Meet Ina Yzeiraj Xhafa, an LCC alumna from Albania who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2015. Since then, Ina has engaged in various professional career development and job-related activities. She is currently enrolled in a Master’s program with a full scholarship at Cornell University in New York, United States, studying Public Affairs concentrating in Social and Educational policy. A newly-wed, Ina and her husband are currently based in Albania where, along with family and friends, they share many successful and joyful moments together.
You graduated from LCC International University in 2015 with a degree in psychology; how has your life changed since then?
Attending LCC was an amazing experience. Upon graduation, I moved back to Albania and started working as a guidance counselor through a connection I had made at LCC. I then changed several jobs in the next five years in order to gain as much experience as possible in a variety of areas. After gaining and building some good connections, I started my master’s in Fall 2020, at an Ivy League University in the US, Cornell University.
How would you describe your experience at LCC? If you could turn back time, what would you do differently?
One of the best decisions I made was coming to LCC. Before coming, I had the option of studying in the US for my bachelor’s, even so, I never regretted choosing LCC. It was transformative in all possible ways. The international component be it of students and staff - it’s like having a little mini-world all within the bounds of one small campus. The fact that professors come wholeheartedly, and because they truly want to be and teach there, not only for the sake of having a job. I don’t think I would do anything differently; I think I took full advantage of LCC, be it on the academic level, personal and professional growth, and on the social aspect.
How did graduating from LCC and the involvement in various leadership activities here, equip you for your past and current career?
It equipped me with the necessary social and professional skills to land all the jobs I have had; the academic ones to keep the job I have had, and to be accepted at Cornell University on a full scholarship. Moreover, it gave me the confidence to reach out and try applying for jobs, masters, and scholarships. Furthermore, time management is a skill that you learn naturally if you are studying and being involved in leadership positions and extracurricular activities, time-management is a skill one needs at any job position or aspect of ‘adult’ life. All of those positions and involvements taught me how to perform under pressure, something that I have had to make use of continually in my professional life and in my further academic life.
What is the most valuable experience and memory that you carry from LCC?
There are so many! Being a First-Year Seminar leader and a Resident Assistant, and all the other leadership positions I have been involved in, such as helping to lead Alpha discussion groups, where many students, staff, and faculty gather in fellowship to discuss faith and explore more about the journey. I was involved in the two-year professional leadership program, started a volunteering program at a nearby orphanage; those were amazing experiences that gave me so many fond memories. I will also never forget the first class I took with Julija Gaiduk, introduction to Psychology. It is the class that made me fall in love with psychology and inspired me to study further.
What are some lessons that our liberal arts university taught you?
I will never forget the first speech that our dear President Marlene Wall gave us: The T shape graduates, people that don’t merely go in the depth of knowledge but also in the width of it. LCC gave me depth on an academic level, while also equipping me with a broad set of skills, all of which made my transition into the workplace and into public affairs and education policy so easy.
What are you currently doing in your professional career?
Currently, I am in the final year of my master’s degree at Cornell University in New York. I became a Master’s and Internship Program fellow at the Albanian and American Development Foundation which offered me a full scholarship to do my masters in the US and was excited to learn that Cornell had accepted me. It has always been part of my goal to get a degree from an Ivy League University. This semester one of my professors also asked me to become a graduate assistant, so I am assisting him in teaching a graduate-level course, which is a great experience.
What does a day in your life look like?
Due to the pandemic, I am studying remotely, that means I am currently based in Albania, living by the New York time zone. I usually start my classes at 2 pm. until midnight and use the first part of the day and hours in between to study, work, or grade. It has its challenges doing it all remotely, but I am glad to be home with my husband and family.
What advice would you give to LCC students?
Make use of all resources LCC has to offer, take time to get to know your professors as they have amazing things to teach you, not only in the classroom but also through their life stories. Invest in the relationship with other students, as they will become lifelong friends. Do not consider LCC as the place that will give you a diploma, but the place that will and is preparing you for whatever amazing adventure is next in your life. And always keep an open heart and mind to new opportunities that arise.