunity to study abroad.
“The IR major program is relatively small, so I thought that would give me a good chance to build up relationships with the students and professors. It’s got a big international flavor to it, which led me to go on the Global Citizenship term abroad in Guatemala in 2009,” said Caroline.
Prior to leaving for her Global Citizenship term abroad, Caroline took a crash course in Spanish where students completed Spanish 101 in two and a half weeks. During their time in Guatemala, they worked on a two-week Habitat for Humanity project, building homes alongside Guatemalan families, followed by three courses centered around the idea of global citizenship. Caroline found the combination of living what she was learning exhilarating.
“So the first course we did in Guatemala was a philosophy course, on contemporary moral issues in international development and aid, and it was just so cool to do something like that. We were in a classroom discussing the ethics of international volunteering a week after we’d been on the ground volunteering with an international NGO,” she said.
Upon her return, she began working for Go Global, which allowed her to help with promoting the Global Citizenship term abroad program and keeping it going.
“I spend a lot of time doing recruitment work for [the program], and pre-departure workshops,” said Caroline.
Aside from her involvement with Go Global, Caroline has also taken her interest in international affairs to a Student Directed Seminar (SDS) entitled “Democracy and Development in the Age of the Internet and New Media”. After she realized that there were no courses at UBC that discussed the impact of new media on global issues, she decided to design her own class from something she thought was missing in the curriculum.
“We’re so plugged into Twitter, Facebook, Google all the time. It’s so pervasive, and it was just crazy to me that there was no academic context to discuss its impacts at UBC,” said Caroline. “It’s just so relevant to students right now, and luckily, a friend of mine was willing to take it on with me.”
The course focused on how the Internet affected economic development in lower-income countries, political engagement and democratization, international and local responses to humanitarian crises, and accountability. The seminar attracted students from a wide range of faculties, ranging from Arts to Commerce to Computer Science.
“The seminar was so dynamic! It was held for three hours every Tuesday night, but everyone there would be so focused on what we were talking about. We’d look at the clock and it would be 8 pm already,” Caroline said enthusiastically.
After graduation, Caroline is headed off to law school. She will also be travelling back to Guatemala this summer and visiting the family that they built the house for during her term abroad.
When asked how an Arts degree had prepared her for life after graduation, Caroline said that it had “prepared [her] so well, not only for law school but also to go out and interact with the real world.”
“An Arts degree is incredibly valuable because it really teaches you how to think. It forces you to synthesize, and analyze, and it really allows you to think innovatively and creatively. When a professor gives you a completely blank slate to come up with whatever you want, you’ve got the world at your hands. You can find what interests you and create something from that. It just turns you into a thinker.