Welcome to the first edition of Alumni Updates! This month, I interviewed Ken Lohatepanont (CO’17). Ken is a sophomore at the University of California, Berkley.
Here’s what he had to say!
What are you studying? Why did you choose to study in this field?
I’m intending to major in political science. Since ninth grade, I’ve developed a really strong passion for politics, public policy and the social sciences in general. People often dismiss politics as irrelevant drama, but the truth is political decisions, whether they happen in local forums or the highest levels of government, impact the ordinary person deeply. Politics is history that is happening in real time, and I’m really enthusiastic about synthesizing political science and making it accessible to everyone. I’m most likely going to concentrate in international relations, as I love learning about foreign policy and the international world order.
What do you love most about your university?
I love so many things about UC Berkeley! I love the intellectual vibrancy of this campus, where there are so many dynamic classes and professors ready to engage with you in office hours. I spent a lot of time in office hours with my comparative politics professor discussing Thailand’s political situation. I love how Berkeley is a place where public luminaries visit all the time; I’ve had the chance to hear from California gubernatorial candidates, President Obama’s former press secretary, the founder of Politico.com, and the mayor of Oakland. And I love the fact that Berkeley is in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, where the weather is great year-round, Asian food is in abundance and San Francisco is just a short train ride away.
Why did you choose to study at UC Berkeley?
Berkeley was one of my dream schools. It’s renowned for numerous departments, of which political science was no exception. It is one of the most liberal campuses in the United States, and political activity is always happening around here. It’s a public university with a large student body, which was something that I had to adjust to, but its size also means that the opportunities here are limitless; there’s something for everyone. It’s also in California, which is a really cool state with a really rich culture and dynamism.
How have you contributed to the university? What clubs, frats etc. have you joined?
I’m mainly involved in the UC Berkeley student government, the Associated Students of the University of California, where I serve as Chief Communications Officer. In this role, I oversee marketing and outreach to 30,000+ undergraduates on campus, direct branding strategy, and manage press and public relations. The ASUC is one of the largest and most autonomous student governments in the United States, so this role has been simultaneously exciting and challenging! I am also a research apprentice, where I currently assist a professor in the political science department on writing a book about the relationship between multicultural political philosophy and devolution in the United Kingdom.
What advice do you have for students in MYP and DP?
Firstly, get outside the classroom and do things. It’s good for your college applications — so few things that you write about in your college applications will be about what you do in class — and it allows you to learn so much that you can’t from an academic setting. Being in Student Council in KIS for three years was one of the best decisions I made in high school; it was time consuming, but I learned so much and don’t regret a moment of it. Secondly, it doesn’t do any harm to start early with preparing to apply to college. The earlier you know what requirements you need to fulfil and what scores you need, the better. Finally, please never hesitate to reach out! I’m happy to answer any questions.
What do you miss most about KIS and Bangkok?
Even though I talked about the benefits of UC Berkeley’s size, there’s a lot to miss about the small size of KIS. The class of 2017 had around 35 people — the class of 2021 at UC Berkeley has 7000! UC Berkeley is a public university, and with its massive size, there’s no way you can get to know everyone. Lecture sizes are large, and often professors will never learn your name. Bangkok is also, undeniably, the greatest city in the world, and from the food to the shopping malls to its frenetic energy, I miss everything about it. Except the traffic jams. No one misses the traffic jams.
What are your future plans?
Currently, I’m not so sure. I did an internship with a management consulting firm over the summer, which has reignited an interest in business. However, my passion for political science and writing also isn’t going anywhere, so figuring out how to make everything come together is going to be interesting.
What advice do you have for aspiring political scientists?
If you’d like to study political science (or another social science) at the college level, it’s so important to be able to read quickly but closely. There’s a lot of reading in political science (sometimes hundreds of pages a week) and it can be frightening if you’re not used to it. Being able to write well is also a really important skill.
Do you continue to exemplify the IB Learner Profile even though you are studying in university? How?
The IB Learner Profile is probably ingrained in the blood of any KIS graduate. Being an inquirer is so important in college. No one is going to tell me what opportunities are out there, much less make me look for them, so to be curious and to be continually on the lookout for something I might be interested in doing is key. Being well-balanced is also really crucial. On many weeks, my weekly calendar is filled to the brink with classes and meetings and social events, so it’s important to also find time for myself to relax.
How has the IB program prepared you for university?
On a practical level, a couple of my IB exams has allowed me to waive multiple university requirements, which is really helpful. Skills-wise, the IB has also been beneficial. Sometimes I questioned the necessity of Theory of Knowledge in the DP, but now I see why an understanding of epistemology is really beneficial and it put me in the habit of questioning assumptions and methods, and to seek verification for statements presented as ‘facts’. The amount of writing I had to do for IAs and the Extended Essay was also good practice for writing long essays in a short time frame. Finally, I want to give a shout out to the IB Business Management and English Language & Literature courses — I’ve only realized how much I learned from it now that I’m in college.
You can read my blog at kenlwrites.com, or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to get in touch!