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A Conversation with Alina Lin: Expanding Your Circle and Your Comfort Zone

I recently sat down with Alina Lin, who is a third year Psychology major with a minor in English and Economics. Alina is the President of the Interdepartmental Science Students’ Society, (the Science Faculty Association) an organization that represents over 6000 undergraduate science students regarding advocacy and community while providing services and hosting events throughout the year. She is also an Engineers Without Borders Fellow who recently completed an internship in Accra, Ghana. 



You joined the ISSS in your first year. Why did you choose to get involved so early on?


One recurring regret I heard from older friends was that they didn’t get involved in university earlier. I’ve always seen the value in community engagement/involvement so I didn’t want the legacy of regret to continue with me.

I also only knew a few people that came to the U of A from Calgary, so I made it a personal goal to truly meet new people and make the campus a place I felt at home. 



What was your experience like with ISSS throughout the years? How did it change over time? 


It was a natural progression. I started as a First-Year Councillor and as the Creative Outreach Director, eventually moving up to VP Services and then President. Throughout my first year with ISSS, I learned more about the organization–its roles and responsibilities. I soon learned about the value of student governance and about the dedication my peers had for improving our community. 

It is incredibly easy to focus on yourself in university and build a wall between yourself and the people around you. However, in this case, you would miss countless opportunities to learn and grow as a student and as a person. I cannot stress enough how important it is to expand your circle! Expose yourself to different mindsets, values, beliefs, and ways of doing things. 

Those are a few reasons I stayed with ISSS, but the biggest reason will always be the people within the organization! ISSS is my family on campus, and I love working with and collaborating with individuals I love, feel inspired by, and feel energized to be around. 



Do you have any tips on balancing life as a student and being a leader on campus?


I used to say all the time that “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy.” It’s been a real journey, but I’ve really come to understand that everyone has the same amount of time in the day. It’s dependent on you to decide what you commit to and what you will make time for. Before you add things to your plate, ask yourself why you are doing it and what value it will bring to your life. Don’t be afraid to say no to things you don’t wish to do.



What direction do you hope to take after you graduate?


I would love to pursue a career that is people-orientated and in the area of global affairs and international relations. 



How did your time at the University of Alberta help you develop that direction in life?


In terms of a people-orientated career– that has always been a given! Being involved on campus in different areas with equally passionate people has only reaffirmed that. 

Through my involvement with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and with international organizations such as Rotary, I’ve worked towards a ‘global citizen’ mindset. If I were to pinpoint one part of my undergrad that was the pinnacle of the direction I wanted to take, it would be my internship this summer. Last year, I joined the University of Alberta’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, and I applied to the Junior Fellowship Program, an 18-month program with a 4-month internship in sub-Saharan Africa that combines practical leadership and an opportunity to address the root causes of poverty. 



What did you love the most about that experience? And what did you learn from your experience? 


University is THE time to take advantage of and utilize effectively. I feel that there is not another time where you have access to the number of resources and support that we do to aim for our goals and explore fields that interest us with minimal risk. 

The Junior Fellowship with EWB was something that broadened my world in a way I couldn’t imagine! It was a pivotal experience. It granted me the opportunity to meet people that I otherwise would have never met and to hear their stories- stories that have enriched my world view. 

For my internship, I worked with the Kumvana Fellowship, a program designed to bring together social entrepreneurs and social innovators in sub-Saharan Africa for a transformative personal and professional leadership development experience. I got exposed to a multitude of professions and areas in life that I had no previous exposure to throughout the process. The social enterprise space in Ghana was unreal. It sounds incredibly cheesy, but the inspiration and reinvigoration I gained is a gift I will truly treasure. 



Last semester, I attended “Students Rally in Support,” an event that was spearheaded by you and four other students. Can you tell me about it, and what motivated you? 


“Students Rally in Support” was an event aimed to put a name on the face of our fellow students, increase awareness of mental health resources and the need for greater support at the University of Alberta. It was created with the intention to show our humanity on our own campus. Last year, multiple events came to light–events that revealed systemic failure in the area of mental health. The University of Alberta has been my home for the last two years–I think it’s very natural to care about the wellbeing of my peers and friends on the campus I call home. Four of my friends and I decided we wanted to rally together to show our fellow students that our community cares. And that’s how the event came to be. 



Do you have any advice for other students on campus? 


Make a conscious and continuous effort to expand your comfort zone! 

University can be often portrayed as an opportunity for broadening your world view–it is a time for that! But it’s also a chance to broaden your comfort zone. We always hear the commonly used phrase “Step outside of your comfort zone!” I don’t necessarily think you have to step outside of your comfort zone 24/7 to grow and move towards your goals. When you do something that is outside your normal and do it enough times, it becomes a part of your normal.  Your comfort zone expands. This is crucial to the exponential growth you will undergo in your university career!



Azra Panjwani

U Alberta '21

I’m in my third year of a Psychology degree and am currently doing research on autobiographical memory. I work as a Resident Assistant, volunteer with Unitea, and spend my free time cheering on the Canucks!
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