SFU and NATO Field School give Marina Bishara a deeper understanding of International Relations

January 27, 2020

Marina Bishara will soon graduate from Simon Fraser University. In her last year as a political science major (Honours) with an extended minor in French, she’s reflecting on her experience at university and beyond.

“The experience and knowledge that I have acquired during my time at SFU are invaluable,” says Bishara. “I was provided with all the resources that I needed from linguistic support from the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs (OFFA) to mentorship by my instructors.” 

After completing high school, Bishara came directly to SFU, motivated by her interest in the French cohort program and the hands-on, contemporary approach of the Department of Political Science.

“SFU is the only university in Western Canada where you can study political science in French,” she says. “Being the bilingual country that we are, having studied in both official languages provides me with a huge advantage on the job market.”

While studying political science, Bishara became interested in international relations. That led to attending the NATO Field School and Simulation Program which she considers her best undergraduate experience. The seven-week SFU program, run in collaboration with the NATO Defense College in Rome and Canada’s Delegation to NATO, gives students real-world experience in international relations. Students also travel to Ottawa, Belgium, Latvia and Italy, meeting diplomats and military personnel.

“I had the opportunity to converse with and be trained by world-leading experts in the field of international affairs, both in Canada and abroad,” says Bishara. “I gained insights into Canada’s relationship with its North Atlantic allies, as well as its role in the world.” 

This experience increased Bishara’s understanding of international relations and has helped her improve her critical thinking skills. It’s also encouraged her to explore different career prospects after seeing diplomats, bureaucrats, lawyers and other professionals at work.

When the Field School ended, Bishara was nominated to intern for one semester as a researcher at the NATO Defense College Foundation in Rome, where she published a paper before resuming her studies at SFU. She looks back fondly at her time at the Field School and SFU.

“I can proudly say that I have gained many valuable friendships and made some great memories during my time here,” she says. “Notably, I spent time abroad with an amazing group of bright and keen students who later became my best of friends.”