A photo of Eleanor Roosevelt's statue on the National Mall, from Eleanor Li's time in Washington DC

Student Stories

International studies major gains knowledge of diplomacy through co-op, field school

February 13, 2020

Eleanor Li is spending the semester in Germany, where she is completing a co-op placement at the Consulate of Canada in Düsseldorf. An international studies major in the program's security and conflict concentration, Eleanor completed her first co-op position with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) last spring, when she worked as a Foreign and Defence Policy Intern at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. She then worked as a Junior Analyst with the Venezuela Task Force at GAC’s headquarters in Ottawa.

Eleanor was drawn to the IS program for the insight and critical perspectives it offers on contemporary global issues, such as wealth inequality, the ethics of humanitarian intervention, and colonial legacies. The program has also provided her with the political literacy and policy knowledge needed to work in the field of international affairs.

At the embassy in Washington, Eleanor's work centred around political reporting on congressional hearings and think tank events. One of her most memorable assignments was covering the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s 2019 Hearing on Worldwide Threats. She also covered NATO Engages, the main public relations event for the NATO Foreign Ministerial. Her reports were distributed throughout the Canadian government to help inform policy makers.

As part of the Venezuela Task Force, she prepared daily updates for senior officials on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela. She also wrote briefing notes for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Development, and the Prime Minister. In each of her co-op positions, she has made good use of the policy-related writing skills she developed in her IS classes.

Eleanor says the highlight of her undergraduate experience has definitely been working with Global Affairs Canada. Her co-op placements with GAC have given her the chance to work with incredible colleagues on important international issues. Additionally, she took part in SFU’s NATO Field School program, traveling to Latvia, Italy, and Belgium to learn about the intricacies of NATO. She has also served as a combat engineer in the Canadian Army reserves for five years.

Eleanor advises new students to take advantage of everything the IS program has to offer, especially the chance to apply their knowledge through the co-op program: “Co-op represents a phenomenal opportunity to find work that you truly believe is worth doing; once you have found that, everything else comes easily.”