Ukrainian student Anastasiia Lebedenko has long been passionate about literature. So when she decided to pursue post-secondary education in Canada, SFU’s unique undergraduate program in world literature immediately attracted her.
“I did not hesitate even for a second that this was the place I wanted to study. Literature has always been a magnet for me, something that had an incredible ability to capture my attention and change my world with every single book I was reading.”
“Maybe it was destiny,” Anastasiia laughs.
Anastasiia began her studies at Fraser International College (FIC), and recalls that instructor Charles Pace encouraged her to continue studying world literature. She enjoyed taking unique courses like WL203: “Subversive Genres - Ecocriticism,” WL204: “Rights and Activism in Literature”, and WL404: “Literature and Translation.”
“All of the WLL professors were so remarkable, and these courses have really forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and see the connections I’ve never seen before,” she says.
She goes on to say that taking courses in World Literature and Humanities have helped shape her worldview.
“The course I took on Buddhism has been the most transformational for me, as I approached this philosophy for the first time and tried to integrate it into my own life ever since.”
Anastasiia says the most valuable skill she learned during her studies is critical thinking. “From taking courses and learning about moral philosophy and logic, to building argumentation in my literature essays, critical thinking has been an integral element to all of them.”
“There has been a trend of claiming that education in Humanities has no ‘real’ value,” Anastasiia goes on, “but the skills I’ve gained [have been more useful to me than] trying to remember as much information as I could for quiz-based courses.”
Anastasiia reports that being able to freely choose the topics that she was most passionate about gave her more enjoyment and engagement in the work she did.
Thanks to the wide assortment of student life and volunteering opportunities in the World Languages and Literatures Department, Anastasiia soon found herself engaged in various positions such as Managing Editor for The Lyre, Academic Co-chair for The World Literature Student Conference, Student Learning Commons Writing and Learning Peer, executive of the World Literature Student Union (WLSU), and even a Co-op position as Student Experience Advisor of the FIC.
Anastasiia fondly recalls how volunteering was a good way to distract herself from academically induced stress, and how she enjoyed building connections with others.
“As in the case of the WLSU, we were just a group of passionate students who knew next to nothing about how to run a student union; however, we met, brainstormed new ideas, organized events, and got better with it over time. It was really enjoyable to share your environment with like-minded people, so it never felt like an ‘obligation’.”
Currently, Anastasiia is back home in Ukraine, where she is using her proficiency in English to work as a freelance translator. Postponing plans for a master’s degree, she’s focused on gaining work experience and skills outside of academia.
Although she does not plan to return to Canada any time soon, she is confident that her volunteering and professional experiences at SFU will aid in her job search back home.
Her advice to new undergrads?
“Be open-minded and passionate on your journey. Be open to all the stories, histories, cultures, and peoples you are learning about; they force you to step outside the relatively narrow bubble of your own life and become aware and empathetic to all the life around you.”
She also emphasizes to stay attuned to anything that drives and motivates you.
"Remember to stay passionate: in the pages and pages of material, find something that is interesting to YOU, dig deeper and embark on this new journey every time you take a new course or start a new semester. Write about what touches and disturbs you, as your works reflect no one but you at the end of the day.”
This story was originally published on the Department of World Languages and Literatures (WLL) website on June 22, 2021.