Megan Keli
Europe, Russia & Eurasia, Global governance, Foreign policy, Munk School, European Affairs, Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies

Dreams of Diplomacy: How Studying Abroad Is Helping a Munk School Undergraduate Student Succeed

Before International Relations and European Affairs student Megan Keli heard a diplomat speak at a University of Toronto event; she knew she wanted to be involved in public policy and global governance in some capacity. The turning point for her was when a classmate asked, “What do you need to do to become a diplomat?” The response was, “You need to go abroad and put yourself in experiences you’re passionate about.”

That sealed the deal for Keli, who has diplomatic aspirations and is currently studying abroad at Sciences Po in Paris.

The Fontaine Saint-Michel
Megan Keli in front of the Fontaine Saint-Michel 

Keli says that having the opportunity to study international relations both in Canada and in Europe is the hallmark of her university experience so far. She gets to see current events play out from both sides of the Atlantic – but it’s the unknown that excites her. “The chance to just be thrown into an environment where you don’t really speak the language while everyone else around you does… it’s a good thing to force yourself to experience.”

From learning about U.S.-EU-China relations, to discussing French President Macron’s policies (which have recently resulted in mass protests where she now lives), Keli has been thrown right into the action – and is always keen to learn. Something as simple as timing her commute to school, which would’ve been a mundane task in Toronto, is now directly affected by current events in French politics and global governance. Seeing things unfold in real time make the experience even more real and impactful for Keli.

For undergraduates at the Munk School, Alexandra Rahr, director of Undergraduate Programs and Student Experience, says “When students hear from local people about a justice issue, or see first-hand how a policy changes a community, these experiences can blow doors open in anyone’s mind. But that opportunity is especially important for undergrads, who make so many decisions in those crucial four years about what role they want to play in the world.”

That’s why it’s essential that learning abroad is for all. Both the Munk School and U of T are committed to making the chance to study abroad widely accessible to as many undergraduates as possible. For Keli, she says that having an international experience and putting oneself in a new environment with a diverse culture and learning a different language is key to getting a personalized education experience.

Outside of studying and attending class, Keli plans to hit all the classic tourist locations, like Musée d’Orsay. But she also wishes to spend time improving her French (the lingua franca of diplomacy) and networking with her classmates and professors in one of the EU’s epicenters. “Studying abroad is something I’ve always pictured myself doing and U of T made it easy,” she says. Her advice to students considering a study abroad experience? “Take the plunge!”