Convocation Profile: Anoop Virk, International Studies

June 13, 2018

by Christine Lyons

Not many graduates can say they’ve built schools for children in Zambia, helped residents in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside reconnect with friends and family, and rubbed elbows with the likes of Prince William and Princess Kate, all before graduating with a degree. Yet that’s the case for Anoop Virk, who graduates this month with a BA in international studies.  

Virk was part of the SFU-Douglas College Dual Degree Program where she earned her Associate of Arts Degree in Intercultural and International Studies from Douglas College a few years ago. During her SFU studies she has created such initiatives as Project LOVE (Letting Our Voices Empower), which took her to Africa to build schools with Zambian youth, and co-founded Project HELLO (Helping Everyone Locate Loved Ones) to help Downtown Eastside residents connect with friends and family. More recently, Virk has created Project Women Warriors, a web series and blog highlighting the resiliency and strength of women and girls.

Drawn to international studies because of its interdisciplinary nature, Virk says one of the most valuable facets of her SFU education was taking her “hands-on experiences working with vulnerable populations globally” and incorporating these into “policy-making ideas” that helped her understand the “complexities and socio-economic and political variables involved.”

Grassroots organizing and giving back to the community are longtime values Virk learned from her mother, Bal Arneson (a.k.a. the “Spice Goddess” of Food Network Canada).

“Her life story is a true inspiration to me and shows her resilience,” says Virk. “She grew up in a small village in India, came to Canada via an arranged marriage, and soon became a single mother with no money and no family and she didn't speak English. Today, she has a master’s in education, three national best-selling cookbooks, and hosts two TV shows. She is the best role model.”

To maintain her own work-life balance during her degree program, Virk surrounded herself with supportive friends and family, cultivated a positive outlook, and took care of her body and mind. She says simply being kind is also a coping mechanism.

“Love yourself and be kind to others,” she says. “I think a great legacy to leave behind is to have been a caring individual who was compassionate and empathetic.”