Things were calm until Lu answered a phone call. Suddenly the first-floor space in the Millennium Student Center was filled with cheers of joy as Lu jumped up and down and wiped tears from her face. She was understandably thrilled to learn she had been accepted to a summer internship program at Boeing.
“I got teary-eyed because I didn’t think they would accept me,” she said with a laugh, recalling the eventful phone call.
After the spring semester, the junior international relations major will work on Boeing’s Global Trade Controls team. Lu credits the opportunities UMSL has provided for her selection to the program. During her time at the university, she has earned multiple scholarships, worked in the Triton Pantry and as a global ambassador and orientation leader with UMSL Global, and studied abroad at the University of Galway.
Lu graduated from Pattonville High School in 2020 and decided, in part, to attend UMSL because of its affordability.
“The main reason was it worked out well for my financials,” Lu said. “At the time, I was going to study business, and it also had a really good business school.”
Lu entered college as a business major as she intended, drawn to the prospect of working with people and companies across the globe.
“I was always interested in culture and traveling,” she said. “I was particularly interested in international business. I really wanted to study abroad, and then I realized business wasn’t for me.”
That realization led Lu to change her major twice during her first semester as she contemplated what she wanted to do with her future. First, she switched to anthropology with an eye toward studying cultures through social science. Then, she moved to social work with the aim of helping immigrants.
Following the 2020 presidential election, Lu ultimately resolved to study international relations in the Department of Political Science.
However, it wasn’t a decision she made lightly.
“I got more into politics, especially during the 2020 election,” Lu recalled. “But I was very hesitant to turn it into my major because politics is my passion. I didn’t know if I wanted to turn my passion into a job. I was scared that maybe in the future I’ll get tired, burned out from it. But then I decided I’d rather do something that gives me happiness.”
Lu has enjoyed the tight-knit department, where “everyone knows everyone,” and engaging courses such as International Political Economy. She also commended the department’s instructors and faculty members such as Assistant Professor Stephen Bagwell and Professors Ruth Iyob and Charles Herrick for their collective insight and guidance.
UMSL Global has also provided opportunities for Lu to explore her interest in other cultures. Lu’s family vacations to Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam initially sparked her love of culture and travel. After enrolling at UMSL, she immediately contacted the UMSL Global office to investigate study abroad programs.
Unfortunately, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had halted international programs at the time. However, Lu still met with Cassidy Thompson and Annie Hyde, the former and current manager of the Study Abroad office, respectively, and a global ambassador to learn more about what might be possible in the future. After the meeting, Thompson and Hyde reached out to Lu and offered her a position as a global ambassador.
Global ambassadors are often the first point of contact for students who are interested in studying abroad. They represent the Study Abroad office on campus during class visits and events and distribute information about the opportunities available at UMSL. Additionally, they advise students on program selection and help with applications.
Lu’s role as a global ambassador also led to a seasonal position as a global orientation leader. During Global Orientation Week, Lu oversees communication and relationship-building among international students. She leads campus tours and facilitates information sessions as well.
“I get to meet so many international students from different countries and talk to them and get to know their culture,” she said. “Some of them, I became really close with. My discipline is international relations, so I always want to hear from people from other countries and how they feel about their politics.”
Lu even stays connected to international students at her part-time job at the Triton Pantry, where many pick up grocery staples because of its central location on campus. Not only has her work with UMSL Global and the Triton Pantry been deeply fulfilling, it has also helped her grow professionally and personally.
“It did really help me gain interpersonal communication and intercultural communication skills,” Lu said. “I was able to learn a whole new skill set for the global ambassador position. One of the things I had to do was market study abroad, and I had to utilize Canva. That really helped me with my graphic design skills. Talking to international students, it helped me develop intercultural communication.
“For example, always let the international students finish their sentence. Do not interrupt them. Be more patient. The things they say, don’t take it to heart and have empathy. They’re using their native language to translate, and that doesn’t always translate well in English. Sometimes it can be harsher that what they’re actually meaning, but all have good intentions.”
This past summer, Lu experienced what it’s like to be an international student herself. She finally was able to study abroad, taking part in the Irish Studies in Galway program led by Smurfit-Stone Corporation Professor in Irish Studies Eamonn Wall. During the four-week program, Lu and fellow UMSL students studied at the University of Galway’s International Summer School and explored the west coast of Ireland.
Lu was charmed by Galway and the city’s architecture, likening it to villages depicted in fantasy films. She also enjoyed conversing with locals who were always friendly and willing to discuss politics, even if they were sometimes a bit difficult to understand through thick Irish brogues.
“It really helped me with my adaptability, adjusting to a new country, networking in a new country,” she said.
Lu is continuing to work toward her degree and serve members of the UMSL community, and is looking forward to the Boeing internship this summer. The Global Trade Controls team is crucial to supply chain management for the company’s military equipment. Lu will have a better idea of her day-to-day duties when the internship gets closer, but she knows key duties will include addressing global trade regulation inquiries, preparing import-export approval submissions and researching global trade control issues.
She’s excited to gain experience in governmental regulation, supply chain management and, especially, international trade.
“I’m really looking forward to gaining hands-on experience in global trade,” she said. “It really has to do with my major, international relations. I’m looking forward to applying what I learned in international political economics in a business setting. I’m also excited just to network at Boeing. It’s a great foundation for my future.”
Lu anticipates pursuing a master’s degree after graduation, but no matter what she does, her career is off to a promising start thanks to UMSL.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunities that UMSL gave me,” she said. “The jobs I’ve had at UMSL really helped me. Working with international students and studying abroad, I think that really helped me stand out as a candidate, and I don’t think I would have gotten the internship otherwise.”