Jessica Lee traversed the globe to discover her academic niche

Jessica Lee is receiving a bachelor's degree in Plan II/Russian language and culture from the College of Liberal Arts.
Jessica Lee is receiving a bachelor's degree in Plan II/Russian language and culture from the College of Liberal Arts. Photo: Christina Murrey

Jessica Lee, a graduating Plan II, Russian language and culture student, always dreamt of making the world a better place, but it took many adventures from hopping on the Trans-Siberian railway on a whim, to haphazardly taking on a job as a beat reporter for the Moscow Times for her to discover her niche in life.

"My experiences abroad really inspired me to work in politics, travel the world and help people in developing countries," said Lee, who plans to pursue a master's degree in international relations and someday hopes to work in the diplomatic corps. "When I realized I could pursue all these passions in the Foreign Service, I just knew it was a perfect fit."

After her freshman year, the Houston native participated in a study abroad program in Austria and took a four-week detour in Africa to help AIDS victims in remote hospitals. In 2008, she enrolled in a yearlong study abroad program in Moscow, where she lived with a Russian grandmother and learned to speak fluent Russian.

Driven to help find a cure for AIDS, Lee initially majored in chemistry. But after traversing the globe and connecting with people in underdeveloped countries, she decided to shift her focus to diplomacy.

Despite the language barriers, sudden detours and various misadventures Lee had encountered on her overseas excursions, she said the experiences helped her discover a wealth of opportunities for changing the world outside of a lab.

"The great thing about studying abroad is that you get to push your comfort zones and learn more about yourself," Lee said. "How are you going to know what you're going to do when you don't know who you are now?"