My Life after the Global UGRAD program

Sathabora Mana Kheang, Global UGRAD 2011-2012, Minnesota State University – Mankato  

When I was placed at the Minnesota State University Mankato, my friends asked why I chose one of the coldest places in the United States for my exchange program. I answered, “I do not know, maybe it is for the best.”  It was indeed for the best. The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD Program) has changed my life completely.

Before I participated in the Global UGRAD Program, I was a part of the alumni association in Cambodia, called the Fulbright and Undergraduate State Alumni Association in Cambodia (FUSAAC). Since my return from Minnesota I have become more involved in FUSAAC by volunteering in various activities. I have also served in a number of leadership positions, including Team Leader for the Major and Career Fair and American Corner and Outreach Project Coordinator, where I worked closely with more than 1,000 high school students. These experiences have enabled me to realize my dream of working to help people and to serve in international organizations, where I have met many courageous and experienced colleagues who work tirelessly to promote inclusive development and human rights.

After receiving my dual Bachelor’s Degree in Education and International Relations, I was fortunate to serve as a Human Rights officer on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues at the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights office in Cambodia. For one year, I worked to promote and protect human rights for all, including marginalized populations such as the LGBT community. During this period, I lived outside my comfort zone and traveled all over Cambodia and to other countries. I was selected to participate in a TED Talk-like event, the United Nations Volunteers Partnership Forum in Bonn, Germany where I gave a talk to promote more global volunteerism and the protection of human rights for inclusive development. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).

After my service at the U.N, I decided to pursue my higher education in the United States – once again! I recently graduated with a Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) from the University of San Francisco in California. I also had an opportunity to be a graduate commencement speaker to spread more awareness on the importance of education and social justice. It is such a priceless experience to have met so many faculty members and classmates who share my passion for human rights and social justice.

My passion for inclusive development, world peace, diplomacy, and human rights has not stopped. I am currently an intern at the International Rescue Committee in Oakland, CA. In my role as a Volunteer Coordinator, I work to assist people whose lives and livelihoods are affected by conflict and disaster to help them rebuild their future.

Through all the people I have met and worked with in the United States and Cambodia, I have come to appreciate every life and will encourage other people to do the same.

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