“My studies of international relations have exposed me to new perspectives and new ways of thinking. From tackling the intricacies of game theory to examining the art history of different societies, IR has challenged me to expand my worldview beyond my comfort zone,” says Andrew Lokay, who graduates this June with degrees in international relations and French.
Within the IR major, his specializations included international security and international history and culture. “Coming from a Navy family, I'm interested in questions of global peace and security. I chose this track within the IR major because it allowed me to study topics including nuclear weapons and arms control, terrorism, and civil wars,” he said. “I see my studies of international history and culture as highly complementary. To successfully analyze conflicts or engage in diplomacy, I think it's essential to understand both sides, and the myriad historical and cultural factors at play. The IR major allowed me to pursue both of these tracks while giving me a solid base of knowledge from the core curriculum.”
His favorite class during his time at Stanford was POLISCI 114S: International Security in a Changing World, which offered “both a theoretical introduction to international security and a hands-on perspective.” Over the course of the class, he heard from leading experts in academia and government, who provided him with an introduction to various topics in the field of international security. He even had the opportunity to participate in a two-day UN Security Council simulation, which thrust him into the role of a policymaker.
As he looks back on his time at Stanford, he is most proud of completing an honors thesis through the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). “My research focused on the repatriation of Islamic State foreign terrorist fighters. I aimed to investigate why some European countries have taken back their citizens who joined IS in Syria, while others have declined to do so,” he explained. Over the course of the year, Andrew learned the basics of research design and overcame challenges in data collection and analysis as he refined his thesis. “This program has been the most intense and rigorous experience of my Stanford career; the lessons in persistence, analysis, and communication that I learned will serve me well for the rest of my life. My thesis provided a way to build on my IR major and apply what I learned to a long-term independent research project.”
In addition to his honors thesis, Andrew has taken advantage of many other undergraduate research opportunities and co-curricular activities over the last four years. Last summer, he received a grant from Stanford Undergraduate Advising and Research to spend a week at the British Museum in London (pictured left) researching an ancient Greek temple frieze in the collection. “I've also worked as a research assistant for the Mapping Militants Project at CISAC, served as a TA for a course on gender and leadership, and participated in the Hoover Institution's National Security Affairs Fellows Mentorship Program,” he shared.
One of his favorite memories was spending the summer in Paris as an intern at the United Nations Economic, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). During his internship, he helped the team that works on preserving UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which made for a “deeply meaningful and rewarding internship,” he said. “In addition to IR, I study French, so I brushed up on my language skills while learning more about the role of international organizations in global geopolitics. It was fascinating to see how the IR theories that I learned in class applied to the real world!”
Another highlight from his experience as an IR major was serving as a peer advisor during his junior and senior years. “I helped underclassmen declare the major, plan out their academic trajectories, and access academic opportunities from research to internships. It was rewarding to work with freshmen and sophomores—especially when a student I advised later became a peer advisor himself!”
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, Andrew spent his last quarter at Stanford at home away from his classmates, friends, and mentors. “Stanford has been a great home for the last four years, and I regret that I wasn't able to say goodbye to anyone in person. I miss the little interactions the most: running into people I know in the audience at speaker events, making small talk before class, saying hello to professors at the IR and human rights breakfasts on Thursday mornings,” he said. “I'm most excited to spend time with people in person again, whether going to restaurants or visiting museums together.”
After graduation, he is looking forward to pursuing a career in foreign affairs, U.S. national security, and public service in Washington, DC. Thanks to the IR major, he “will enter my post-Stanford life with a richer, more comprehensive perspective and a greater willingness to take risks and explore new ideas and places.”
Please join us in congratulating the class of 2020! As the academic year draws to a close, we are highlighting students graduating from across our 14 programs. Click here to view more student spotlights.