Making the International Relations Major Personal Through Global Learning

Header Image, Article
A stone memorial commemorating World War II, flowers and a flame sit at the center. In the background stands the white and gold Assumption Cathedral. (Courtesy of Cameron Lallana)

By Ann Meyer, student writer, Global Affairs

Global learning opportunities empowered Cameron Lallana '20 to dive deeper into the intricacies of his field than otherwise imaginable, broadening his international literacy and preparing him for a career of doing the same for others.

His first significant experience was a study abroad program in Granada, Spain in the Fall of 2016, prior to attending UC Davis. With an emphasis on building language skills in Spanish, the opportunity provoked a keen interest in developing a deeper understanding of other cultures and histories, particularly outside of the traditional classroom environment.

Lallana leans against a wall, a memorial to Peter the Great looms in the background.
Hanging out with a monument of Peter the Great. Built to commemorate the Russian Navy's 3rd Centenary, it is the 8th largest statue in the world. (Courtesy of Cameron Lallana)

Since this experience abroad, Lallana has worked to pinpoint the intersections of his interests, leading him to change his focus from double-majoring in English and Sociology to an International Relations major in the College of Letters and Science. Initially unsure of which of the four major tracks to choose from, Lallana’s interest in becoming better educated about foreign policy and the dynamics of conflict drew him to the peace and security track with an emphasis in Russia and East/Central Europe. 

“When I started thinking about switching my major to International Relations, I knew that I wanted to study a country that was poorly understood here in the U.S.,” Lallana said. “Now I'm starting to expand my focus into Eastern Europe and Central Asia more generally because there are so many overlooked countries in those regions with such rich cultures and histories that I would be remiss if I excluded them from my education.”

While highly motivated at self-teaching and engaged in the offered coursework of UC Davis’ Russian department, Lallana still desired a deeper and more personal knowledge of the region. So, he sought out his second global learning experience abroad.

“The reason I went to Russia is that it felt so detached. People make grand theories about places they’ve never been and don’t really understand. They have notions, perhaps accurate ones, of how politics in these nations work. Yet, when you apply these macro-theories to the micro-level, it feels hollow without a thorough understanding of the intricate details of a history, of a culture, of why this or that outcome came to be.”

A small dirt alley situated between two wooden fences looks out towards the green and white St. Nicholas monastery. The sky is stormy and a rainbow peeks through the gray.
Approaching the ancient St. Nicholas Monastary in Starya Ladoga, an important trading post from the 8th-9th century and sometimes called "the first capital of Russia." (Courtesy of Cameron Lallana)

While UC Davis currently does not offer a faculty-led study abroad program in Russia, there were still a variety of options for Lallana to choose from. After doing some initial research and meeting with advisors at the Global Learning Hub — the centralized spot on campus for global learning opportunities, including study abroad, global internships, and more — he discovered a University of California (UCEAP) program for Russian area studies. Centered in St. Petersburg, the program allowed Lallana to study the Russian language and complete courses in Russian history, culture, and politics.  

The program also offered a range of opportunities to become more immersed in Russian culture outside of coursework. This included extracurricular activities, trips to neighboring cities and towns, volunteer opportunities, and unique educational experiences. In particular, Lallana reflected on his experiences volunteering at an orphanage in Yaroslavl and participating in Whom Do We Trust a student conference that focused panels and discussions around Russian-American relations in media, culture, perception, and politics. He noted visits to the grocery store, bookstores, concerts, and museums as some of his favorite outings, remarking on their importance in immersing him in everyday Russian life and culture.

Lallana and another individual playing guitar on stage at a concert.
Playing in a band in St. Petersburg. (Courtesy of Cameron Lallana)

Most notably, Lallana had the opportunity to live in a homestay for three and a half months with an older Russian woman. This offered him many rewarding conversations about life and culture as both he and his homestay mother learned from one another, often over traditional cuisine and unique visits to cultural sites the holy spring at the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. 

Through this study abroad program, Lallana had many eye-opening experiences which offered him a deeper understanding of the ideas and topics he’d learned stateside. These instances encouraged him to challenge his own preconceptions, to confront new and sometimes difficult situations, and to be open-minded and immersed in the world around him.

Lallana speaks to a colleague in an English language course.
Helping with an English conversation class in Yaroslavl. (Courtesy of Cameron Lallana)

Lallana will be graduating in the Spring of 2020, but his journey in global learning is just beginning. He is currently planning to go on the Revolutionary Cuba summer abroad 2020 program in the hopes of pursuing more experiences abroad and continuing to learn about other parts of the world through personal engagement

Long term, Lallana intends to expand on his education and experiences at Davis, such as those with Cycle News Hour at KDVS, the UC Davis student radio station, in pursuit of a career in radio journalism. Joining in Winter 2017 as a reporter with the International Division, he has since served as the division head since Spring 2018, creating and co-hosting Cycle’s secondary show Evenings with the Cycle. His time with Cycle has helped further advance his learning, made him a better leader and communicator, and offered him internationally-oriented learning opportunities outside of his study abroad experiences.

Drawing on his education and his background of reporting on international issues and politics, Lallana hopes to apply his knowledge locally through work in the Sacramento area, bringing attention to noteworthy stories that receive less attention in the media and educating others. 


About the Global Learning Hub at UC Davis

Through the Global Learning Hub, each and every UC Davis student can find global learning opportunities available on campus, in the region, and across all seven continents. The hub’s network of local and global academic, experiential, and leadership programs helps develop capacity for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to engage with global issues and make a difference in the world as the next generation of global problem solvers. Search global learning opportunities across UC Davis.

As a part of Global Affairs, the Global Learning Hub aims to inspire global curiosity, understanding, and engagement.

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