International student Kaarel Lilleoja hopes to one day serve his home country of Estonia as a foreign diplomat. It takes years of international service and attending a special school for diplomats to be considered a viable candidate for an ambassador position, but Kaarel feels called to work in international or cross-cultural relations, so he is willing to put in the time and work in whatever capacity he can in that area. He is currently completing an M.A. in Intercultural Studies in preparation for that field. “I see my future career in that field and am called to work in diplomatic relations, perhaps as a program coordinator or as a diplomat, but I know my studies here are preparing me for any of those,” he says.
Kaarel thought attending graduate school in another country would be a good way to get first-hand experience relating to people in an international context. He had fallen in love with California on a previous visit to the United States, and after looking at other intercultural studies graduate programs, he ultimately settled on Cook School of Intercultural Studies because the program was broad and easily customizable. The ability to choose his own path within his program was particularly appealing to Kaarel, because his career intentions differ from the traditional intercultural studies student.
In addition to going to school in a different country, Kaarel has had the opportunity to practice his cross-cultural communication skills on the multiple occasions he has represented Estonia in the World University Games. The World University Games are similar to the Olympics, but limited to competitors who are currently enrolled in an academic program. He first represented Estonia at the games in 2009, when he competed in track & field events. 2013 was his third time representing Estonia, but his first time representing Biola University when he traveled to Kazan, Russia to compete in the men’s 800 meter race.
Kaarel really values his international experiences, and the opportunity to study intercultural studies outside of Estonia. He says of his experience at Cook in particular: “I am super grateful to be here at Biola University, because it has been my dream for a number of years. I have been living a dream every day and I like this university and my department.”
Read more about Kaarel’s latest trip to the World University Games in Russia here.