More than 65 students from around the world graduate from the Bachelor of International Economics program at UBC this year.
While COVID-19 disrupted their final semester, these new graduates are determined to not let it wholly define their BIE experience, or their futures.
Here are some of their stories.
Ragini Jain describes her time as a BIE student as “transformative.”
“The classes I’ve taken and the support I’ve received from professors throughout my degree has changed the way I see myself,” says Jain. “I came here at 17, so I’ve spent all of my adult years in this program. Graduating means taking a huge step out into the world.”
Originally from New Delhi, India, Jain spent most of her life in Doha, Qatar before moving to Vancouver to study.
“I was initially uncertain about UBC because it’s such a large university and I was concerned about feeling lost. But the BIE’s small cohort really appealed to me. I probably wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
With her degree completed, Jain’s been offered a research assistant position at Princeton University, working with experts in public finance, development, and political economy.
As a BIE student, Mallory Felix had the opportunity to work as a fund manager for the Vancouver Social Value Fund, a student-led investment fund for community-minded businesses and social enterprises.
“I was able to work directly with venture CEOs and founders to direct capital in equity and debt investments,” says Felix. “I got to serve both the local community and promote social impact.”
“I think the one thing to be in the job market right now is flexible. An economics degree allows you to do that more so than perhaps other disciplines.”
Felix, who is from Deep River, Ontario, plans to return to UBC in September to pursue her MA in economics.
Andy Ho’s BIE experience included a semester abroad at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, a region hit hard by COVID-19.
“Italians are open, friendly, and very passionate,” says Ho, who has kept in touch with his Italian roommate from his time on exchange.
“He’s told me the situation in Italy is worrisome, but then people are still quite positive,” he says.
Ho, who was born in Alberta and raised in Hong Kong, says the opportunity to study abroad was enlightening, and an extension of his BIE experience.
“I met a lot of different people from diverse backgrounds, and it’s helped me understand more about the world,” he says.
He is job hunting and hopes to pursue a career in the finance sector, in private banking or asset management.
Vinu Samarasekera says she leaves UBC with more than just a degree. She leaves with what feels like a family.
“I didn’t really expect that to happen,” says Samarasekera, who is from Colombo, Sri Lanka. “But from the professors and my classmates, I’ve found mentors, and life coaches, and lasting friendships. This has been my home away from home.”
Samarasekera admits the physical distancing measures have been a slow adjustment.
“I’ll be honest. It’s been hard for me,” she says. “I’m not a homebody. I take it one day at a time.”
“The program gives you the analytical and critical thinking tools to break down problems, and I think those skills serve me well going forward, even in this challenging time.”
Samarasekera has been accepted into the Technology Graduate Rotational Program at CIBC, one of Canada’s largest banks, in Toronto. The program starts this summer and runs for 18 months, helping new graduates hone and develop industry-related skills.
COVID-19 has made Samarasekera’s move to Toronto in July unclear, and her work at the bank may start remotely from Vancouver.
A graduation tradition for many UBC students is to take photographs with friends and family after their convocation ceremony, clad in their regalia and surrounded by the many flowers, including the cherry blossoms, in bloom across campus.
It’s a tradition that caps off years of hard work, and one Rena Kakuda was looking forward to sharing with her Japanese parents.
“Cherry blossoms symbolize a time of change and the beauty of life in Japan, and it’s sad I won’t be able to share that moment with them anymore,” she says. “But I’m choosing to be excited about the university’s first-ever virtual ceremony, and to be a part of history in the making.”
“I’ve connected with so many different people,’ says Kakuda. “I come from a very small town and I came to Vancouver to explore a bigger world and all the people that could be out there. I was initially fearful about being excluded, or people being mean, but I was happily betrayed. There are so many kind-hearted people at UBC. It has given me the confidence to continue meeting new people and expand my worldview.”
Kakuda plans to move to Tokyo this summer to start work with Amazon Japan.