Sophie Verbeek is a busy woman but has found the time during her studies at IE University to learn much about both herself and matters outside the classroom. We spoke to her about her experiences so far, and how relevant one particular field of her studies has been at a time of global crisis.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m 21 years old and I’m from the Netherlands. I’m about to start the fourth year of my Dual Degree in Laws and International Relations.
How was your experience in the last three years of your studies in your Dual Degree of Laws and International Relations?
Like every dual degree here at IE University, studying different bachelor’s degrees at the same time does demand a great deal of my time. There have been times over the course of my studies where I have had to sacrifice leisure for academia. At the beginning in particular, finding the balance was quite a puzzle. Some weeks were characterized by my desk becoming a second home, as I studied for exams or met deadlines.
While devoting a significant portion of my time to my studies, fortunately, my experience over these last three years is not solely characterized by this. I have also found myself applying my knowledge outside the classroom, participating in the student newspaper and other extracurricular activities, sharing this challenging but exciting experience with
my peers along the way.
How has your experience been in a dual degree?
One of the things I like the most about the Dual Degree in Laws and International Relations is the compatibility of the two programs. The studies in international relations have provided me with a very rigorous understanding of world politics and its main players, while the legislative framework of the comparative law subjects has been equally important to me in order to challenge an idealistic worldview of international relations. The subjects have a certain degree of overlap, and it is very rewarding to see recurring trends come to life from different perspectives. My understanding of the complex issues studied in both areas has come full circle.
While I do see myself steering more towards the international relations field, the added value of the comparative law degree is an invaluable asset and will undoubtedly help. As such, I hope to find my career path in foreign policy consulting, or in fields closely related to the European Union, but I’m open to pursue new challenges as new opportunities will undoubtedly arise as well.
How can you relate your studies with the current situation?
While the current COVID-19 crisis is very challenging, it has helped me see the positive aspect of receiving an education in these uncertain times. Within the field of international relations, the discussion on hyper-globalization and political decision-making in light of this crisis has been a topic of much discussion with my peers and professors. On the other hand, the importance of the law, specifically within the European legislative framework, has also been a hot topic, with issues such as data protection and challenges to national sovereignty being brought up in classes.
Have you learned anything in class about the current crisis?
One of the classes that had a close connection to the current crisis was International Relations Theory II: Globalization. Learning this subject in the midst of a global crisis, in which the very pillars of our hyper-globalized society are under attack, has provided me with a perfect opportunity to make a real-life connection with the current crisis.
It’s shown how this relates to our desire for constant reinvention and interconnectivity, for a more prosperous and wealthy society. This class has opened my eyes to a lot of pre-existing issues that I was able to connect to the current crisis, such as the debate surrounding social and economic inequality, the rise of populist discourse, and the challenges to our neoliberalist world order.
Do you think the world is going to be different after this pandemic?
I do believe the fundamentals of our society and the world around us have changed quite radically over the past few months. The pillars on which society has been built have become quite precarious and erratic. For many, including myself, this crisis is the first real challenge to the personal freedom and rights that we have experienced in our lifetime. In spite of this, I also strongly believe this pandemic gives us the perfect opportunity for reflection and, if needed, for seeking objectives that are truly important to our personal lives in search of improvement in our own journeys, for the planet and society as a whole.
What are your main takeaways of this academic year?
The first takeaway for me is definitely not to take my education for granted. While the sudden switch to online classes has been a struggle from time to time, I am still grateful that I was able to continue with classes and finish exams with a certain degree of normality. Connecting concepts and ideas and applying them to real-life scenarios is crucial in one’s academic journey, and a skill I have come to value immensely this year.
Secondly, while my focus within the university has been set with quite a heavy academic lens, it has also allowed me to value the perspectives of and relationships with the friends I’ve made and professors I have met. Building these relationships with the people around me in times of adversity is just as important as my academic journey.
My last takeaway from this academic year is perhaps to stand still from time to time and celebrate the victories, no matter how small, in my personal and professional journey. I’ve encountered some obstacles, and while many things have not gone according to plan this academic year, there are still many things that I am happy with that I now value even more.
Sophie’s own journey at IE University has clearly been one of both academic challenges and achievements and personal fulfillment. Her adaptability and determination in the face of difficult circumstances for everybody mirrors the spirit of the IE University’s community, and we wish
her well in her fourth year and beyond.