As they prepare to pursue their dreams after graduation, the Program in International and Comparative studies would like to celebrate some of our graduating seniors.

This week, meet Irisa Lico. Lico is a PICS senior studying Security Norms and Cooperation with a regional focus in the Middle East.

“I knew I always wanted to do something with international studies,” Lico noted, but like many students, her academic journey had its share of twists and turns. Initially, Lico planned to pursue medicine –– a plan her family strongly supported, too. “I wanted to make my parents proud,” said Lico, “they sacrificed a lot for me –– they moved their entire lives… they’ve given so much for me,” but Lico added, “I realized [now] that there are other ways to make them proud aside from [being] a doctor].”

Lico was bitten by the international “bug” after immigrating to the United States at eight years old. Lico described her upbringing in a small, rural village in Albania. Her family, Lico joked, “literally won the lottery” through a government program. “There were thirteen of us in a two-bedroom house… My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and my dad made [almost] three dollars a day,” Lico described. Her childhood was happy –– Lico’s optimistic and can-do attitude was a trademark from day-one. “If I wanted to play, I would get a stick, I would figure something out,” she recalled with a smile, “I’m very fortunate.”

Moving to the U.S. was culture shock, Lico remarked, “I was only used to…. Just Albanians [like me]... I would never have experienced the different cultures the U.S. had to offer.” Her new friendships gave her the opportunity to learn more about the world. “I love learning new things,” Lico gushed. That very same sense of curiosity that would drive Lico to pursue her passion for international studies.

“I got a job… and saved every penny” –– pennies that would take her on a backpacking trip around Europe. “I knew I wanted to go back,” and so Lico, accompanied by her trustworthy travelling companion –– her dog, Luna –– travelled across ten different countries. Luna’s favorite country was Italy, “She enjoyed their beef.”

Lico’s dream is to work in the foreign service. “My parents and I would always joke when I was little… they’d say, ‘you sound like a diplomat,’” Lico recalled. At first Lico treated her dreams of being a diplomat as just that, dreams. “I thought, no it’s impossible… I could never reach that… I’m an immigrant in this country, I go to a low-income school,” even attending the University of Michigan once seemed out of reach. Eventually, she began to have a change of heart, “[but] the more [impossible] things that became possible for me [I thought] maybe I should try it out –– What’s the worst that could happen?” With every success, Lico’s dreams of the diplomatic corps grew ever more real.

Currently, Lico is applying to scholarship programs in the foreign service and graduate school programs. Lico has always felt a strong connection to Europe and wishes to return –– but she also wants to give back to the country that “saved my life”: the United States. For Lico, the foreign service offers the chance to see the world, while working to make her “home” –– from Albania, to Europe, to the United States –- a better place.

When she’s not building her way to the diplomatic corps, Lico enjoys walking her dog around Kerrytown and exploring restaurants around Ann Arbor. “Experiencing all the different restaurants… [you can] experience all these different cultures.” In Ann Arbor, Lico remarked, “there’s always something to do!”