“Stanford has taught me that, when you have an understanding of peoples’ history and culture, you can be much more effective in whatever you are doing,” says Natalie Ponce, who is graduating this June with a double major in international relations and Italian.
As she looks back on her time at Stanford, she is most proud of the connections she has made along the way. “I have learned a lot academically, but the most important thing that Stanford has given me is the people I have met,” she said. “At Stanford, you grow through the people that you’re around. I am really proud of the fact that I’ve made lasting friends, which I feel like I’ll have forever.”
Natalie decided to major in international relations after taking the course Introduction to Latin America, Cultural Perspectives her freshmen year. “I discovered there was a concentration within IR on Latin America,” she said. “Through studying that, I ended up learning a lot about myself and where I come from because I’m Cuban-American.” She credits the IR program with providing her a comprehensive toolkit to better understand the world and teaching her how to approach every situation with cultural sensitivity and understanding.
One of her favorite experiences during her time at Stanford was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Natalie, who has been studying the Italian language since she was nine years old, fondly remembers touching down in Italy for the first time and immersing herself in the culture. “I think the most powerful part of that experience was, not only the people I got to meet, but also solidifying the fact that I had spent so long studying these different countries through a cultural lens and realizing that you can apply culture to international relations,” she said. “If you understand the people—what they are like, where they come from, and their shared history—I think you can be much more effective in engaging with them.”
Her favorite class at Stanford was a course she took this year with Dr. Robert Rakove on Diplomacy on the Ground: Case Studies in the Challenges of Representing Your Country. “We got to study all of the different diplomatic officers and ambassadors and their first-hand accounts of what was happening in the different situations. We read telegrams and books they had written,” she said. “I thought that was really interesting because in IR we study everything from the top, looking in, but seeing that first-hand perspective and what it actually looks like to be an ambassador was really interesting.”
She also enjoyed taking Spanish Immersion Service-Learning: Migration, Asylum, and Human Rights at the U.S. Mexico Border, a class that enabled Stanford students to apply their language skills to helping detained Spanish-speaking asylum seekers in Dilley, Texas. “I think these service-learning classes are really great because they get you out of the Stanford bubble and to see what the needs are in your community,” she shared.
During her time at Stanford, Natalie was actively involved in Stanford Womxn in Law, serving as co-president her senior year. “The purpose of the club is not just pre-professional to connect women to opportunities in law, it also has a social justice lens where we’re trying to fight for different things through the perspective of law. We also focus on intersectionality. We’re the first club to use “x” in women to include people of LGBTQI and to build bridges to different communities at Stanford.” She has also worked for the Stanford Global Studies (SGS) Division for four years, helping support events and develop communications materials. “I feel like SGS became my family. It became an important part of my Stanford experience,” she said.
Natalie first became interested in studying law when she took a class on immigrant justice through the Haas Center for Public Service. “I became aware of the needs of immigrants and also the needs of people in different countries. I asked myself, ‘What’s one way that I can help them?’ I wanted to do something that had to do with justice, law, and advocacy.” After graduation, she is looking forward to working as an analyst for an international corporate law firm for two years. After that, she hopes to attend law school to study international or immigration law.
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.