I choose the field research program with VIA programs on Gender and Conflict in Indonesia to gain field experience on issues related to my graduate concentration. This program would allow me to refine and explore my 'feminist curiosity' through communicating with grassroots in a researcher capacity. I also wanted to return to Asia in a research or work capacity to enrich my understanding of women and gender issues in Southeast Asia.
Alumni Spotlight: Megan Huber
In the final chapter of her Master's program at American University, Megan Huber is a graduate student studying International Peace and Conflict Resolution with a concentration of Sexual and Gender-based Violence. As a globetrotter, Megan has traveled abroad in different capacities - travel, tourism, research, work, and study - but all with the purpose to expand her horizons and connect with the international community. Over the past few years, Megan has made it a priority to travel with the purpose to enhance her global lens of violence against woman and girls.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The program and university both assisted me and the other participants with being able to connect and interview local organizations. Along with housing, flights during the program and transportation, the program also provided us with local experts to gain a more comprehensive understanding of cultural and historical contexts through a gender lens.
The program assisted us with almost everything! I had to organize my flight and after the program finished, I decided to stay and hike a volcano before I returned to the US.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Something I would recommend future participants give greater thought to is to consider what you want to research. What do you want to investigate during this program? Are there elements particular to the Indonesian context that you find interesting? Certain islands you want to go and study or organizations?
Don't limit yourself to considering this when you arrive because it would be difficult (not impossible) to arrange. I think this program is good for students who have an understanding of their area of research.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
An average day would be the normal early morning wake up and breakfast (unless seeing a sunrise), visit historical site(s), and speak with a local organization to conduct interviews and gather material. I would be tired after most days but having personal evening reflection was a good exercise to digest the day and run through the things I learned.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
For this program, I was not fearful of anything in particular due to my prior visits to Asia and Indonesia. I remember my first time abroad for an extended period of time and was nervous about the food. Ironically, that became one of my favorite cultural experiences while working abroad.
From all my travels, tackling things I felt the most hesitant to encounter were actually my most memorable of times.
Don't limit yourself - try new things, learn more about your preferences and limitations. I found myself able to be more flexible after traveling.
Did you act differently during your time abroad versus at home?
While abroad, it's a good rule of thumb to become knowledgeable of where are you going before you arrive. That means understanding what clothes you may wear, certain social/cultural rules (informal and legal), and awareness about yourself (sex, race, ethnicity, sexuality, language, citizenship) when you travel abroad.
During my first few trips I tried to blend in with society and try to 'act native' but I have developed since then. I found that being confident in myself and integrating parts of a culture into my lifestyle had the most long-term positive impact on my international experiences.
There are different ways to publicly interact and represent yourself - depending in what capacity you travel and the region (cultural, religious, social practices), you need to become aware of how you -- a foreigner -- are situated within that society and appropriately respond. I like to say travel smart.