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Project Excellence, a partnership between Barrett, The Honors College and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, fostered Victoria Crynes’ passion for a career in international law.
The program allows honors undergraduate students at Barrett to take law classes in an effort to expose them to the law and grow their interest in pursuing law degrees.
“The professors and law students empowered me to believe in my ability to become a successful law student and lawyer,” Crynes said. She added that her peers also supported her success, recalling that “one law student even gave me their LSAT study books, bringing two huge bags filled with prep books!” Crynes said that the three Project Excellence courses she took made her certain that she wanted to pursue a career in international law.
Crynes graduated from Barrett, the Honors College and the W.P. Carey School of Business in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Global Politics in Business. She went on to participate in the prestigious Hansen Summer Institute on Leadership and International Cooperation at the University of San Diego, then completed an MPhil in International Relations and Politics at the University of Cambridge.
She currently is a student in the MA Peace and Conflict Studies program and a tutorial assistant in the University College Dublin School of Politics and International Relations. She plans to work with a faculty member on research on identity and conflict in Ireland.
This year, she received the Department of Politics and International Relations Graduate Scholarship, through which she will serve as a teaching assistant for Foundations of Contemporary Politics.
“By earning two degrees in Europe in the midst of Brexit, I can experience the impacts around Europe while establishing a firm academic foundation to become an expert on international affairs within the European Union. Between May and August I will pursue an internship in either Brussels or Geneva, where I can experience the international work environment first-hand,” she said.
After completing her degree at University College Dublin, Crynes plans to pursue a juris doctorate in international law. She plans to practice law for several years before applying to join the U.S. Foreign Service in a diplomatic position.
We caught up with her to discuss her honors experience and her aspirations for the future
What unique experiences did you have with the Hansen Summer Institute and at the University of Cambridge right after graduating ASU?
The Hansen Summer Institute has a global selection process with thousands of applicants and only 20 international and five American students selected. The Institute provided me with intimate interaction with students from 20 conflict-torn regions, including Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Burma. Each student was determined to be a global leader. Engaging with students who have lost family members in ethnic conflicts, who have faced the trials of immigration, and who have witnessed violent revolts sharpened my perspective towards the harsh realities of international relations. Despite our vast differences, we shared a commitment to strive for international cooperation.
While at Cambridge, I was supervised by one of the leading researchers on English identity. I spent endless hours interviewing various members of Parliament, gaining their perspective on the role of English identity in British politics.
How did being an honors student affect your undergraduate experience?
I chose ASU and Barrett after seeing the amazing support my brother received, and from day one I felt that support. (Victoria’s brother Christien graduated ASU with a degree in marketing and honors from Barrett Honors College in 2012.)
From recruitment staff such as Michelle Hollin and Emily Hsu to professors, donors such as Grady Gammage, and Dean (Mark) Jacobs, Barrett creates relationships focused on empowering students to achieve anything they set their mind to. How many colleges have recruitment staff that stay in your life beyond recruitment? Michelle Hollin has remained a cornerstone of my family’s engagement with Barrett since my brother’s enrollment in 2008. Barrett creates a family devoted to learning, growing, and supporting students.
Freshman year, I participated in an Issues and Ethics course. From the start I was taught how to get the most from ASU, Barrett, and the undergraduate experience. I learned how to become a good candidate for national fellowships, internships, and jobs. With Barrett’s help I was able to become an Undergraduate Fulbright to Scotland after my sophomore year of college.
What advice do you have for students who want to pursue study abroad and other similar opportunities?
I was able to visit Scotland as an Undergraduate Fulbright, Taiwan as a Taiwan-U.S. Sister Relations Alliance Student Ambassador, the Czech Republic with ASU scholarship funding, and later found funding for Cambridge, and now Dublin. When studying abroad, check out the different fees and options. My semester in the Czech Republic was supported by a New American Scholarship and study abroad funding from the W.P. Carey School of Business and Barrett to cover all of my international costs.
The first two programs I mentioned are national fellowships providing substantial funding. For Cambridge, I applied for scholarships from organizations such as Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Golden Key International Honor Society, the local Rotary Club, and more. Ask Barrett, the Office of National Scholarship Advisement and your department for help, all while googling scholarships! Do not let money hinder your dreams of going abroad.
Studying abroad is what you make of it. For me that meant diving in to meet local students and families. In the Czech Republic, I learned from families that supported Communism and from those that despised it. In Taiwan, my friends and I were adopted by a man who taught us tai chi and took us camping. If you let locals become a part of your life, you’ll have experiences and memories you would otherwise never get, whether that’s visiting a family home for dinner or riding on the back of a scooter to get beef soup at 4 a.m.!
For me, an easy way to share my culture and learn from others was to host potlucks. We shared macaroni and cheese, giving my Czech friends their first taste of the stringy goodness. Meanwhile, they made goulash and Smažený sýr (fried cheese). Another way is to host a game night, exchanging games from each country.
Studying abroad gave me some of the most relevant experiences for my future career and my current interests. In Scotland I witnessed the visceral response to Brexit and the cry for a new Scottish Referendum. In the Czech Republic, I was invited to cast my first presidential vote in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence! In England, I found myself invited to a St. George’s Day Reception hosted in Westminster. I stood next to a gentleman who asked me about myself and promptly shared his role as a Member of Parliament, writing down his number for me to call to schedule an interview. These moments solidified my desire for an international career and strengthened my skill set for the future.
You’re attending University College in Dublin as a Global Excellence Scholar in the Peace and Conflict Studies Course. Was there a certain moment or event that sparked your interest in this course?
I find the intersection of identity and politics to be fascinating and increasingly important in today’s political sphere. During undergrad, I studied Taiwanese, Czech, and Scottish identity for my honors thesis. This past year I explored English identity, which has become more prominent during Brexit discussions. Studying Irish nationalism this year is the perfect stepping stone for bridging my Brexit experience with nationalism, as debates about the backstop remain unresolved. Irish identity politics has a rich history, and in pursuing Peace and Conflict studies I can tie my interest in nationalism to conflict resolution practices.
What is the most challenging or exciting cultural difference you’ve had to navigate in the UK, compared to the U.S.?
Out of all of my international experiences, Taiwan was the most challenging. I didn’t speak the language, I couldn’t read street signs or menus. I experienced a tsunami warning, intense heat coupled with hot soup for most meals, and a national power outage within a two week period!
In the UK, the transition has been far easier. I will admit that on the first day of my Global Economics class last year I was incredibly confused as to why the professor was mentioning Germany so often. Turns out he was saying “hegemony,” only in a very English manner. He pronounced hey-gem-e-ney, which sounded an awful lot like Germany, especially compared to our version of hedge-e-mony.
Otherwise, I quickly learned that tea is a must after every meal. Bumper cars are called dodgems. Cricket is far harder than it looks and nothing like baseball. Rugby makes American football look puny. Two ice cubes is a lot of ice. The summer heat of 90°F feels far hotter due to the absence of air conditioning … even in museums there isn’t any AC!
How would you like to see your work/career affect people in your community (wherever that may be) or the world?
My career aspirations are to ultimately become a leader of sustainable and positive change that benefits the masses. I aim to advocate for citizens’ rights and identity amidst governmental transitions and national conflict. Utilizing law and diplomacy, I seek to help create governments reflective of national identity - whether in Scotland, Northern Ireland, or elsewhere. I will work within the international legal systems and the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Service Officer to secure conflict resolution while fostering global peace.
My motto is that service is a passport into the lives of others. I strive to serve, whether I impact one life or a community.
Anything else you would like to add?
Advice for students: never give up and keep applying. I didn’t get the Undergraduate Fulbright the first time I applied, but the second time I learned from a senior who received the Undergraduate Fulbright, and my application was a success! Don’t be afraid to ask older students for advice on applications, interview tips, or anything else.
This last year I applied for the Mitchell Fellowship and faced another rejection. Instead of giving up, I found out about the Global Excellence Scholarship at University College Dublin, applied, and now I’m here!
It is possible to graduate debt-free, even as an out-of-state student. There are options such as the Gammage Scholarship and New American Scholarship. While at ASU you can apply for new scholarships each year such as the Etheridge Leadership and McCord Scholarship in W.P. Carey. Ask for scholarship advice and you can graduate debt free. My brother and I were both out-of-state and were funded all four years.
Barrett students have a synergy about them, an excitement for adventure, and they seek creative, positive solutions to world issues. Dive into Barrett. It is an Ivy experience with endless support and no limitations!
Story by Tess Prendergast, a Barrett Honors College student majoring in creative writing and economics.