by Zoe Li

In my four years as a student in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), I have traveled to over 25 cities and 10 countries around the world. While some of these were personal trips with friends or family, many of them would not have been possible without the influence and support of SPIA, and each of them was enhanced by lessons learned or friendships forged within SPIA classrooms.

The summer after my freshman year, I was fortunate enough to travel to the UGA campus in Oxford, England for a Maymester with the Foundation Fellowship program. While there, I studied British Common Law with Claire Palmer, a professor in Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations. This experience opened my eyes to the value of studying a topic within its context, as we made visits to the Inns of Court and the Old Bailey in London that really brought the course to life.

My sophomore and junior years, I was able to take advantage of the research and mentorship opportunities in SPIA to travel to The Hague in The Netherlands two summers in a row with Dr. Maryann Gallagher. During our trips, we visited international courts and tribunals, as well as non-governmental organizations and other individuals, conducting interviews on the role of gender in the prosecution of crimes of sexual and gender-based violence. This research project with Dr. Gallagher also brought me to cities in the U.S. such as Atlanta and Cambridge to present at conferences, in addition to presenting here in Athens at the CURO Research Symposium and the inaugural SPIA Undergraduate Research Colloquium.

Finally, I was able to work full time in Washington, D.C. while earning internship and class credit through SPIA and the UGA Washington Semester Program during the spring of my junior year. I gained valuable international development experience at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Global division and explored emerging security challenges at the U.S. Department of State. I stayed in D.C. at the end of the semester and worked with the New America Cybersecurity Initiative over the summer, researching and writing on international development and cybersecurity. The culmination of all of these experiences led me to pursue further work and graduate studies in international security law and policy in D.C., where I hope to be after graduation.

I am incredibly grateful and indebted to the SPIA community for each of the opportunities I have been afforded… and this is just my own personal experience. There are even more fabulous study abroad opportunities offered through UGA and SPIA, including faculty-led programs to Stellenbosch, South Africa; Liverpool, England; and China, among others. These, combined with the ability to travel almost anywhere else with the support of UGA scholarships and external financial assistance, make it clear that for SPIA students, the world truly is our oyster, both inside and outside of the classroom.