Student in the Spotlight: An Interview with Stefania-Maria Lessen


By Brandon Hartley


Where are you from originally? 

New York City. Queens, actually. It’s pretty different than Holland.


What’s your major?

I’m working on my bachelor’s and I’ll be graduating next Friday. It’s in International Relations. Once I graduate, I’ll also have a Certificate in Human Rights because I’ve taken a lot of courses on the subject and I’ve also done volunteer work for an NGO in the Hague.


Which NGO and what sort of projects did you work on for them?

It’s called the Stahili Foundation and they provide education and healthcare for students in Kenya. I worked for them over the summer and did a lot of research on the conflicts in Kenya and Somalia. I made child-friendly pamphlets about the Declaration of Human Rights that broke it down into simpler language that they could understand. I also translated a lot of documents from English into Spanish.


What has been your favorite class at Webster Leiden?

Theories of Human Rights. It focuses on international human rights laws. Professor Soljan is teaching it and she’s actually on the prosecution team for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She’s been really wonderful and has given us a lot of information about different theories of human rights and concrete laws that the international tribunals and criminal courts use and how they’re applied.


You’re currently working on your thesis. What’s the topic?

It’s about the Brazilian economy, post Olympics, and whether or not they’ll continue to rise as a major world economy. I’ve focused on the costs to stage it and the FIFA World Cup too as well as the socio-economic impacts on Brazil. Many locals have been displaced due to all of the infrastructure.


What clubs have you participated in at the university?

The Student Government Association. When I started, I worked as the Secretary, took down minutes and helped out wherever I could. I’ve been in the SGA for two and a half years. Right now I’m the Treasurer. I’ve also been involved with the International Relations Club and helped with a lot of events within the department. For instance, we held an event with the ambassador from Rwanda and did a commemoration for the genocide that occurred. It was really beautiful.


What are your plans for the future?

I recently applied to law school in Utrecht and Leiden. So I'd like to be an attorney and work at the UN someday.


10 Things About Stefania-Maria

1. Favorite food?

Anything with eggplant.

2. Favorite app?


3. Latest Google search?

It was school-related, actually. It was the correlation between acid attacks, Islam and their justice system.

4. Best spot in Leiden?

The Catwalk. It’s nice, cosy and the coffee is good.

5. Favorite book?

The Harry Potter series.

6. Next trip you would like to take?

Switzerland. I would love to go during the winter and ski.

7. Favorite movie?

The Blind Side

8. Facebook or Instagram?


9. Europe or the United States?

Can I pick just New York City?

10. What three items would you take to a desert island other than food and water?

Sunglasses, sunscreen and chewing gum.