For Maria Isabel Merino, coming to IE University to earn her Dual Degree in Economics + International Relations has allowed her to remain in a stimulating, multicultural environment. Maria Isabel sat down to share her thoughts on what being a student at IE University has been like so far.
I come from Colombia, and had lived in Bogotá for most of my life, until I made the decision to take the opportunity to leave home and complete my final two years of high school at United World College Maastricht, an international boarding school in the Netherlands.
As a result of attending this high school, I was exposed to a variety of cultures at an early age, which I believe shaped the person I am today. I joined IE University last year to continue my educational journey in a multinational environment. Currently, I’m a second-year student pursuing the Dual Degree in Economics + International Relations on the Segovia campus.
Why did you choose to come to IE University?
When applying to universities, I wanted to be able to continue in an international environment as I find this enriching; it provides a better understanding of the world from different perspectives that you may not otherwise explore. I also wanted to stay in Europe because I believe that, overall, life in Europe is better for students than it is in Colombia. These two key factors led me to think seriously about IE University as one of my top options.
The determining factor in my decision, however, was IE University’s academic offering, since it was one of the few universities offering a dual degree program in economics and international relations.
Almost three semesters in, I can say that IE University has exceeded my expectations. I really like my degree‘s approach and how it allows me to comprehend the world we live in better, which brings me closer to my goal of making a positive difference in society. Living in Spain has also been amazing—not just because of the lifestyle but also because of the people I’ve met. I can say with confidence that they have made my university experience better and easier.
So what has that experience been like so far?
During my first year, I joined the SDG Club as a research coordinator. This position has allowed me to develop my research skills by keeping up with the news and connecting it with the Sustainable Development Goals and my classes.
Assuming this position made me realize I really enjoyed writing, so in my second year I joined The Stork—IE University’s student-run newspaper—as the opinion editor. This has taught me more about leadership and teamwork, while also giving me the opportunity to express my opinion about the world.
Managing both positions has been a challenge, but I really enjoy it. I think it’s a nice way of meeting people and expanding on my course content because I usually get article ideas from my international relations classes.
How has IE University helped you acquire personal and professional experiences?
IE University has given me the freedom to delve deeper into my interests and gradually define my chosen career path. When I arrived on campus, I knew I wanted to make a social impact in my community—most likely linked to inequality, a topic that I’m passionate about—but I was unsure how to do so.
Through my seminars, I have been able to explore different career fields that piqued my interest, to see if I could see myself working in them in the future. For instance, last semester I took a Humanitarian Action Seminar, which made me consider the UN as a place I’d like to work, maybe not in its humanitarian response team, but in their other socially linked projects.
Moreover, my classes demonstrated to me that sustainable finances and social responsibility are also fields in which I could see myself working in the future. Having this clarity to narrow down my interests into career paths has allowed me to discover more about my current self, my passions and who I want to become.
What about outside the classroom; what hobbies do you have?
In my free time, I like to read and write. I love books in the magical realism genre, but I love discovering new authors and titles, too. I also like writing about current issues and my life in general. Along with these two activities, I like to listen to music and, if I have time, play the ukulele. I used to play the guitar and piano before starting university, but I’ve been so busy that I’ve fallen out of the habit.
I also like to spend time with my friends. I love going on walks with friends around Segovia while watching the sunset and talking about our lives or watching movies, cooking together and going out to parties. One of my favorite parts about the Segovia campus is that I live close to all my friends, so we can easily make plans and spend quality time together. Lastly, I love to travel and discover new places and cultures.
What path do you want to take in the future?
I’m still figuring out what I want to do in the future; however, I’m clear on the fact that I like the social part of economics, meaning how this discipline can be used to create a positive impact on the world. I’m also not sure if I’ll end up staying in Europe or going back to Latin America. During these almost two years at IE University, I’ve realized that I could see myself working in NGOs, as a policymaker or in the sustainable finance and ESG departments of a company.
As I still have a long way to go until I graduate, I want to be open-minded about all the possibilities my degree has, exploring as many fields as I can during my remaining three years at IE University. This way, I hope to find something that interests me and that I will want to dedicate myself to in the long run.
Can you share a quotation that represents how you feel about life?
“The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable.”Conor McGregor
This quote captures how I think my university experience will be. You should make use of your time at college to try new activities, make new friends and, as the saying goes, “do everything you ever wanted to do.”
Clearly, trying new things can be scary and sometimes uncomfortable, but it’s this feeling that helps you grow. You have to seek the uncomfortable to challenge yourself until you reach the point where it becomes comfortable. At university, this ranges from talking in front of your whole class to learning to live alone. The challenges that cost us the most also force us to learn the most.