Hello! This is Madinay Chhuon from Cambodia. I am currently working with Swisscontact as a Project Coordinator on a cross-border trade facilitation project. I was part of the Global UGRAD 2017 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Five years later, I still reminisce about my time there and its impact on me. Through this writing, I will talk about three ways the Global UGRAD shaped my life perspective and career goal: diversity, corporations, and relationships.
America is a melting pot. During my four-month visit, I experienced firsthand diversity and inclusivity, and how they really matter to people. At school, I had classmates from different countries and cultural backgrounds. I volunteered for Human Rights Campaign to advocate LGBTQ+ rights in Salt Lake and Provo. These experiences, later on, allowed me to thrive working in an intercultural working environment and encouraged me to push for a more inclusive workplace.
American corporations show the great importance that businesses can contribute to a country’s economic power. I was, and still am a consumer of American brands and innovations. From real-life experiences in the United States and taking courses in International Economics and Globalized Policy during my exchange there, I was inspired to work in the business sector once I got back. A few years after my return, I was able to work for a small and medium business association to provide capacity building to business owners. Now I am working on a trade facilitation project connecting local businesses to markets abroad including the U.S.
Relationships fostered through this program are still the highlight of the whole experience. After five years, I am happy to be still in touch with some of my UGRAD friends. Last March, a UGRAD friend of mine from Macedonia introduced me to an opportunity to visit Europe for a seminar. Through that visit, I was able to catch up and stay with a friend in Amsterdam and also met another friend in Paris, both of whom I also met through the UGRAD program. This just shows me that if you meet the right people during the exchange, you can actually foster friendships that last!
The Global UGRAD has in many ways shaped my perspective in life and professional path; I can say it was truly a turning point in my life. For now, as my next journey, I am planning to embark on my Master’s degree in International Trade and Development in the upcoming year, to better equip myself in my field and expand my knowledge.