Feature Stories

Share this Story

Senior Spotlight: Kainaat Trehan, Class of 2024

The international relations/political science major shares her atypical journey at VWU, which began remotely at her home in India

University News | May 7, 2024

Kainaat Trehan ‘24 first stepped on the campus of 91风月楼 on the first day of her sophomore year in college, even though she’d been a student at VWU throughout her freshman year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Trehan “Zoomed-in” to her courses at VWU during her first year— at 2 a.m. in the morning, from her hometown in New Delhi, India. 

“When I got here in August of 2021, as an incoming sophomore, I feared that I would be unable to make friends within my cohort who had already spent our freshman year together. I feared that I had missed the 'bonding' period and would never be able to catch up socially. On top of that, I also feared that one-year of Zoom learning had totally ruined my ability to learn traditionally. I was scared I wouldn't be able to connect with my professors and interact with my peers.”

The global pandemic was also responsible for Trehan missing senior traditions during her last year of high school at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Georgia, an international boarding school with students from more than 50 countries. She says she also missed opportunities to visit colleges in person and make her decision on where to attend based on actual, as opposed to virtual, experiences.

“I did not have the opportunity to attend the Batten Honors College (BHC) competition in-person, nor could I visit Virginia Wesleyan’s campus or interact with 'potential' future professors, friends, and even housemates—because Covid-19 had other plans for my senior year of high school. So when the time came to make a decision on college, I was at home in New Delhi on a spring break that soon transformed into an extended period of lockdown.” 

As a result, she competed in VWU’s Batten Honors Competition virtually from India.

“In the amidst of numerous anxiety attacks and very little understanding of the vibe of Virginian Wesleyan or the Batten Honors College, I decided to submit my deposit, solely because I thought if all of it goes south, at least I will have a beach nearby to contemplate my backup plan!”

No backup plan needed. From the moment she stepped on campus, Trehan thrived in and out of the classroom. To say that she hit the ground running is an understatement.

The past three years, she has been a member of VWU’s Ethics Bowl Team, deliberating ethical dilemmas in the statewide VFIC competition. She has been a member of the VWU delegation to the Model United Nations in New York City and the Model NATO Challenge held on campus. She has also been a member of the cast in two of Virginia Wesleyan’s theatre productions, “Roe” and “Eurydice.”

“This place has opened doors that have led me to explore my personal and intellectual perimeters. Being part of the Ethics Bowl Team has given me the vocabulary to tune into the intricacies of everyday ethical matters. Being a part of VWU theater productions, I found the process of transforming myself into characters that, at times, matched and at times, contrasted my personality was a truly intimate and thought-provoking experience. I would have never thought of myself as an actor in high school because I never had the guidance of someone like Dr. Shedd, my director, who has always encouraged me to drop my social shield and be my unapologetic self.” 

Trehan also traveled to Israel and Palestine as part of a service learning course with the Robert Nusbaum Center at VWU, where she has been engaged in several deliberative dialogues.

“During my visit on this dual narrative trip, I was able to interact with various stakeholders on all sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict to understand the various nuances of a conflict that is often portrayed as being black or white in Western media. Upon my return, I presented my observations about the role of generational trauma in this ongoing conflict.”

Her internships have involved a “Gender Analysis Project” where she assisted NATO ACT’s Gender Advisor with a project whose objective was to better integrate gender perspectives in the armed forces. Trehan was also a summer intern at the Capacity Building Commission, an initiative established by the government of India, with the objective to develop capacity-enhancing measures of government employees. 

While at VWU, Trehan has also served as an administrative assistant for Batten Honors College staff and has publicly spoken to prospective BHC students, sharing her journey and experiences during BHC competitions.

Now as a senior about to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and Political Science (with a certificate in International Organizations and Diplomacy), Trehan says she looks back at those initial thoughts about attending VWU, and even though they were very real at the time, she now thinks they were also absolutely irrational. She says her best friend, Christian, once told her that it is about the company; the rest that comes with it is just a bonus.

“I can promise you one thing about living here," notes Trehan, "you may run out of caffeine, but you will never run out of energy because you can always rely on the community here for lifting you, for inspiring you, and for being the fuel to your passion!” 

Whether it was dancing away exam week stress at 12 a.m. in the cafeteria or watching basketball games in the “wild and crazy” student section of TowneBank Arena or teaching Hindi curse words to her friends or hosting Indian festivals, Trehan points out that she has met people here who inspire her to grow every day, people who challenge her to put her best self forward.

“I have met friends who have become family, with whom I share the greatest laughs on my best days, and with whom I share the deepest worries on my worst days! But every day, I know they are eager to be a part of my journey.” 

Looking back on those first days as a sophomore (then) psychology major when she first came to campus in 2021, she talks about how her life quickly changed when she walked into an international relations class with no idea of what she was getting herself into.

“As I got settled in my seat, I noticed my professor standing in the middle of the classroom, tall and proud, ready to take on the world. She began her introduction with two words: ‘Boku Haram,’ a terrorist organization in Nigeria, which also happened to be where she was that summer, doing field research. By the end of class that day, I was sure of two facts: one, this woman is a badass. Two, I want to be like her. Major shout out to Dr. Oshikoya, my current advisor, who inspired me to switch majors and follow my passion for peacekeeping.” 

Trehan says she immediately discovered that the professors at VWU were more than just teachers.

“They are your mentors, who will push you until you find the hidden courage within yourself to make your dreams come true! I have had the fortune to have met Dr. Wansink, Dr. Schwennicke, Professor Moskowitz, Dr. Wood and Dr. Malone, Ms. Jackson and Ms. Novkovic, all of whom have been my sounding boards. They have provided me with great solace during numerous occasions of personal and professional fog. That’s the kind of mentorship that BHC has to offer.” 

Trehan believes that the Marlin community is like no other.

“Living here is so effortless that it has become second nature to me. I still go to the beach, not to contemplate my backup plans, but to cherish my last semester here.”

Trehan was recently recognized during VWU's Spring Honors Convocation where she was awarded the President's Leadership Award and the International Studies Department Award. 

Following her graduation from VWU on May 18, Trehan has plans to pursue a master’s degree in global studies in Leipzig, Germany, in the fall. One of only 100 students worldwide, she has been awarded the prestigious and highly competitive Erasmus Mundus Scholarship from the European Union (EU), which enables her to receive full funding for any EU master’s program. She aspires to be a counterterrorism specialist working with communities affected by ethnic conflicts.