Caleb Lee: Linguistics and Learning

Caleb Lee

Linguistics alumnus Caleb Lee (BA ‘06) has a message for UBC students who are uncertain about their career path: pursue the things you love to do, and everything will end up coming together.

As a mentor for the Arts Tri-Mentoring program, Caleb shares his post-graduate experiences with current students to help them understand that there is no one single way to succeed. Originally from Peru, Caleb attended high school in Quito, Ecuador and came to UBC due to family ties in Vancouver. He chose to major in Linguistics due to a love of languages, but felt that he wasn’t very involved at UBC during his degree.

“My main focus was just getting through school,” Caleb said. “I felt like in university I was just following rules and orders. I didn’t have a goal, and it wasn’t until I started exploring myself that I started realizing what I wanted to do.”

After graduation, Caleb was unsure of what he wanted to pursue, so he decided to try out a number of careers he thought he might enjoy, ranging from banking to hairdressing. The goal was to figure out his likes and dislikes, and hopefully find something that he felt he could stick with in the long term.

Caleb is currently teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. It’s a government-funded program that provides free English classes for new immigrants and refugees to get them started with life in a new country. He began volunteering at the organization, then acted as a substitute teacher, and his involvement eventually led him to a full-time position.

“I’m using my linguistics degree every day,” Caleb said. “I’m not only teaching immigrants and refugees language, grammar, and pronunciation skills, but I’m also teaching them how to adapt to different cultural values.”

Does he consider this position a potential long-term career?

“I think so,” he replied. “But the one thing I figured out is you can make plans as much as you want, but plans can change in an instant. So far, I’ve been working there for about two years now, and two years have flown by. When you’re enjoying yourself, you’re surprised at how fast time flies by.”

Caleb has found it important to approach life at his own pace and pursue the things that he feels passionate about. Although he believes that life is a continuous learning process, and that the most important lessons do not take place within the four walls of an institution, he finds great value in his BA.

“I think UBC really gave me the credibility that I needed because it is such a large and well-recognized institution,” he said. “It gave me the confidence to know that my education and the credentials that I came out with in the end were worth something.”