Posted by: viaprograms | April 18, 2011

Developing Global Citizenship

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Maureen Suhendra, an alumna of our Indonesia program, responds to the question, “How do young people develop identities of global citizenship through an experience abroad?”

Today, this question drives much of the research I do as a graduate student majoring in International and Comparative Education at Stanford.  Five years ago, I lived this question as a VIA volunteer on Serangan Island, just off the coast of Bali.

I started VIA’s summer program with the intent to “do good” while “getting back to my roots,” my family is from Indonesia, but I was born and raised in America.  While I was there, I struggled with a sense of belonging, I questioned previous mindsets about social change and developing countries, and I learned more about myself than I could have anticipated.

From the shores of Bali, I moved to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.  I became a teacher at an intense charter school on the border of Texas and Mexico.  For two years, teaching consumed my life as I encountered the reality of educational inequity every day.  I taught World Cultures to an amazing group of 6th graders who were eager to wrap their minds around our big world.

During my last summer, I lived on a different border.  I returned to Southeast Asia to the border between Thailand and Burma.  While there, I learned how issues in education and border populations can be strikingly similar, and yet vastly contextually different at the same time.  Although I understood Burma’s dire political, social, and economic situation in a distant, intellectual way, teaching at a Burmese school gave me a way to connect to the incredible people on the ground.

As my interest in international education grew, I would often find myself touching ground with that initial VIA experience.  It was a pivotal moment of growth and perspective transformation, and it has fueled my passion in international education, social justice, and global citizenship.  Today, I am less than two quarters away from graduation, and my to-do list includes conducting interviews and analyzing journals of young people who have just completed a year of service abroad.  Did they experience pivotal moments of transformation?  Will their experiences propel them in unanticipated directions?  My research takes me full circle to a place I was five years ago, a place with VIA.



  1. Hi Maureen –

    Great to hear from and about your recent activities. Sounds great. Hope you’re enjoying your program at Stanford as much as you did the VIA Bali summer program!

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