Luna at the Ayutthaya Ruins in Thailand.
Each term, the College of Arts & Sciences highlights one of its Global MA students from the International Relations program.
Sarimer Valedon-Morciglio, who goes by Luna, is originally from Yauco, Puerto Rico. She obtained her BA in International Public Relations and a minor in Foreign Languages from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico where she helped raise funds for the Fukushima Earthquake. She lived in South Korea’s countryside for half a year as an English teacher to orphaned children. She has also worked with her city’s mayor, now Senator, and traveled with him as his assistant and translator. Some of her favorite hobbies include reading and writing. Several of her goals in life are to become a published author, an advocate for women’s rights, and a motivational speaker for children with disabilities such as herself. We caught up with Luna as she’s preparing for her next stop in her global travels.
What is your current city, and what’s your next stop?
I am currently in Bangkok, Thailand and my next stop will be Geneva, Switzerland (it’s going to be cold!!!!).
Why did you choose Webster’s Global MA program?
From the moment the Global MA program was introduced to me, I knew it was perfect for me. I liked the idea of being able to enhance my knowledge and get a degree while traveling constantly. International Relations in a classroom is alright, but in this program you are constantly engaged in another language, in another culture, with people completely different to you. I thought that the best way of studying IR was like this — in an international environment. You are learning inside and outside the classroom, and I am a firm believer that the best classroom is the world itself.
Meeting with refugee children in Thailand
Describe a memorable cultural experience that you’ve had after a semester of the program.
I’ve had many experiences during this past semester, all which are memorable and important for me. If I had to pick one though, it would be visiting the refugee camp in Northern Thailand because it changed my perceptions of international relations and me as a human being. The time spent with the Karen (an ethnic group native to Burma) is irreplaceable. These were kind people that welcomed us with open arms — people who have nothing but gave us everything. There was no distinction of ethnicity and even though we couldn’t speak the same language there was a connection in each smile. We visited a couple of schools, colleges, and the hospital, and had the most meaningful conversation with a group stateless children. Life-changing.
What are some challenges that you have faced when trying to adapt to new cultures?
The biggest challenge is leaving the culture. I spend roughly two months in a country; I learn the streets and the traditions; I grasp a basic knowledge of their language, enough to get around; I fall in love with the people, and appreciate how their society works, the beauty of the city, and the intricacy of the culture. Then, when it almost feels like home, I have to leave. Goodbye is the hardest part, but mostly because I leave knowing that I will go to a new place and the cycle will begin anew. Nevertheless, no matter how difficult it is, the experience is worth it.
Academically speaking, what is the most enlightening part of the program?
Academically, I love the professors’ accessibility both inside and outside of the classroom. Inside the classroom, they are knowledgeable and clear in their teaching methods. Outside, they have all been open for questions, emails, and one-on-one meetings. They provide academic advice and also take their time helping students with career decisions and questions. I believe the good relations between student and professors are partly promoted by the 8-10 student per class policy. It allows for a more personal approach and individual attention.
Luna at the Loi Krathong Festival in traditional Thai clothing
What are your plans for the future after you complete the GMAIR program?
I say I never “plan.” I make an outline to make space for the certain uncertainties of the future. By accepting that I am not in control, I see every situation as a new opportunity.
Within the outline I have made, I am thinking about applying for the Presidential Fellowship. I believe, if accepted, it would be a great new experience, very different from what I’ve done so far. Further in my career, I would like to work at the United Nations, as it’s been my goal for a while.
Also, I am working with my fellow Cohort 2 members to create an NGO for youth development. It is still on the outlining stages but, hopefully, the project sets sail and becomes a cornerstone to help people and an embodied reminder of our time and work together in the Cohort.
Any fun travel plans over winter break?
I am taking it slow during winter break. From August to December, I’ve been in the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, South Korea, and Thailand (not to mention those weekend getaways). I think it’s time to go back home, see the family for the holidays and relax on my Caribbean waters. But, hey, Puerto Rico is still fun to travel to! (Secretly, I just want to hide in the warm weather before going to Geneva.)
I would also like to mention one thing I didn’t evaluate when I entered the program but has now become essential: my friends. There are no words to describe how important they have been throughout this semester. We have had wonderful experiences, grown together, and, ultimately, become a family. We trust each other, we count on each other, and we argue with each other (which is followed by an apology and going back to normal). My experience in the program wouldn’t have been half of what it is today if it wasn’t for them. Thank you Cohort 2 (and Jocelyn) for being such wonderful people and making this year even more special.
Luna (second from right) with her fellow GMAIR cohort members
The Global MA program is accepting applications to join our 2016-17 cohorts. For more information, visit webster.edu/global, or contact Sarah Nandor at firstname.lastname@example.org.