I’ve just started a course in International Education, and thought I’d share an excerpt from my self-introduction for the course:
Growing up in Victoria, racial differences meant nothing to my ethnically diverse playmates and I. Right before reaching school-going age though, my family moved from Canada to their hometown in Malaysia and then to Singapore. In these countries, I was introduced to different cultures, and more crucially, to racial politics and the subtle nuances of bigotry, at a very young age. Experience in different countries gives one the benefit of contrasting experiences with which to make comparisons, and so I was convinced that there was something wrong with the way my schoolmates only socialized within their own ethnic groups. Fortunately, being the “exotic” foreigner made me acceptable to all the ethnic groups, and that gave me the freedom to socialize with all. Without consciously knowing what I was doing, I pushed those boundaries, becoming the bridge that linked the different ethnic groups – because they all wanted to play with me, they all had to play together, regardless of the ethnic divisions they had learnt. Thus began my interest in bridging understanding between different cultures.
Through school, I continued exploring that interest; volunteering for school-organised community service projects in Vietnam and Burma. That led to my undergraduate major in Southeast Asian studies where I undertook service-learning projects in Indonesia, fieldwork in Thailand, and hosted a student fellowship of fifty Southeast Asian peers for one semester in Singapore, then received a travel grant to visit them in their hometowns; all to broaden my exposure and learning beyond my readings and lectures. These structured programmes gave me access to experiences that led to insight I could never have discovered through my own travels.
Ever grateful to that child who tried to bridge understanding between her peers, I’ve pursued my passion for promoting understanding and social change with an accidental career in international education; in areas that enable me to use my experience from the many international education programmes that I’ve benefited from, and pay-it-forward.
What about you? How did you get here?