Anjali Bhatt

Name: Anjali Bhatt (Alumni)

Hometown and Country: Troy, MI, USA

Degrees Completing at UBC Sciences Po: Bachelor of Arts in economics from Sciences Po (Le Havre campus), Bachelors of Commerce with Honours in marketing from UBC Sauder School of Business (Dual Degree Class of 2018)

Why did you choose to pursue the UBC Sciences Po Dual Degree?

By accident, almost. I had planned pretty much my whole life to go to a big university in the US, but my mother, who is Canadian and went to UBC, stumbled across the Dual Degree program while trying to convince me to even consider going to school outside the US. At the time, the Dual Degree was offered with both Arts and Sauder, I was probably going to an undergraduate business school, and I wanted to study abroad in France at some point anyway, so I applied kind of on a whim, because why not (and also it would make my mom happy). I ended up getting an interview and then an acceptance, and at that point, if you’re offered the opportunity to live abroad AND get two degrees in four(ish) years…it was kind of a scary decision since I was 17 at the time, but in the end I realized this was something very unique I couldn’t pass up. It was also the first year the Dual Degree was offered with Sauder, so I didn’t have to choose between a liberal arts degree and a business degree, which was exciting.

What are some of the meaning experiences you’ve had from your time at Sciences Po, and at UBC?

Starting at Sciences Po Le Havre was a bit of a shock, since the entire campus was around 250 people total and that’s not really what one expects from university. It ended up being one of the best parts of the Dual Degree – it was easier to meet people and make friends, and the Le Havre campus was so diverse, everyone had interesting backgrounds and I learned more than I ever expected about the world and about people. The friends I met during my first week at Sciences Po are my best friends to this day (and hopefully far into the future), and having that long-lasting connection, even after we left Sciences Po to go all over the world to continue our educations, has meant the world to me. Since everyone at Sciences Po is interested in politics/the social sciences in one way or another, the richness and depth of discussion both in and outside of the classroom was intellectually rigorous in the best way.

UBC, which has several hundred times the number of students as a Sciences Po undergraduate campus, also came as a shock after two years in Le Havre, but the large number of people meant a large number of opportunities. I could pursue a lot of different interests and activities that helped me become a better student, better photographer and dancer, and a better employee/coworker, through clubs and student associations, the World-Learn program, and more. There were just so many things to do!

How has being a UBC Sciences Po student helped your personal and professional aspirations?

Professionally, the Dual Degree introduced me to a lot of ideas, opportunities/paths, and parts of the world I knew nothing about. It also made me far more international in considering career paths – after going to school on two different continents, focusing on a third, and meeting people from all of them, I realized there’s a whole world out there to explore and study and learn about, which has guided me towards more internationally-facing career opportunities. Experiencing two VERY different academic systems forced me to become more adaptive in my approaches to work and study and helped me develop time-management/organization skills. Pursuing both a liberal arts degree and a business degree emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the world, and how so many different industries/schools of thought/etc. interact on a fundamental level to shape the world we live in. That’s also a bit of an obstacle though, because now I want to study all the things and that’s not really how graduate programs work.

Personally, the Dual Degree was enriching in every way and really made me who I am today. Being exposed to so many different kinds of people from different walks of life from all over the world taught me a lot of empathy and understanding different perspectives, and how to engage and interact with every kind of person (including when there are language barriers). It also taught me social resiliency – moving to a brand new country where you don’t know anyone one, then doing that again after two years and essentially having to “start from scratch” regarding friends/social life was daunting and honestly somewhat difficult, but I know for a fact this helped me become more adaptive to environments around me. I am far more comfortable doing things I am not familiar with.

What are the top three things every UBC Sciences Po student should do before they graduate?

    1. Do your readings. I know that’s not a very exciting thing and all the professors say it and it’s definitely possible to not do readings and show up to class and pass the course…but do your readings. It makes life so much easier.
    2. Travel alone. The great thing about Europe, especially for people from larger continents, is that you can travel to brand new countries for not very much money in not very much time. Traveling with friends is awesome and you should definitely do it, but go somewhere new by yourself at least once. You’ll learn a lot about yourself AND you get to explore somewhere new and cool. (Always take necessary safety precautions of course!)
    3. Do things that are local to your campuses. For me, in Le Havre, that was spending a lot of time at la plage (the beach) and drinking local cidre (cider from Normandy is NOT the same as cider in North America and I’ve been ruined for it). In Vancouver, it was doing the “outdoors” stuff – hiking, also spending time at the many beaches, going to Whistler or the interior. Vancouver is surrounded by some of the most awe-inspiring nature in the world, and it is very easy to take advantage of it, so do it!

What has the UBC Sciences Po program meant to you?

At the risk of sounding cheesy, everything. My life would have likely turned out very differently if I had pursued my Plan B. Through the Dual Degree, I met people six years ago I still talk to every day, even when we’re literally across the world from each other, and I’ve been exposed to things I would not have even known existed if it were not for the program. There were quite a few ups and downs and challenges I could not have accounted for, but I got through them all and that’s made me a stronger, smarter person for it. The prestige/name recognition of Sciences Po and UBC in the circles it matters is also pretty nice and has opened doors for me professionally.

What advice would you give to students who are considering this program, or just starting out in this program?

This is not a program for the faint of heart. There are a lot of challenges, French bureaucracy just one of them, that have to be dealt with, and especially because Sciences Po is not like a lot of other universities, you have to learn how to become self-sufficient (no dorms, per se, dining halls, etc., that freshmen generally expect). There will be times you’re outside of your comfort zone, and you must know you can deal with that. That being said, if you are willing to do that, do it, and do everything once. There are opportunities through this program you will not get anywhere else and seizing those will pay off for years.

If you’re not familiar with the French academic system, that will be a shock, since it is demanding in it’s own way, and if you’re not familiar with the Canadian academic system, that will also be a shock, because it is rigorous in it’s own way too. Switching from campus to campus is difficult and you need to be prepared for big changes that are not always fun. The key to overcoming most of these difficulties is getting involved on campus and putting yourself out there to make friends. A lot of these challenges are a lot easier to handle if you have a support system physically around you.

What’s next for you?

I’m not sure! I am currently working at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think tank in Washington, DC, where I work in communications and marketing for the Institute. I love my job and I’m content to be here at least for the next few years. I’ve taken the GRE (scores last for 5 years!) and will eventually pursue a graduate program, likely in international affairs or a related field, but I haven’t quite figured that out yet. And that’s okay 😊