A Quick Study with Vivien Lee

This ongoing series is aimed at getting to know what motivates and inspires UBC students about their learning — inside and outside the classroom.

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On going abroad, the water and mountains of Vancouver, learning from in-the-field research opportunities.

Meet Vivien Lee.

Vivien Lee


Why UBC?

VL: I first had a glimpse of what it would be like to study at UBC in high school when I was a participant in a regional science fair held at the SUB. The students relaxing on the hill (when there was a hill in front of the SUB!) seemed to be having a great time. When university applications rolled around, UBC naturally became one of my choices.


You are about to graduate — congratulations on your achievement! Does it feel like ‘only yesterday’ you were in first year or does it feel like you’ve been studying for a pretty long time?

VL: It definitely does not feel like yesterday that I was in first year because I have had too many great experiences while at UBC to be able to fit it into that short period! Each year my involvement on and off campus escalated from serving as a club exec to participating in Work Learn to going abroad via Go Global to Singapore and Ethiopia. I have had a fulfilling four years engaging with UBC’s local and international community.


What were your favourite hangouts on campus?

VL: I love the water and mountains of Vancouver and UBC is perfectly situated for those scenic views. Some of my favourite places include Nitobe Garden, the hills behind MOA and the Canopy Walk at the Botanical Gardens.


As a major in International Relations with a minor in commerce, what have you learned about international economics and development that has changed how you view the world?

VL: I was in a Global Seminar on African security issues that brought our class of 18 to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for two weeks. We had a four month course prior to departure to write a research report on a specific African security issue and then spent two weeks in the third largest diplomatic core, Addis Ababa, to conduct interviews with various actors, diplomats, and officials to further supplement our research. Taking on an in-the-field research opportunity made me realize that my preconceptions about international relations and other parts of the world can be vastly different from my interpretation via readings at UBC. I saw linkages between what I learned in commerce and international relations as many actors spoke of funding, budgeting and the importance of how a security policy is marketed.


Our university motto is Tuum Est (it is yours). Do you feel like you made UBC yours?

Vivien Lee

VL: I entered first year in UBC not quite knowing what I wanted out of it and now I leave knowing a little more. Although there are more opportunities that I wish I had time to pursue, UBC just offers too much to do it all in four years! I made my UBC experience my own by combining campus involvement to gain leadership skills to working at campus units to gain professional skills. UBC is well connected with the international community and I’m extremely glad that I seized the opportunity to go abroad three times in my undergrad to Taiwan, Singapore and Ethiopia. Each experience shaped me personally and professionally in the weeks and months I was there in a way that I could not have gotten from simply attending lectures.


Any top tips for the incoming class of first year students?

VL: Go abroad! Check the Go Global website regularly for new opportunities that come up whether it is exchange, reading week programs, international service learning or global seminars. Do not be deterred by the application process and various deadlines because learning outside of UBC is just as important as learning at UBC. There is no better way to gain a more well-rounded, informed view of the world by being immersed in another place.


What is next for you?

VL: During my time at UBC I have not stopped going abroad year after year and it does not stop after graduation! I am going to be travelling in the summer then heading to Japan for a year to work. I do not speak the language hence I am a bit anxious but excited at the same time to see more of the world.

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