Student Profile: Claudia Arrieta, International Studies
Before traveling to Vancouver and pursuing a degree at SFU, International Studies and Latin American Studies student Claudia Arrieta worked as an interpreter in her home country of El Salvador. She says her choice of SFU was very targeted and intentional, having heard great things about SFU’s School for International Studies and the ability to specialize in security and conflict in an International Studies major while combining minor in Latin American Studies. Before enrolling at SFU, however, Arrieta spent a little over year completing a certificate in interpretation at Vancouver Community College and worked for a touring company during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. She subsequently attained a job doing bilingual members services and bookings for Club Intrawest in Vancouver, an accommodations and resort firm based in downtown Vancouver, a job she kept throughout her undergrad degree.
Earning many undergraduate open scholarships for her academic performance, as well as the 2015 Alfredo E. Hurtado Memorial Scholarship in Latin American Studies, Arrieta has been successful at SFU beyond grades. She was a key member of the International Studies Student Association (ISSA) serving as University Relations Coordinator, Vice-President, and she has also served as a student liaison to the Canadian International Council (CIC) where she presently also serves as secretary. In December 2014, she also travelled to Montenegro to the Model Nato Youth Summit with SFU’s student delegation. She says the key to her success has also been her biggest challenge: getting and staying organized to establish and maintain balance in her home-life, work-life, school-life.
Unlike some undergraduates, Arrieta is married and has in-laws who live in Vancouver; she admits this sometimes made maintaining work/life balance during her undergraduate career difficult but that these support networks also helped her achieve her goals: “I relied on my fellow IS students, my family, and my community for support but I also found I had to be very organized and methodical…I would give myself from 9:00 am until 11:00 am only to do research. I told myself if I didn’t do it, I would suffer: it would take time away from my family. And so, I was very strict with myself: when I came to the library, I was present. No Facebook; no social media, or anything like that. When the moments came where I was feeling stretched—writing a paper, preparing for an exam, volunteering for and organizing the ISSU career fair— I just had to maintain that organization: use my calendars and agendas, consistently.”
When asked about her favorite part of working with the ISSA, Arrieta is unabashedly sentimental and says the friends she’s made at the ISSA feel like her SFU family. “When [my husband and I] first moved to Vancouver it was just us. My in-laws came to the city later but at that moment it was just the two of us and,” she laughs, “we were lonely!” Arrieta says one week she saw ISSA was putting on an open event downtown close to SFU Vancouver and her work and, feeling the yearning to connect, immediately knew she had to go. “I kept coming back [to ISSA events] because I needed a place to connect. I needed a place where I could give my opinion, talk to other students who were interested in the same things I was. It does take some time for people to warm up to you because it’s not instantaneous and after about a year of being a member-at-large, they became my SFU family. We’ve gone through our degree together, and now grad school or law school applications. We are a tight group who care for each other and care about SFU.”
Arreita says the ISSA career fair she helped organize was a highlight of her time with the student association. “We organized a kind of ‘speed dating’ with professionals from fields involved in International Studies. We had people from the Red Cross and other NGOs. It was amazing!” Arrieta says students in Arts disciplines often ask themselves in vain, “what am I going to do with an Arts degree or a degree in International Studies?” and says the career fairs she helped organized aimed to answer that question honestly. “We wanted the event to be a place where she felt students really could come, ask that question, and get some real insight on where they might be headed.”
Having received several acceptances to law school and graduate school this spring, Arrieta says “it was a tough decision” to decide where she herself was headed. In addition to being admitted to law school at University of Victoria, Arrieta was also offered a spot in York University’s Masters in Public and International Affairs, and a Cadario Fellowship at University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. Arrieta says she is “extremely happy and excited” to report that she’s decided on law school and will be moving to Victoria in August.