Editor's note: Several months back, we were delighted to hear from Anne-Sophie Deman, a member of the class of 2008. Anne-Sophie reached out because she was hoping to reconnect with some of her Country School teachers; she wanted to update them on what she is doing and thank them for all they had given her. Her request led to a longer exchange, and we are pleased to share this story about a young woman who is making her mark on the world. And, yes, we literally mean the world.
After graduating as class valedictorian from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and then receiving her Masters in Global Politics from the London School of Economics, Anne-Sophie Deman '08 has embarked on a career she loves. Since last April, she has been working in London at Hanbury Strategy, an international strategic advisory firm providing clients with political analysis, campaign management, and communications and focusing on such timely and critical issues as Brexit, digital policy, Eurozone, and energy. She conducts her work from an EU perspective, and, as she says, "Working for a British political consultancy as an EU focused policy person during Brexit has been quite interesting and engaging."
Prior to her current role, Anne-Sophie was in Brussels as a Blue Book trainee at the European Political Strategy Centre, an in-house think tank which provides strategic, evidence-based analysis and policy advice. Working under the jurisdiction of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Anne-Sophie served as an analyst, focusing her energies on sustainable development, social policy, and economic teams.
We asked Anne-Sophie what drew her to international relations, both as an area of study and as a career. Her answer reflects her personal inclinations and experiences as well as her education, including the years she spent at The Country School, which Anne-Sophie described as a "turning point."
"Exploring new places, reading the news, and discussing politics has been part of my life for as long as I can remember," said Anne-Sophie, who was born in Belgium and attended schools there and in France before moving to the United States and starting at The Country School. "Growing up, my parents always brought me along when traveling or trying a new type of cuisine. Similarly, my opinion was always asked and valued when discussing what's going on in the world."
International relations as an academic discipline was a natural fit. "Interdisciplinary in its nature, international relations combined my love for history (which started in Mrs. Kelly's Egyptian history course), my personal experience in learning languages, and then added a political science and economics component," she said.
After graduating from The Country School, Anne-Sophie went on to Daniel Hand High School, and when it came time to apply to college, she knew she wanted a school with a strong international relations program and a global outlook. That led her to UBC, where she focused on European Union politics and Chinese politics. She also studied Mandarin Chinese. In addition to her demanding academic load, Anne-Sophie also held several important extracurricular positions, including serving as co-founder of the Tanzania Heart Babies Project, which raised funds to help children with congenital heart defects in Tanzania, and as a research assistant at the Institute of European Studies, where she co-authored articles, assisted professors with research, and designed and taught a political science seminar. She held a summer internship for a food services company in China, was the student coordinator for Jump Start, a first-year transition program for more than 1,500 incoming international students at UBC, and served as the senior student ambassador overseeing campus tours.
To say that Anne-Sophie did well at UBC would be an understatement; she graduated as valedictorian, delivering a valedictory speech to assembled faculty, degree recipients, their families, and guests. She also received several awards, including the International Leader of Tomorrow Award, which came with a four-year full scholarship, and the International Community Achievement Award, winning in both 2013 and 2015.
Anne-Sophie delivers the Valedictorian address at UBC.
Then came graduate school. When looking into Masters programs, Anne-Sophie knew she wanted something interdisciplinary, and so she ended up applying to Global Politics at LSE, where she could combine her interest in European Union and Chinese politics and also focus "on the bigger picture in an applied (as opposed to theoretical ) manner through our core course: the politics of globalization," she said. The year-long program was intense, but it cemented her interest in the field, so next came her traineeship at European Political Strategy Centre followed by her position at Hansbury.
We asked Anne-Sophie if, looking back on her trajectory to date, there was anything specific in her Country School experience which may have impacted her direction. Here was her answer:
When I think back on my academic path so far, The Country School plays a major role. For me, it is really the turning point. Before coming to The Country School, I went to school in Belgium and France. I was not particularly good at school and I did not really enjoy it — I enjoyed the social aspect but not really my classes or studying (we had exams starting in the 1st Grade).
I arrived at TCS not speaking any English, yet I was immediately absorbed into the community — a community of friends who are still very special to me today. The teachers, from Mrs. Kelly to Ms. Lord in the 5th Grade, really helped me adjust and transition. In the 6th Grade I met Mr. Storms, Mrs. Barber and Mrs. Burnett, and they really influenced me in a major way. Mr. Storms took so much extra time to meet me before school started or stay late to go over English key words for our weekly tests and helped me write my first essay and read my first English book (Tom Sawyer). Mrs. Barber taught with a similar passion and challenged me to a whole new level — demanding reading every week, my first term paper — and she instilled a permanent love for history in me (I continued to take history classes throughout my undergraduate and graduate). Mrs. Burnett was a wonderful advisor throughout the whole TCS process.
Aside from the academic, I think the TCS outdoor education program is so special. Ever since, I really enjoy hiking and being outside — something I was lucky enough to be able to do frequently in Vancouver. Overall, TCS is a very special place which I really credit with a turnaround for me in terms of my love for studying and confidence and methods in which to approach that. I really do not think I would have been able to do the studies I did without TCS — so thank you all!
Likewise, we say thank you, Anne-Sophie. Thank you for reaching out to express your gratitude to your teachers. Thank you for being willing to take a break from your busy schedule to answer our questions. And, perhaps most of all, thank you for living the Country School mission. At The Country School, we call on students to "serve the common good." We ask them to "embrace differences, explore new perspectives, and find common ground" in the hopes that by doing so, our graduates will be prepared to thrive in a global, multicultural world. Anne-Sophie, you are clearly thriving — and leading — in our global, multicultural world. Just as you are grateful to your teachers, we are grateful to you for the choices you have made and the example you have set. We can't wait to see where you go next.
Anne-Sophie receives her Country School diploma from former Head of School Bill Powers in 2008.
Editor's Postscript: Anne-Sophie Deman and her younger brother, Alexander (TCS 2014, now a student at King's College in London), are among scores of international students who have enrolled at The Country School over the decades, a tradition that has grown dramatically in recent years. The current student body includes children whose families hail from more than 20 different countries and who speak an array of languages at home, including Russian, Arabic, German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Hungarian, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, Icelandic, and Gujarati.
Last year, after receiving certification from the federal government, The Country School added a new element to that tradition when it established the International Student Program in partnership with Apex International Education partners, an organization that assists with international student recruitment, enrollment, and homestay coordination. (Learn more at https://www.thecountryschool.org/admission/international-students). During the 2017-2018 school year, the program welcomed two students from China. A third student joined us for the current school year.