At the entrance of my alma mater, there is a sign that reads, “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” I passed by this sign every week on my way to school. It became a pivotal reminder as to the purpose behind my education – to become a more prepared global citizen and community leader. Since my time with Meridian International Center, I have continued to ponder on the sign and how it’s words apply to my experience with Meridian and its international programs.
Last October, I decided to apply for the Washington D.C. Internship Program at my university. As an Asian Studies major, I had a strong desire to work with people from different cultures and promote cultural exchange. As I began to plow through my stack of internship applications, my internship director recommended that I apply for an internship with Meridian. As I began to look for information about Meridian, its vision, goals and programs, I was surprised to find how much I connected with its mission. From personal experience, I was well aware of the importance of international exchange opportunities for people, ideas, and cultural arts. Luckily, my application was successful and I joined Meridian’s GlobalConnect Division as a summer programs intern. I was very excited for this opportunity to learn more about global leadership and cultural exchange, and to do so in the international relations mecca of Washington, D.C.
Not only did my internship provide me with opportunities to learn and to assist on various programs, it also put me in a position to serve. It was a hands-on experience that stretched my capacities, and invoked my creativity. I learned about the importance of Meridian’s leadership focused exchange programs while assisting with the implementation of the first WiSci (Women in Science) Girls STEAM Camp in Rwanda. The project was challenging, but also a very rewarding experience. For the 120 high-school girls from the U.S. and Africa who participated, the camp was a life-changing opportunity. The value of the technological and leadership skills the girls gained was priceless.
One of the best things about assisting with the WiSci program was witnessing its impact on the young girls who participated. One of the American participants wrote how her participation in the WiSci Camp helped her find the confidence she had been lacking to pursue a career in science. Other participants described the new perspectives and skills they gained from the camp, and how they hoped to use these new skills to help their communities. I learned quickly that the type of programs Meridian implements influence individuals, their communities, and nations. Meridian helps to create an atmosphere where participants from various cultures can learn valuable skills and make meaningful connections. When the participants return to their home countries, they are better prepared to serve as leaders, educators and entrepreneurs in their local communities, as well as in the global community.
Meridian is clearly unique. There are not very many places where you have the opportunity to dance with Iraqi college students, coordinate for Chinese officials, greet ambassadors, and mingle with young African leaders as part of your work assignments. I love the people and I love what we do. Now, I am back at Meridian as a full-time employee and I could not be happier. I look forward to a bright future as I strive to contribute to an organization focused on helping individuals from all corners of the world reach their potential as citizens and global leaders. The work we do here truly matters and I count myself blessed to have a role in Meridian’s mission.